Long rendered mere commodities with their manufacturing now largely done in labour-rich China and southeast Asia, computing hardware has now become just low-cost components in increasingly cloud-based software “ecosystems” the likes of which were first spectacularly consumerised by Apple in its now cyber-ubiquitous iTunes retail network.
But software and Net firms are coming in hard with hardware. Search and software utility giant Google has recently stepped up its assault on Apple’s hold on the gravy train of digital content distribution with its own such ecosystem cobbled together from re-branded applications and third-party hardware built around its Android operating system (OS) now on its version 4.1 “Jelly Bean” release.
Online retailing pioneer Amazon.com is also in the game with its Kindle tablet reading devices which last year seized a sizeable chunk of the iPad market. Though running Google’s Android OS, Kindle provides its users a more customised experience a key feature being putting up Amazon’s store as the default destination over Google’s. Not surprisingly, the new centrepiece device in Google’s consumer information ecosystem is also a low-cost tablet the search giant hopes will wrestle eyeballs from Apple’s iconic and Ã¼ber-cool iPad and exact revenge on Amazon’s Ã¼ber-practical Kindle Fire.
The newly-launched Nexus 7, manufactured by Taiwan’s Asus, is a USD199 touchscreen tablet that aims to get Google Play (Google’s re-branded Apps Market) back up front and in users’ faces. The tablet itself is not a big deal as the featurelessness of most touchscreen devices, modern low-cost electronics manufacturing, and good old-fashioned Asian-style industrial espionage has largely rendered the mobile computing hardware industry a scorched-earth price war battlefield of increasingly undifferentiated devices. But if you are one of those types who really must quibble over screen resolutions, battery life, dimensions, and memory, knock yourself out.
The real value proposition is in these “ecosystems” that are competing for a share of your wallet’s wads. How seamlessly content can be moved out of these new media stores into your personal slice of the “cloud” and across your different personal devices will spell the difference between how successfully these big three content distribution giants dominate the very fabric of your lifestyle. It just keeps getting interesting.
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