Apple’s ecosystem is key to its success, or is it?


The App Store launched in 2008. After that, when people bought apps and games they were also continuing to buy into Apple. As they shelled out $0.99 here and $1.99 there for new software that only ran on their Apple devices, they were digging deeper into Apple’s offering and further away from BlackBerry and a new operating system that was on the horizon: Android.

Apple continued to build out this ecosystem by changing the way its products interacted with one another. Apple added the ability to use iMessage and FaceTime from an iPad, for example, allowing you to carry on your iPhone conversations on a tablet. Then it introduced a similar feature to Macs, also adding in support for full phone calls. The more Apple devices you used, the better they worked together… More at CNBC.

I’m not 100% convinced by this and tend to believe that most people buy an iPhone or an iPad without even considering the ecosystem.

I know many people who own and iPhone and no Mac or iPad or Apple TV and I tend to believe that the ecosystem is not considered unless you are forced to become involved in it.

For example, I wouldn’t buy an Apple Watch if I owned an Android phone, but I did buy an Apple TV purely to manage the films I had bought through iTunes. In that case I was kind of forced because the Apple TV is one of the lesser options available and still does not support Amazon unless through AirPlay.

I think that Apple’s ecosystem works for and against it depending on the product and that the vast majority of people don’t even know it is there.

4 thoughts on “Apple’s ecosystem is key to its success, or is it?

  1. Hm. For a while I liked the messenger hand off so i could use the laptop keyboard more easily for responding, but the cross-device notification was always wonky, and now that I haven’t upgraded MacOS in a while it’s useless.

    I know I resist some forms of the ecosystem, like I never activate iCloud, and preferring platform neutral services like Dropbox and Simplenote. I felt a little vindicated in that as I helped my aunt who was worried all her notes were deleted when iOS did an update on her, and so logged her out of services she didn’t realize she was relying on. That kind of opacity bugs me a lot.

    I don’t know if “set of apps I like and am not sure what it would take to find and learn equivalents of on android” counts as “ecoystem”, but like we’ve discussed here, it is a big part of iPhone lock-in.

  2. Step 1 is to get a prospect to buy, therefore becoming a customer. Step 2 is retaining that customer for long term profitability. That can be done in many ways, but they basically boil down to giving the customer a good experience and not giving the customer a reason to look elsewhere. One could argue that these are one in the same.

    So I buy an iPhone. And then I buy an iPad because my iPhone works well. I buy some apps. They work well and they have a similar interface. And they work almost the same on my iPhone and iPad. Cool. I’m happy. No reason to look elsewhere but if I do, I find that things aren’t as smooth as I’m used to and I might have to deal with multiple vendors. Then I buy a Mac, because it’s made by the same folks who made my other devices. And I’m hooked. As long as the ecosystem that I now have continues to handle my needs in a reasonable way, I’m not going anywhere. The inertia gained over time is difficult to overcome. Things have to become really bad before I consider a change.

    Sound familiar? Maybe you started with a Mac and then picked up an iPhone. The sequence doesn’t matter. It’s the end result. It’s quite possible that this could happen with an Android or Windows device, but the complete ecosystem isn’t there and it’s harder to gain that inertia that keeps customers from leaving.

    • Probably the weakest link is the handheld to desktop – is there THAT many perks to being on the same side? I mean iTunes is still pretty crap on Mac too- 😉 I remember Steve Jobs wanted iPods to be an exclusive selling feature for Macs… might be a different gadget world if they hadn’t persuaded him to avoid lock-in at that point!

      • I don’t know what iTunes is like on Windows but I can’t imagine it being better than on a Mac. And yes, I agree that it’s crap – bloated, error prone, inconsistent – the antipathy of good Mac software.

        I didn’t say that you bought a Mac because the link was wonderful, until you use the two together you wouldn’t really know. Rather you bought it because it was made by the same people as the other device you liked so much. Now you have a vested interest in making things work together, and as long as the experience isn’t horrible, inertia keeps you there.

        Remember the times when Shaun and I have expressed frustration with Apple and have contemplated switching? Then we consider the options available and the pain of switching and reconsider the notion. That’s inertia.

        I run Windows 10 in Bootcamp to play games. Maybe 1 out of 10 times it freezes on bootup or loading the game. Is my experience normal? I don’t know, but it’s not making me crave Windows. Is MacOS perfect that way? No, but it’s less than 1 in a 100. Low enough to be a surprise. With Windows, it’s yeah, yeah, push power and restart.

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