Remember: Just because it’s not painful to you doesn’t mean that it’s not painful to me (or anybody else).
Microsoft can gain mobile relevance again (and alleviate pain), but it may have already lost too many people to an iOS device — the gateway drug to everything Apple. Microsoft can re-establish Windows as a product that’s generally not construed as buggy and crappy (due to implementation and configuration, not necessarily innate flaws), but the Surface PC effort may lose out to a $200 Nexus 7 tablet if Google can get it in front of consumers and it sees that it can do pretty much the same thing at a fraction of the cost. Wallet pain. Will users see Windows 8 as an upgrade if their PC doesn’t have touch capabilities? Usability pain. We’ll see. Maybe they’d want to try it first, I’d imagine. Where? A Microsoft Store. Don’t laugh.
Yes, despite my love for e-commerce, I still like walking into storefronts and touching products and receiving service from a human being. I’m not crazy. Microsoft took another page from Apple’s playbook, and it should help sales of its Surface PC. Google should consider opening up mall kiosks if it wants to drive mass adoption of Nexus 7, since most users online will go to Amazon (where the Kindle Fire is sold) or to electronic superstores where a Nexus 7 will be lost amid dozens of “me, too” tablets.
Certainly, Google needs to assert a clear message that the devices which bear the Nexus label will not leave the customer feeling stranded. Android tablets, while shipped in record numbers, have failed to catch on in the market. Android phones, while used in record numbers, will be how many OS revisions behind when Jelly Bean “ships?” Has the world already formed an opinion of Android as a half-baked, fragmented experience? To me, that screams nothing but pain. Why would you want to welcome that?
If Google can get its Android story straight (and clean up the mess it made, leaving millions of users feeling stranded on mildly antiquated versions), it may just give Microsoft a run for its money. If consumers react negatively to Windows 8, they’re not going to be inclined to buy a Windows Phone 8 product — and vice versa. Why would they? Who will welcome those disenfranchised customers? Apple or Google? Apple certainly has more to offer those users in terms of hardware experiences, but Google still has browser presence and is playing catch-up on the hardware front with notable speed.
Apple isn’t peddling pain to many users — it’s peddling solutions that make all costs melt into the background. Google is just beginning to offer the same types of painless experiences for its users, with Microsoft finally following suit. Google and Microsoft are just not communicating that story as effectively (if it’s, indeed, ready).
Because of this, proselytizing an iOS user to switch to Android or Windows Phone or stick with Windows over OS X is not going to be as easy as it will be to convince someone to switch from Android to Windows (or vice versa) over anything in Apple’s family. Microsoft is still building a comprehensive series of hardware and software solutions that enable a single experience, closer to Apple than it is Google. And Google? Well, it’s shipping code on any platform — as well it should be. It doesn’t need to be tied to hardware or a specific OS to earn revenue. That’s a huge market advantage, but leaves it with several experience gaps to fill.
Google wants to own your full experience. Apple wants to own your full experience. Microsoft wants to own your full experience. They’re all just taking a different path to get you and keep you. They’re all going to deploy different tactics to gain or maintain market share, too — make no mistake. Profit is profit. Which method is working better? There’s simply no definitive answer, since value is inherently relative. It’s typically in their best interests to make it painful for you to float between ecosystems, though — and I believe that Google is the company that’s made it the least painful (but could still do a lot more). If you can get online, you can largely use what Google has to offer.
What Google could do to alleviate pain is make it far less painful to manage media licenses, much like it’s less painful to manage files with Google Docs (Drive). You can upload MP3s, but that’s not… clean, easy, or convenient. What about new music? Movies? Other programming? Amazon’s got part of a solution in place for music — and is already OS independent. I can use Spotify and Pandora almost anywhere now, too. What of the rest?
My dream: to not have to worry about vendor lock-in anymore, and much like music subscription services freed me from the pain of having to manage unwieldy music collections independent of platform, so should it be with software and apps. What does it matter that I registered Angry Birds on iOS? I should be able to play it everywhere. Like Netflix. Money could still be made at the point of sale, like in traditional retail stores. If you had to pay for Netflix separately on every device, would you? So why do we put up with having to buy apps and/or media over and over again?
We have little-to-no choice. And every single media vendor knows this. They know it’s painful — that’s what keeps you using their products and living inside of their ecosystem alone.
This isn’t about one company being better than the other or “winning,” either. There is no #1 in a race that never ends.
Pain. Don’t leave that out of your decision equations. It’s still very much a factor that has far more impact than any given hardware spec. Fanboys would have you believe that their system is the only system to believe in, but… they’re not you, are they? Above all else, they want to avoid pain. Not your pain, but their own.
This is part three of a three-part series. The other pieces to the puzzle can be read here: