Smart Money Bets on the Developer Friendly Platform

One thing I have noticed about software companies, something that hardware companies figured out years ago, was they could not design or do everything.

In April 1999 Flextronics announced that it would purchase a second manufacturing facility from Ericsson. Perhaps not the best example here, but in spirit the exact point I would like to make. Ericsson found that it was just not commercially viable to design and develop products, sell and market them, and still maintain a full turn-key manufacturing outfit. They realize it was more cost effective to leverage on partnerships with people who were able to do certain jobs like contract manufacturing, assembly or “box built” a whole lot more efficient than they could.
Every time I hear Microsoft getting into anti-trust battles or Apple products having a closed platform design, I have to shake my head. Perhaps it’s a business strategy on their part, but from what I see if not carefully managed, such close non-developer friendly platform potentially has the following limitations:
1) Shortsightedness in product and design flaws. After so many design reiterations of Windows, Vista still continue to be a “beast” and requires an equally bestial PC to run it.
2) Over stretching finances and budgets in the goal of covering every aspect the design of your product’s use experience, and probably failing. The old adage “a jack of all trades master of none” applies here.
3) As a result you get slower product design and development lead times as you try to do everything and the kitchen sink.
4) Poor brand equity when you try to ‘incorporate” other technologies into your product and call it your own. (Can anyone say Apple dashboard widgets? I could not stop laughing at Steve’s jab at Vista Copying them with his comment “Redmond, start your photocopiers”)
5) Pure vanity. Nobody is perfect. I think some companies need humble pie and be nice to other people than try to give weird an excuses such as a 3rd party application destroying an entire network, or that you are looking after your user’s total experience and best interests.
What I think that will come up tops or where I will put my money is on software platforms that are designed to give people a choice. A choice to stay with you or with the popular vote, you know the old argument, Internet Explorer or Netscape?
Lets take a look at the example of Nokia’s Symbian S60 3rd edition platform and its supporting software.
Taking a book out of Palm’s open source and developer friendly platform, the Nokia Suite surprisingly does not come with a personal information manager platform. What? I thought when I first installed the software. The developers of the platform were smart enough to know that there were existing products like Outlook and Lotus Notes that were well designed and did the Personal Information Management job very well. Probably much better than they ever could.
They cleverly spend their time to designed their product to work with the market leading products. My Symbian phone connects and synchronizes almost perfectly with my Outlook. Again today I’m surprised to find out that my Nokia Suite allows you to manage your images with popular image programs such as Google’s Picasa, Adobe’s Photoshop Album, Corel’s Snapfire etc. Hey apparently the new N95 can even upload your photos directly to Flickr, now talk about really working together.
Of cause Nokia has their own “Lifeblog” software if you want product continuity, have no preference, of just like Nokia designed products, but my point here is that they open the doors, and they give you a choice as well as are confident enough to put themselves out there and let you pick the better player. They dont just “nanny” and decide for you what to like or use.
For me in the long run, I don’t see how such close system designs can survive, perhaps by somehow forcing you to upgrade every 6 months maybe? As it is people are raving about Ubuntu (a new incarnation, more people friendly version of Linux), and even with generally out dated hardware Palm PDAs are still going strong.
So I’ll bet that Nokia and any corporation that adopts collaborative design partnerships will be the winner here. The consumer market is already so competitive, why spend more money re-inventing the wheel when you can leverage on other people’s success. Its just not smart money to do otherwise.

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