Jan 262012
the internet is seeing online empires develop

“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.

  5 Responses to “The Internet’s cold war”

  1. I think you should add Oracle to the list of heavy hitters. They acquired Sun Microsystems in the not too distant past. Sun had acquired the Open Source MySQL database. So, now Oracle owns that. They also now own OpenOffice, and since they sued Google over their use of Java, which they also now own as a result of the Sun acquisition, developers (many of the original core devs) have jumped ship from Open Office and started Libre Office. Oracle isn’t just pissing in the kiddie pool – they are taking a dump in the deep end! πŸ˜‰

    • Good point about Oracle, the thing is I’m not sure if they are going to be one of bigger “empires” in the way Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google are trying to control the web.

      Maybe I need to refine my post to reflect those comparatively smaller players – in their web dominance – like Oracle, Microsoft and IBM will sit in the scheme of things.

      That’s not to say they aren’t big players and possibly bigger companies overall than some of the net’s “big four”, but it seems to me they aren’t trying to control content and information in the same way.

  2. Not too much should be made of Oracle. Ubuntu is now the most popular Linux desktop distribution (and their server edition isn’t too bad either!). Ubuntu ships with LibreOffice which is everybit as good as OpenOffice and getting better. PostgreSQL and it’s lighter sibling FirebirdSQL are far superior to MySQL which was always considered a “dinky” database due to the fact it did not support referential integrity.
    In the past, any effort to “lock-in” customers has met with failure. Microsoft tried it by resisting TCP/IP on LANs until it was obvious NetBIOS Extended User Interface wasn’t going to fly.
    Similar experiences followed with the browser wars.
    Open standards are the only way things can work in the long run.

    • It’s interesting how we forget about previous lock in attempts – Microsoft’s NetBEUI is a good case in point.

      This is one of the lessons from the web, that lock in eventually fails. Hopefully that’s going to happen again as the market rejects being locked into the various services.

    • I don’t disagree. But – I do recall watching a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” back in the late 80’s or early 90’s that had a very interesting interview with Larry Ellison. If you were to see that interview now, you might think, “My God – he planned all this!” And by “all this” I mean everything right down to the “cloud”. The “Cloud” – which he hates now, as a buzz word, but ranted then about how silly it was that I was getting into my car to drive down to a store, to buy a box with bits in it, to drive it back to my computer, to put the bits in my computer. He claimed, even back then, that the network was the computer. It should be noted that the key acquisition in the Sun Microsystems deal for Oracle probably wasn’t MySQL, but rather Java. If they had no intention on competing in this arena, they wouldn’t be in court with Google now over the use of Java.

      Mr. Ellison’s “Rich and Famous Lifestyle” included an amazing house that was inspired by a samurai’s palace. The best ninja, in my experience, tend to look a lot like the best samurai. All I’m saying is keep on eye on Oracle – I think they may be the sleeping ninja in the room.

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