Follow Up to ‘The New Big Brother’

Kevin Ohannessian of Mansueto Digital, recently wrote a post on his blog at fastcompany.com in response to some things I said in my post “Apple: The New Big Brother.” His post agreed with my views on Apple but now of how I dragged Google into the same field. I see where he is coming from and I understand the differences he makes between Apple and Google. However, I agrue that they are similar in other aspects. Both companies have very different business strategies but they reach the same effect on the market. Apple looks to control mainly through their hardware and their closed system approach to software, where Google uses a very open system of trying to amass as much as possible quickly. Google’s software is mostly free and open to be used by anyone.

Google still creates great control through this method though. You can’t seem to do anything on the Internet without going through Google. Whether it’s you’re email, rss feed, calender, maps, searching, advertising, blogging (this blog), or media (youtube). Whatever you want to do, Google has a service for you. And everyone is using these services. Google creates a more open system at the moment but they still have all the control. They buy up new companies every month, and are constantly growing on all fronts, moving into every aspect of technology possible. Google has just as much control over consumers as Apple does.

They reach the same ends through different means. Both companies are trying to become the one stop shop for all consumer needs, and control the flow of media in the consumer’s life.

Resources for Post
Kevin Ohannessian- Not Quite Conversation

The New Big Brother

Apple has been gaining market share and momentum with every product they release. Apple used to be viewed as the windows alternative in a time when Microsoft controlled everything. Apple products were for the independent, non conformist in all of us, our way of sticking it to corporate America. But does this still hold true today?

Apple released this commercial to play during the Super Bowl. It was a direct shot at big brother of the time IBM, and showed how Apple wanted to bring down big brother. View on YouTube.

Microsoft used to be criticized for its closed system and its control over developers (the whole issue with the antitrust law suits in the 90’s), however Apple is now more of a closed system than Microsoft ever was. Apple is looking to control everything a person does with media. They want to be your computer (iMac, MacBook), your phone (iPhone), your mp3 and PMP device (iPod/Touch), where you buy your music and movies (iTunes), and effect how you interact with your TV (iTV). For almost any conceivable way you can use digital media, Apple has a product for you. And that product fits into they entire product line that Apple offers. Every product and software is designed in a closed system, meaning all these products work great with one another in their own system but not so great with product outside the system (non-Apple product). This is the reason most Apple shoppers are repeat customers. Its just easier to have a product that you know will work with all your other gadgets. But is this a good system? Albert Einstein claimed that “a closed system would become stagnant over time.” Has Apple figured out how to prove this wrong or is their system going to come to a crashing halt in the future.

Trying to control everything seems to be becoming more of a common trend for big technology companies. Google is another perfect example of this. If you wanted to, you could trust almost you’re entire digital or online life to Google. They have services for everything. Companies that do this create closed systems and ultimately hurt the consumer. It makes things easier as first, as long as you stay with a certain company or product line. But what if you want to branch out? What if you want to customize your experience? What if you want to add things that these big companies don’t offer? The overall effect of a closed system is bad, especially if it manages to squeeze out smaller companies. Once a company has a closed system and has their customers locked into that system, innovation will suffer. Products become good for the masses and not tailored to the individual, and that was one of the appeals of computers, you could customize you’re experience. This is the entire view of the Open Source movement (but that’s another topic entirely).

The one company that is actually taking a turn to become more of a open system is big brother himself, Microsoft. Microsoft is still a proprietary software system but they are becoming much more open. Programs such as DreamSpark are looking to put developer tools in the hands of younger generations so that they can develop their own software for the windows platform. Microsoft also has the CodePlex project. This is a community software development site. People are free to create, share, add, help, discuss, and anything else they want to do with various project postings for software that will run on the Windows platform. Microsoft has even begun to develop a new free operating system geared toward education and researchers, Singularity. This program is still in the beta stages and a long way off from being complete but it is a move in the right direction. Microsoft has been a close system in the past and seen how it limits growth and creativity. They have stepped out of the box and embraced the software community. Microsoft is by no means a brand new company, they are still out to make money and most of their top-line software still costs top-dollar, but they are becoming more open for new software developers, where other operating systems (i.e. Apple’s OSX) are taking steps in the opposite direction.

The future of technology is in the creation of a more open system. Where software can be used and developed freely in a community or personal environment. Technology should be a custom experience to the individual, and they should not be forced to conform to a particular company’s views on what the consumer needs in a closed system.

Resources Used for This Post
Fast Company- All Eyes On Apple
PC World- Microsoft Develops New OS From Scratch
Microsoft CodePlex