Ecosystems. We’ve talked about them before. A good ecosystem is mature. It takes time to build. And it’s kind of self perpetuating. It has this buy-in power that makes you want to spend more time and money living inside of it. It has tenticles.
When Apple made the iPod, and iTunes with it, it planted a seed which grew into a forest. People bought into the music, the hardware and the shopping experience. They unwittingly encoded vast amounts of music in Apples proprietary format and willingly handed over credit card details and personal information which allowed the roots of the ecosystem to develop.
When they launched a phone, no one predicted it would be such a success so quickly, devouring the established competition and re-writing the rule book. But that’s because they missed the point. The iPhone wasn’t just a phone. It was an iPod, that you could also use as a phone. It grew and was cultivated in the rich soil of the Apple ecosystem. The rest, as they say, is history. Apple is now the wealthiest company on the planet with a slew of devices and complete control over every aspect of its well established ecosystem of software, hardware, platforms and services.
Ecosystems are what keep things alive and make things grow. Microsoft and Google are investing heavily in building theirs and figuring out how to catch up to achieve the buy-in that Apple have managed.
In the mobile arena, where there is no ecosystem, there is no lasting product. The recently demised HP TouchPad with it’s nifty webOS operating system is a sad reflection on this very point. Great software is not enough. Great hardware is not enough. For a competitive platform to survive and flourish it needs a mature ecosystem in which to take root.
People are asking if there is any room for a serious iPad competitor. We have seen the patent wars take a swipe at the Galaxy Tab (which incidentally, I’m sure will soon be back on track) and we have seen the death of the HP TouchPad. Well, I think that maybe there is. And, like the iPad and iPhone before it, it
may will come on the back of an already very strong ecosystem instead of trying to build one from scratch.
It’s an ecosystem that already owns my credit card details, one to which I am already loyal. I use it frequently. It already has an App Store. It already provides a cloud storage system. It already has a massive music catalog. It already has a thriving eBook platform. It already manufactures successful hardware at very good price points. Guessed it yet? I am of course talking about Amazon.
Amazon are uniquely placed to bring a successful tablet to the market. One that could be the only real competitor to the iPad and, especially, iBooks and iTunes. With the already popular cross-platform kindle, a massive user base with existing accounts and one of the best Android App Stores out there it is a perfect fit.
Rumours are abounding, with Amazon putting in some fairly unusual hardware orders of late. Keep your eye out for the first true iPad competitor running Android in the near future. After all, if the battle is won and lost on the strength of the ecosystem, Amazon’s forest may well bare fruit (of the non-apple variety).