Closed Systems–Putting Consumers Second

closed-systems-putting-consumers-secondI have a funny relationship with Apple and PlayStation – I love their products and hate their products at the same time. Specifically though, it’s closed ecosystems and the lack of consumer choice that is baked into these companies policies that really get me.

Apple is notoriously bad for maintaining closed products that, although they are great products, could be so much more if they just let go a little. I think the best comparison for Apple’s policies is an over-protective mother who can’t stand to see something happen to their child so they give them no freedom. It’s actually a perfect comparison. Perfect.

Apple’s software is locked down with minimal opportunity for customization. Users must resort to “jailbreaking” their phones in order to restore functionality to their phone that has been locked down. Jailbreaking has become extremely common – so much so, that it is crazy to believe that Apple still thinks it is working in the best interest of consumers. Don’t get me wrong, Apple products are great but they have so much more potential. Android is slowly but surely taking over the market because of its prevalence across devices as well as its open environment that allows both basic users and hackers enjoy the full ability of the hardware and software that they purchased. Apple, please learn soon. We are your customers. Hear us roar.

PlayStation also has a similar problem. Their customers pay hundreds of dollars for their hardware only to be restricted to the company’s wishes. PlayStation’s audience is hardcore gamers who like to hack and customize. They need to make sure they always operate for that audience. Restricting hardware might be okay for a system like the Wii (where many users are not techies) but not for a system like the PS3.

The funny thing about having a closed system is that if the mass public wants it open – they’ll get it open. When you get the attention of hundreds of hackers, it’s only a matter of time. If you won’t open it up, they WILL.

Hackers recently attacked the PlayStation network, taking it down for weeks. Their motivation is believed to be retaliation for PlayStation having attempted to sue a hacker that was hacking their software to make it more open. Their loss is estimated at billions. A pricey lesson to learn for not listening to your customers. Not to mention customers like myself losing respect for PlayStation.

PlayStation, Apple. Figure it out. Seriously.

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2 thoughts on “Closed Systems–Putting Consumers Second

  1. Great post Dave!

    I’m not sure I entirely agree though. The way I see it is that Apple and Android are both aimed at/designed to be products for very different ends of the consumer spectrum.

    Apple creates user-friendly (not sure where you go the idea they lack an easy user interface, but I can see where you are coming from. I grew up with Mac’s in my house and I am certain you must have grown up with PCs: I find them more of a challenge) products for people looking for an easy to use, simple, branded and fashionable device. Brand is as important (if not more!) than the actual functionality! On the other hand, I feel that Android phones are aimed towards the ‘geekier’, more technological crowd. People who care about processor speeds, screen resolutions etc. These are consumers who want to tinker with their OS, want the best specs and don’t really care what others necessarily think.

    While Android is gaining ground on the iPhone (there is certainly a growing market for these phones, as well as an anti-Apple sentiment in some cases), I think they go after two different markets. Apple does what it does to control their brand experience, while Android’s brand experience is about creating your own brand experience.

    1. I agree they are aimed at different markets but it is a shame that Apple cannot also make the “techies” happy. They would certainly expand their market if they did. For example, perhaps there would be a switch in the settings that by default is off and when turned on would enable “higher-level” functions. You should always have the option to customize your experience, even if the product is aimed for “dumb” users. Also, even “non-techy” users are becoming more comfortable with technology and want the option to make at least basic customizations – which is why even these non-techy users are jailbreaking (they just don’t know how to do it so they get someone else to).

      In summary I agree that they are going after different markets but there is no reason they couldn’t accommodate both. Users want a slick and customizable experience. Also, brand should never matter to the consumer. They will buy based on brand but a brand is not enough to keep consumers happy if they are not fully pleased with the product. Brand should never be the ONLY focus of a company but Apple has clearly chosen that route.

      I complete disagree with you but thanks for the feedback Andrew 🙂

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