Tablets create a fork in the digital road

Nexus7 presentation

Tech’s Big 4 want to own your digital life and this land grab has developed in recent years away from digesting lines of code (by browsing on Amazon, searching on Google etc) to a physical tie up via hardware.

The old days were ruled by Gateway and Dell with their desktops and laptops. Now it’s what fits in your hand: the smartphone and the tablet.

But the larger problem when buying these products comes not from deciding about battery life or screen size, but a wider dilemma than the product itself. It’s a VHS-Betamax, Jetts-Sharks, manual-automatic, rent-buy type of problem.

The tablet and phone you choose will largely dictate the tie up between your digital life and your physical one. The umbilical cord means if you buy Apple hardware, your digital life will be Apple’s, and so on.
The tablet device you choose will probably be heavily influenced by your mobile phone’s operating system. If, like the majority of tablet buyers, you simply have to have an iPad, you’ll need to sync it with the closed and protective environment of iTunes. That makes the experience more of a silo then the open web we had before apps.

If you like the runner up (in current sales numbers, that is) then Samsung and the more open Android system will be yours to peruse and enjoy.

Amazon was once an ecommerce retailer, now they want to be digital gods and they sell their tablets at cost price in order to get you into their digital universe, and then profit on the content side. Google offer a huge range of digital services and the Nexus 7 tablet is your perfect tool to access that digital life. But it’s less likely to be great for you if you’ve got movies, podcasts and books in your iTunes account linked to your MacBook.

It’s what John Battelle calls the Cloud Commit Conundrum. Our choice is firstly about what digital planet do we want to live on as they wont all be the same – or interchangeable, for that matter. You can buy Amazon’s goods on an iPad but the same isn’t true the other way as iTunes won’t hook into the Kindle Fire.

It’s not just about content either, as Battelle writes, “If you’re going to upload your digital doppelganger into this company’s servers, can you trust it?

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