Returning to a partisan world
This is my editorial from the Autumn 2012 issue of HardCopy magazine:
A long time ago I found myself at an exhibition in discussion with the vendor of a range of custom controls for Visual Studio. He was upset because Microsoft had included in the new version of Visual Studio, which had just been announced, the functionality of his top-selling control, so wiping out the market for his product overnight. His bitterness is understandable, but then it was Microsoft which had created the market for custom controls in the first place. Rather less acceptable was the situation in which Netscape found itself when Microsoft decided to include a Web browser with Windows. The ensuing battle resounded around the courts for decades, and is the reason why even now an uninvited dialog occasionally pops up requesting that you select your default browser.
Such matters were brought to mind by recent developments. Like many, I use a range of products and services from a number of different companies. Much of it comes from Microsoft, but there are others. I have, for example, started using Dropbox cloud storage. Dropbox keeps my files backed up and synchronised across my various devices, and works well. However I am aware that Microsoft would much prefer me to use its own SkyDrive or Office 365 services, and that I am missing out on an increasing number of features by choosing to use something else. This is doubtless going to become even more apparent when I eventually upgrade to Office 2013, which is likely to be so integrated with Office 365 that I will eventually succumb – to the detriment of Dropbox and other companies like it.
Meanwhile, my wife has recently bought an iPad, which means she’s signed in to Apple’s iCloud, which is something else altogether. Then of course there’s the Google world which we are presented with every time we do a Web search. I already use Picasa to edit my photos, but it’s crying out for me to use Google Docs and store everything on Google Drive. And no doubt it’s right, in that my experience of the Google world would be the better for it.
This worries me because it seems that we are moving towards an ever more partisan world, where eventually each one of us will have to decide whether we’re going to build our computing experience around Microsoft, Apple or Google. It’s a personal choice, and it’s not completely exclusive in that a Google person can log in to iCloud, and an Apple person can use Office 365. However they do so as outsiders: unused to the facilities and unable to truly benefit from its features because they have not fully committed to that world.
And it’s extending to the hardware, too. Apple has always been a monolithic environment, in that you run Apple’s operating system on Apple hardware and connect to Apple’s cloud. Now you can run Google Android on a Google Nexus, and soon you will be able to run Microsoft Office on a Microsoft Surface. It seems the computing world is rapidly coalescing around these three corporate giants, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.