The Age of Platforms Ended, Ecosystems is Now Where Mobile Lives

I penned this in a Google Group that I am part of, but it stands to get out for some wider discussion. In quick summary, what we witnessed with the Nokia-Microsoft partnership isn’t just the folding of one culture into another, but the changing of epochs in mobile – we are firmly now in the ecosystem age, and the age of platforms is now over.

Here’s what I posted:

It is indeed a hard and interesting time. Though, I’m of the opinion that this “concession” to a partnership is a lot more than just Symbian and Maemo/MeeGo being reamed for lack of execution.

The key point is that of the word “ecosystem.” Elop and others have been very correct in saying that mobile (and web, and you can argue dang near everything else driving developed markets/economics) ecosystems are the most important play for any company. Nokia hedged their bets rightly, but just couldn’t catalyze an ecosystem fast enough for investors or markets to care. Ecosystems are also driven by perceptions – else we’d still see Jerry Sloan coaching (NBA, Utah Jazz, coached 23yrs) or Murbarak (Egypt) still in power.

The issue that Nokia has wasn’t addressed by this change. C. Enrique Ortiz wrote on this in his response to the Nokia-MS move. Nokia has a cultural adjustment to do, and nothing about this arrangement with MS – at least how it was announced – solves that. They very much risk becoming another knocked off giant who partnered with MS.

As a user, I’m disappointed. But, not overly. I’ve not been happy at any mobile platform (not ecosystem) in the past 2-3 years. They have been steadily steps backward IMO since my first experiences with Palm, Apple Newton, and Windows CE. I can adjust as a user – but it will be on my terms, hence my writing here.

This announcement invalidates aspects of open source in mobile that have been demonstrated (by Nokia and others) for sometime. True, Nokia has been all to conveniently not executing quickly with Maemo or MeeGo; and that’s where this idea of them keeping it around to “experiment” with is interesting. As a company in their current state, they could create and even mature a mobile platform, but didn’t have the culture to make an ecosystem out of it – at least not one that got buy-in from the larger mass of the company. To that end, its a shame, Nokia could have been right in swimming upstream.

Instead, this arrangement validates that companies which control and best manage ecosystems will maintain perspective dominance. And if you are smart enough and work towards your strengths (Apple/experience, Google/analytics, HP/consumer-reach), then you have a very good chance of making a solid go of things in this 3rd decade of mobility.

Funny thing I found on the way to this post; there are opportunities in mobile beyond even this view of ecosystems – but precarious as it will become more political and environmental as we go further. Plan your next moves with the steps afterwards in mind, not on the pain you feel now.


So what does this mean to people who could care less. Seriously, most just want a mobile that works and calls it a day. It isn’t until you have to move to a new device, and that it is no longer available that discussions like these become an issue. And its over just as soon as it starts right? Well…

Nationalism when there are physical boundatries and cultural artifacts we are used to. We are moving into the case where digitally, this same cultural aspect is embedded within the way we live. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not – I am a proponent of having paved roads, but also for having open areas to just ride and roam.

You still have a choice, but like someone said about Facebook, you can only make a choice to the colors of the bars on your cell. You’ll remained locked in to whatever others have ordained for you. Going “open source” has its own challenges too, its a different kind of lawless land in some respects. And an ecosystem that seems to have lost the sale towards the larger incumbants who have their own issues with the systems and roads of this digital world.

Me personally; I like having a mobile web server so much that I’m going to figure something new out. Hang on for that ride too… its going to be a blast.

I’m not ignoring what’s happening, and from time to time I’ll dip my toe into several of these ecosystems since that is part of what I do. Personally, I like having a bit more fun, and so I’ll be living in those open spaces… life will be interesting now, just as it was for me around this point last year.

Side Note: I wrote something a few months ago pointing to this; this just might be quite prophetic: Could IBM Be the Model for A Mobile Future

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