Amazon vs. Apple and Googleby Faley
This week, Amazon announced that they were banning sales of Apple TV and Chromecast hardware from its online store due to competition with their own Amazon Fire hardware. While this move may seem unimportant to consumers (get an Apple TV somewhere else, who cares), what it does signify is Amazon’s insistence that they would rather be a hardware and services company that provides a less-than-ideal shopping experience to its customers, rather than an online retailer who happens to make hardware every now and then. And this matters. Why? Glad you asked.
It matters because consumers lose. The great ecosystem war that plagues our ability to jump between different technology companies is a sadly accepted state of affairs, and more companies fighting over the privilege to trap you into their hardware and services is gross and everyone just needs to chill out. Think about how annoying it’s been trying to manage Google and Apple’s decade-long bickering match over your life. Want to ditch your iPhone and pick up an Android phone? Great, sounds good. You’ll be missing your grandfather’s iMessages for the next 3 months and by then he’ll likely be dead. There’s a reason it’s a pain in the ass to change devices — by making it as annoying as possible, you’re more likely to stay an existing customer. More companies aping Google and Apple’s nonsense will just make our lives that much more annoying. And your grandfather doesn’t have much time left.
It matters because it demonstrates Amazon’s long-tail intentions. Since forever, Amazon’s more hinky behavior has been explained as being in the best interest of the consumer. Remember when they stopped selling a ton of books because they wanted to bid with publishing houses for a bigger cut of sales, all under the pretense that they were fighting for low costs for consumers? Sure. Amazon has explained their ban on Apple TV and Chromecast because selling such devices would lead to “customer confusion” due to the fact that Amazon has chosen not to develop Amazon Prime video streaming apps on those platforms (fun fact: Amazon Prime video is available on non-competing platforms such as Xbox One and PS4). No one — not even Amazon — believes that this move is in the best interest of the consumer. And so for the (arguably) first time, Amazon is caught dead-to-rights acting in the interest of marketshare rather than giving the best online shopping experience to consumers.
Giant technology companies making life annoying for consumers should hurt their bottom line, not help it. No matter how “sticky” the relationship between a technology company and consumers, when people know they are getting jerked around, they are just a few clicks away from going somewhere else. There is a reason why the biggest social networks seem to only make small, seemingly insignificant incremental changes to their platforms — if those changes aren’t well received, folks are more than happy to go somewhere else.
It remains to be seen how bloody the Great Ecosystem Battle (GEB!) will get, but so far, it’s consumers that are paying the biggest price.