Thursday, 25 October 2012

When tech giant competition goes bad

Apple's woeful showing with its iPhone 5 maps is a perfect example of when competition goes bad between giants. Google was refusing to provide turn-by-turn directions on their maps app for the iPhone, so Apple had to duplicate the mammoth effort of worldwide maps themselves just to get that one feature. They've been failing, a bit spectacularly and hilariously, much to the internet's amusement, because it's a really big job, and even if you got 99% perfection, there would be a huge number of errors.

But back to where competition goes wrong. As these tech giants expand ever further in their offerings, they're going to start stepping on each others' toes and taking actions that deliberately meddle with the others' success. Then all of them will be forced to exclude external apps and provide their own. This is an artefact of competition, which is normally seen as good for consumers, but in this case I'm calling it bad, because it reduces the granularity of choice.

When Apple, Google and Microsoft all have to duplicate everything the others are doing, and when Amazon and Samsung start up their own Android app stores to compete with Google too, it means you have more apps but essentially less choice. If you choose Apple because you prefer iTunes for your music, now you're stuck with Apple's terrible maps. Choose Android for Google Maps and you get Google Play for your music, like it or lump it. Once you've made your platform choice, you are done with your options, and that's not the way it should be.

What we really need are independent third party apps, specialised in those competitive spaces. We need someone who just does maps, does them well and doesn't care if you're running iOS, Android or Windows Phone. Ditto for music, movies and TV, email and social networking. Facebook has the social networking covered from that point of view. Now we need the rest so that your mobile platform choice really doesn't matter at all.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not sure the latest streaming music services are the right kind of answer.
PPS - But that might just be because they're not for me.

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