There are two ecosystems: Apple, and Microsoft.
You may ask why Google is missing, and I wonder that as well. The truth is that Google doesn’t build ecosystems—it solves hard technology projects by having an idea and getting a proof of concept out to people.
That’s not a backhanded compliment (insult). It’s both a real compliment and the reason it is being crushed by Apple and will soon be crushed by Microsoft as well.
Microsoft is building every product to work with every other product, just like Apple.
Google sees a problem and fixes it in a one-off (but brilliant) way that isn’t part of any ecosystem. And when it tries to do an ecosystem it has the flavor of ad-hoc.
Google+ is likely to die this year, just like Google Reader. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with it technically. It’s quite powerful. The problem is that the culture behind it seems disconnected from the concept of lifestyle.
Google products seem built for particle physicists. Spartan. Functional. Customizable.
Again, not a bad thing. But it’s not what I want, and unfortunately not what people need.
People will soon have all their technology in one ecosystem or another: Microsoft or Apple. Scales, watches, work computers, televisions, cars, maps, phones—it’ll all be unified and integrated.
Google is not in that space. They’re seeing these various components as different markets to sell ads in rather than as a product in itself.
And perhaps that’s the biggest difference. Apple and Microsoft see the ecosystem as its own thing. Google sees it as a feature of each thing, like an extension or a plugin.
I think the companies that succeed in this ecosystem battle will be those that make the technology disappear into the background. It’ll be about branding and marketing around a seamless and futuristic experience.
I wish Google were in it. It would make the battle more competitive and drive more innovation. But for now there are only two players that get it.