“We’re designing exclusively for Android devices,” the software developer confided over a beer, “we don’t like the idea of giving Apple 30% of our income.”
That one business owner is making a choice that software developers, newpaper chains, school text book publishers and many other fields are going to have to make in the next year – which camp are they going to join in the Internet’s cold war.
As the web matures, we’re seeing four big empires develop – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon which are going to demand organisations and consumers make a choice on who they will align with.
That decision is going to be painful for a lot of business; each empire is going to take a cut in one way or another with Apple’s iStore charges being the most obvious.
For those who choose to go the non-aligned path – develop in HTML5 and other open web standards things will be rocky and sometimes tough. At least those on the open net won’t have to contend with a “business partner” whose objectives may often be different to their own.
Over time, we’ll see the winners and losers but for the moment businesses, particularly big corporations and publishers should have no doubt that the choices they make today on things as seemingly trivial things like reader comments may have serious ramifications in a few years time.
Consumers aren’t immune from this either; those purchases through iTunes, Amazon or Google are often locked to that service for a reason.
Probably the development that we should watch closest right now is Apple’s push into education publishing; those governments, universities and schools that lock into the iPad platform are making a commitment on behalf of tax payers, faculty and students that will affect all of them for many years.
For many, it might be worthwhile hedging the bets and sticking to open standards. A decision to join one or two of the big Internet empires is something that shouldn’t be made lightly.