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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Slicing the market mini-, sorry Micro-update: TO'R on MicroHoo

In his piece MicroHoo: corporate penis envy? Tim O'Reilly makes lots of interesting arguments concerning where Microsoft should be putting its energy - as far as he's concerned, it should forget about trying to grab a slice of the search market and focus instead on building the internet operating system. For Yahoo!s part, it should realise it's the number one internet media company and make the most of it. There's lots here to chew on (and object to, as Michael Arrington does here, and I happen to agree with him and Jakob Nielsen that search, especially semantically intelligent search, is far from ticked off), but the paragraph that grabbed my attention concerned a couple of other players:

Apple's apparent success with an "own the stack, from the device to cloud" strategy is misleading. With both the iPod and the iPhone, a key element of success is precisely the device's openness to what Apple does not own. Imagine an iPod where you could only buy music from the Apple music store instead of ripping your own CDs (this is Amazon's mistake with the Kindle). Imagine an iphone without the Safari browser (opening a world of web apps to the phone) or the Google Maps application. Apple owns key elements of the stack, but it's a permeable stack, and getting more so.)

This is handy material for making the argument that museums shouldn't try to (or be required to) "own the stack". Far better to focus on a layer in the stack and make it permeable. iTunes (the music store) is clearly an example of trying to corner a part of the market outside Apple's home turf, but (a) they're big and ballsy enough to try it (and who else was doing so effectively at that time? Aside from Napster...) and (b) the core offering is still actually the hardware, and it allows you to acquire music by other means. Amazon and Kindle is interesting too. Perhaps it's too early to say they've made a mistake, though they probably have. I doubt it will stay closed and succeed. Nevertheless, as I acknowledged before, they are making a grab for more of the stack. But let's not forget, they're HUGE!

What can we learn? Well there's that point about openness/permeability. If we must insist on claiming the vertical market from top to toe, from collections management system to the end user's screen, then at least make it permeable and open. Otherwise your carefully grown fruit will wither on the vine, forgotten and increasingly past its sell-by date.

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