Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bring your own device (BYOD) and the Ecosystem

Recently I was talking with a very bright colleague who is about to cave in and buy a tablet.  He does not even own a smartphone. He has managed to stay out of this technology maelstrom for so long that he was asking folks for advice about which was the ideal one to buy.  I was impressed that he did not just jump in to buy the iPad since that is what everyone had heard of.

I told him there were many factors to consider like the carrier, the size of the device, whether it has a microSD card etc but one of the factors was the ecosystem.  Seeing the look on his face, I knew I had some explaining to do.  So what is an ecosystem?

In biology, an ecosystem describes the complex interactions between the living organisms and their environment.  In technology, it describes the hardware and software on the device and the content and the applications that they interact with that often reside in the cloud.  [This is my made up definition and would be glad to know of a more formal generally accepted one].

He still looked puzzled so I drew a few circles representing Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon on the back of a paper napkin.  Then I drew some boxes on the circumference representing the following:

An Example of an Ecosystem


  • App Store
    • Music
    • Games
    • Movies
    • eBooks
    • Apps
  • Devices
    • SmartPhones
    • Tablets
    • Desktops/laptops with OS
  • Cloud storage
  • Documents/Office apps e.g. documents, presentations and spreadsheets
  • Social Networking
  • Email
  • Calendaring
  • Contacts
  • VOIP and Video conferencing
  • Content Management Systems
  • Groups
  • Maps
  • Browsers with syncing across devices
  • RSS feedreaders
  • Search
At this point his eyes were getting a bit glazed over.  He appeared to be asking, "What has all this got to do with buying a tablet or smartphone?"  So I gave him an example of how these are all integrated and having a device that is part of the ecosystem makes a lot of tasks easier.  Thus if you like using Google Voice, you may want to lean towards getting an Android device as it is seamlessly integrated into the phone.  
While it is often possible to access parts of an ecosystem from another type of device, it may not always be smooth.  Thus one can access Google Drive from both an Android and an iOS tablet (iPad) but generally the Android tablet gets features before the iPad.  The recent Google Maps issue on iPhone 5 is another example.  

He got it.  He was actually pretty amazed at how much these devices could do.  I felt bad about leaving him without any direction.  I was trying not to bias him but then he asked me what I would do if I was him.  I told him I would probably get the Nexus 7 tablet.  It was recently named the top gadget and top tablet of 2012.  He asked me, "Does that preclude me from getting an iPhone later?  Isn't the iPhone the best phone out there? And what about a computer OS? Google does not have one does it?"

"Great questions!" I said, "You may want to take a look at the this video before you consider buying an iPhone 5"
"And as far as the OS goes, Google does have computers with the Chrome OS but you can get the entire Google Ecosystem from a Chrome browser which you can install on a computer with any OS."  At this point, he was almost convinced.  But then I had to break the bad news to him.  "Of course, you need to know that our workplace does not support Android; only the Blackberry is supported.  Also only devices bought through work will be able to access the enterprise e-mail.  This is for security reasons."

I really don't like to see grown men cry!  Wish the BYOD philosophy was easier to embrace for organizations.