In researching this book, one of the things that occurs to me is that ecosystems are, if not everything, then crucial to success.
And the success is magnified if you have a hardware *and* a software ecosystem.
Windows succeeded because it had the software ecosystem (all those apps, plus all those in-house apps you never saw written for companies) plus a hardware ecosystem (all those PCs) plus a “human” ecosystem – all those people with Microsoft skills who could sort your Windows systems out. That’s a killer scene.
With the (original) iPod, there wasn’t a software ecosystem, but there was a hell of a hardware ecosystem: by the end of 2005, it was worth $1bn at least (likely much more, because that number doesn’t include online sales) – see this New York Times article which quotes NPD Group having a good stab at it.
If you have any data about the size of the iPod or iPhone ecosystem, I’d love to see it. Drop links or other info in the comments, please.
Then you have the iPhone, which has both a software and a hardware ecosystem (all those iPhone docks and bumpers and cases).
In which case: what is Google’s ecosystem? OK, in Android it is (a) software in the Android Market (b) hardware in the shape of the actual phones. Fair enough. But is that a lock? The handset makers don’t have that much invested in the success of Android – if something else comes along, they might rush to that.
Is that right? And is the Android ecosystem the real hardware one for Google? Is there anything else? Is there a software ecosystem for Google, the search engine, and its properties? (Arguably there’s a human one, in the form of SEO experts.)
Also: what about the companies that failed to thrive – Palm, Psion? Did they lack one of the key ingredients, or did they just predate the internet too much?
Once you think about ecosystems around products, you can see how powerful it is: look at Coca-cola, which generates huge revenues and has a hardware ecosystem (all those bottles and cans) and “software” (advertising) and “human” (vendors) invested in its success.
But to focus again: what is the Google ecosystem in software, and in hardware? Does it matter if it has one?