Technology

Apple’s Hotel California: The risks of vendor lock-in

Paul Wallbank /

As usual, Apple’s product announcements at their annual World Wide Developers Conference this week attracted plenty of media attention. The underlying message is the race to lock up your data is on.

This year’s WWDC was a little more subdued than usual with the key announcements being around Apple’s new Yosemite OSX operating system, iOS8 and the new developer Software Developer Kit (SDK).

While a little underwhelming after all the speculation about smartwatches and fitness devices, these launches mark a clear strategy where Apple locks customers into their products through the cloud, smart home and wearable devices.

Open, but closed

Normally discussion about an SDK makes most people’s eyes glaze over, but Apple’s in making over 4000 APIs – Application Program Interfaces – open for developers to connect their programs into iOS8 is the key part of the company’s strategy.

This marks a change for the company in allowing programs to easily hook into Apple’s mobile operating system, and while it looks like a move to openness, the ease of making fitness applications, home automation and smart car services actually helps lock users into the Apple ecosystem.

Key to the ecosystem lock-in strategy are the HealthKit and HomeKit services offering connections to health and home automation applications which are part of Apple’s Internet of things play, by offering easy access into the iPhone and iPad the company hopes to lock users of third party devices into the iOS world.

Lock up your data

For businesses, the message is clear: if you choose to work within the Apple system life will be very easy, the cost is an almost total commitment to their hardware, software and cloud products.

Many will be comfortable with this until they have to move data out or they find that Apple’s products don’t quite meet their business needs but the alternatives aren’t compatible with OS X or iOS.

For businesses, this week’s announcements make Apple the Hotel California of the internet – you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

If other companies choose to follow Apple, it could be argued that Google are already well down this track as well, then businesses are going to have some difficult technology choices to make in the near future.

Paul Wallbank is the publisher of Networked Globe, his personal blog Decoding The New Economy charts how our society is changing in the connected century.

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Paul Wallbank

Paul Wallbank writes on how IT affects communities, markets and workplaces. He also helps businesses to grow and engage their customers with technology.

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