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Mobile cloud services offered by Android and Apple are the new lock-in

13 Dec 2012
V3's Dan Robinson

Observers of the mobile device market have come to regard this as little more than a two-horse race nowadays, split between Apple on the one hand and the Android platform ecosystem on the other. Other vendors and platforms are given little credence, it would seem.

This is a somewhat short-sighted attitude, as things can quickly change in such a rapidly developing industry. Lest we forget, Apple had no presence in the phone market until five years ago, and Nokia accounted for about 50 percent of all handsets sold until fairly recently.

With this in mind, no-one should discount other mobile contenders from grabbing a larger share of the market, such as Microsoft's Windows Phone platform or RIM's upcoming BlackBerry 10, both of which have been given a radical makeover in the face Apple' success.

But regardless of who occupies the top spot in the popularity stakes, all the players have one thing in common, and that is the tendency to introduce platform-specific features and services in order to attract and keep users.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, and in fact it would be surprising if vendors didn't try to differentiate their products from the competition, but when those features serve to discourage or prevent users from switching to a rival platform, it becomes a potential danger with wider implications.

The kind of things I'm thinking of are the back-end services that many smartphone vendors offer as a value-add to the device itself, providing free storage, backup and other functions.

Apple's iPhone and iPad devices are backed by iTunes and the hugely successful App Store, for example, but other platforms have their own signature services. Microsoft has Zune and Xbox Live, whereas Google has a slew of cloud-based services including Gmail and Google Drive, which come as standard when you get an Android device.

The trouble comes when you look to upgrade your device and find that the data you have accumulated, perhaps over a year or two, is no longer so easily accessible if you switch to another platform. Often the service is accessed via an app that is only available for your specific platform.

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Daniel Robinson

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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