Cross-platform and ecosystems don't mix well, so I try to stay on the outside

Ecosystem; for some it's why they continually buy devices powered by the same mobile OS. You start out in one place, you start buying music, apps, books, movies, TV shows, the full package. It gets to a point where moving away from that ecosystem will be hard work, because you won't have easy access to all that content. So, you stay. While ecosystems are a good thing – and an even better thing for the companies providing them – if you want to be a cross-platform user, ever, getting too embedded isn't the strongest idea.

I'm a cross-platform person. Partly for reasons of my work here at Mobile Nations, and partly because I just love trying everything. But more than this, I want to be able to be a cross-platform person for the future also, so I've tried not to get too deep into any one ecosystem while still using them all in some way.

iTunes is probably the best example. It pretty much sets the standard globally with more content available in more places than competitors. Music, movies, TV, apps and games, books, podcasts, magazines, audiobooks, iTunes has pretty much all the bases covered. And that's great, as long as you primarily use Apple equipment. While you may be able to download audio and video content via iTunes on your Windows PC, to use that content on a competing mobile device requires some kind of effort. A manual process of moving your stuff around.

I'm not picking on iTunes here either, because generally speaking it's the same everywhere else. OK, Apple won't allow something like the Amazon MP3 Store into the App Store, but generally speaking purchases from proprietary services – Google Play, Xbox Video, Nokia Music, BlackBerry World to name a few – requires some interaction on the user end to move stuff around between devices. I get that each provider doesn't want you to go elsewhere, but that doesn't help cross-platform users. Or just folks who enjoy having easy access to everything they own.

So, what's my solution? Third-party services, predominantly cloud services. Spotify provides most of my music, Netflix provides most of my video. I say most, because I do still buy from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and the like from time to time, often dictated by who has the best deals on at the time of purchase. But I buy that content in the knowledge that I'm probably only going to use it in certain places, on certain devices. Spotify is everywhere – except BlackBerry 10, sadly – as is Netflix – sadly, the same story – so with these I don't generally need to worry about which mobile device or computer I'm picking up to use at that time. And that's why I like them so much.

Reading is the same. I'm split between Nook and Kindle, but again, both services are pretty much available everywhere. To me, the closed nature of ecosystems in general is more off-putting than the open or closed nature of a mobile OS. Everything in one place is great, but some of us are in multiple places for most of the time.

So, that's my take, and why I don't get too deeply embedded in any one ecosystem. I understand and appreciate why they exist, I'm just not that into them from a personal stand point. I like to know I can get the same content more or less wherever I may go. I'd like to hear your thoughts, though. Are you much more comfortable with the one-stop-shop approach, or like me, do you prefer to get content that isn't reliant so much on which device you're using? Let me know in the comments!

More: Talk Mobile 2013

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Cross-platform and ecosystems don't mix well, so I try to stay on the outside


I'll just be that CrackBerry guy who says that Netflix is available, you just need to sideload.

In regards to cross platform, I do like certain Web based apps. I just set up uTorrent remote and I'm very pleased with the level of openness and accessibility that only web can provide.

i. agree. completely. I enjoy tinkering around and 'testing' out my life using these particular tools. To do an accurate comparison i need to have all my data easily transferrable. I completely live in the dropbox, spotify, pdf ebook, etc etc realm.

totally agree. It's why I avoid getting too caught up in Apple. I switched from PC to mac 11 years ago and I'm sure I'll switch to something else at some point. I like to be able to bring all my stuff with me and have it work.

i think you are right, i try to treat every device i own as something to display my content on, a display device or something with a screen. but i do like apples and tim cooks approach where i dont have to think about goes inside the hardware when i do upgrade, so another thing i dont have to think about.

Your approach for ebooks might not really fit in your scheme. The future of Nook is already questionable. And think about Mobipocket. For this format existed once reader software for all platforms of that time. Then came Amazon, bought Mobipocket and destroyed it. No way to read all the bought Mobipocket ebooks any longer (not even with Kindle). Same with PalmReader/eReader and Barnes&Nobles. So it is not about available multi-platform software, it is about open and broadly supported standards. Just buy ebooks in EPUB format without copy protection and you might have a chance to still enjoy your ebooks in the upcoming years.

It's funny you write up this article today. I was just recently contemplating about my own participation in ecosystems and the convenience of living in the cloud. I'm primarily an Apple user and was HIGHLY reluctant to participate in an all-iTunes world because of the lack of cross-platform access. I needed some advice, so I hounded Rene about how he felt in regards to fully diving into just one ecosystem and the risks that come along with it. He said that he didn't worry about it too much. Actually he gave me an analogy that I would have never thought of, he said: "I have 100s of VHS tapes I bought locked in a format I can't/don't want to use any more. Not overly worried." It totally made sense to me. Media and the ways to access that media are constantly changing. You can worry about wasting your money now because of the lack of mobility later, but you'll never know that convenience of having all your stuff in one place. It's definitely risky. It takes a huge leap of faith in the company you're choosing to support. Not to sound like a fan boy, but if I had to support the future of one company, it definitely would be Apple. Everybody's priorities will be different, but to me, the convenience now is worth way more than potential costs later.

In 2007 all the computer era in my new office were stolen (other than the server..phew) and so I sent my designers home to work on their own systems. I was forced into the cloud and chose to never be reliant on my hard systems. Since then I have a dispersed work force, all the mangement apps including, Dropbox for storage, google apps for email and scheduling, drive for document creation and collaboration, ProWorkflow for project management and invoicing, quote roller for quoting, Xero for accounting, and 2talk is out totally virtual PABX system. To top this off the ultimate test came in 2010 and 2011 when our city was hit with a devasting 7 magnitude earthquake. We were unable to get into our office for several weeks .... And didn't miss a beat, our phones were answered, emails got through, files were safe and accessible, and our client data was safe. Two things had this happen 1, we were in the cloud so everything was safe and 2, we were cross platform so all my work could be done on my net-book and iPhone and the mother in laws Apple Mac ...

I try to support only services that are cross platform. I made the mistake of buying one book on iBooks that is locked to my iPad and not available on anythign else, purchased because it had special features not at the time available on the other formats but a few weeks later were anyway. A few songs on iTunes only because those were not available on other services. But ultimately I choose to use services that are available across my devices, or at least have a potential to be. That means Amazon MP3 for my music, Kindle and Nook for my books (yes, I know Barnes and Noble might discontinue the hardware but their software runs on Android, iOS, Windows, etc). Dropbox and Box for storage.
The other services, honestly, are just as easy to use as iTunes, Play. Just are not defaults, and are not available out of the box.