2012 is going to be the year of the ecosystem, according to CNET's annual "The Next Big Thing" presentation at CES 2012 (as reported yesterday by Wireless Week's Andrew Berg). And by "ecosystem," we mean: hardware, content, apps, operating system and connectivity, Berg explains.
With products like Apple's iCloud, Amazon's syncing flows, even things like Netflix, the specs and experiences on individual devices have been somewhat demoted.
For example, you can now start watching a TV show at home on your TV entertainment system. At that point you may need to go catch a flight before you finish watching. You call a taxi and on the way to the airport pick up where you left with the show in the cab on your mobile phone. You then check in, go through security, log onto the airport Wi-Fi and finish the show on your laptop as you wait at the departure gate.
A similar example is Apple's iTunes Match. You may download an album on your iPhone from iTunes. You listen to a song on your way home from work. You then have a dinner party and remark to your friends that you know of a great new song, and had bought it earlier. You fire up your Apple TV and select the song on iTunes Match so everyone can hear it. It's there waiting for you; it's just seamless.
The point here is the devices are now just a window to the content. The devices and content platforms work together as a cohesive ecosystem. The device itself is less relevant; it's now the overall experience itself that is tying things together via a series of different devices. The devices people use are now more contextual to the situation they are in, and the experience is carried across the devices. You just access things on demand wherever you are.
Manufacturers are focusing less on listing hardware specs and are now focusing more on the experience itself, Berg writes. When most people buy an iPad 2, they could care less about what kind of processor it has. You just expect it to work. What you really care about is, "Can I access my content anywhere? Can I play that album -- which I downloaded yesterday at work -- here, in this bus station?"
I think ecosystems will evolve this year, as people now own multiple devices. Whether it's an Android phone, or an iPhone, your TV at home (Google TV made some big announcements at CES, by the way), people will be asking questions like:
- Can I get into the Netflix environment?
- Can I access my music?
- How do I get back into the system? I just want to watch my TV show!
For wireless retailers: I think the message here is that retailers need to sell ecosystems equally as much as the actual hardware specs. Explain to your customers whether a given phone or tablet connects them to the multimedia experience they're looking for?
Do your homework, because like I said, at some point in 2012, customers will come into your store asking you ecosystem-related questions.