Becoming trapped in eco-systems

Last week Apple announced their entry into the much hyped "wearables" market with their Apple Watch. Aside from the usual praise from the Apple Zealots, much of the reaction can be summed up as "meh". Unfortunately, if you are an iOS user and feel a bit "meh" about the Apple Watch and fancy trying an alternative third party watch, you're out of luck. Due to Apple's closed eco-system, third party devices will never be as tightly integrated. The same is true of Android. Yeah sure, the Android operating system allows for a bit more freedom for third parties (the Kickstarter darling that is the Pebble integrates quite nicely for example), but those too will never have the same access to Google's enormous data set as Android Wear devices. This also highlights another issue, both Apple Watch and Android Wear simply won't work when taken out of their respective eco-systems. If you want either of them, you have to go all-in.

A sad tiger that can't move to Android because all his music is on iTunes.
It's the "all-in" part that's the issue. These companies already harvest a huge amount of data about you (which has been the subject of, in my opinion, unnecessary techno-panic; But that's a topic to visit in a different post) and what is becoming apparent is that they are making it very difficult to break free. Both Apple and Google allow you to buy apps, games, movies, TV shows, music and books on their stores. They all offer the convenience being a one stop shop for all your digital media purchases. But once you buy on those platforms, you're content is stuck there. It can't be transferred or taken with you to a different service if you decide to switch platforms. It's a problem that only gets worse. The longer you use a platform, the more digital "stuff" you accumulate, the harder and more expensive it is to move.

Not that I plan on moving though, I'm fairly happy with Google's platform. I personally don't mind having their soulless algorithms work out how often I go to the loo by tracking my phone via GPS so they can send that data onto an advertiser to flog me some bog roll.

It is, however, an unfortunate trend in technology that as content moves more into the digital realm, we will become more locked into these platforms. Spotify won't let you export your playlists to another streaming service (months wasted putting together that Northern Soul playlist), you definitely won't be moving those books off your Kindle to a different e-reader any time soon and you certainly won't be able to move those games on your Steam account to anywhere else.

It's not all doom and gloom though. Humble Bundle has proven that it is able to sell DRM free content and offer the convenience of an account where everything is stored online. Good Old Games proves that you can have a game store that lets you keep copies to use how you see fit. Music stores like Bleep understand that customers are not all potential criminals that will file share everything.

I would welcome a way for both Apple and Google to allow its users to move over to different platforms with ease and take their stuff with them. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it's going to be happening any time soon.