Apple and the Vulnerabilities of Big Tech Ecosystems

The concept of tech ecosystems has been around for a while now. And, as Big Tech continues to advance into new areas, it looks set to spread out, although not necessarily strengthen, in new areas across the next decade. The concept is quite easy to understand, basically purporting that it is easier to stay within the product range of one brand than to migrate towards others.

Of course, Apple has always been very adept at cultivating its ecosystem. One can see this in examples like the offering of free Apple TV + with the purchase of iPhones, Macs and iPads, as well as the lack of headphone jack from the iPhone 7 onwards pushing users towards the purchase of AirPods.

As you might expect, the entry point into an ecosystem is with the hardware, and that’s where Apple has an advantage over Big Tech competitors like Amazon. Google, of course, has tried to branch out with hardware like the Pixel phone and Chromebook, but it remains to be seen whether it can carve out the same kind of cocoon-like system used by Apple.

Big Tech Battle Over Entertainment

However, some tech trends could point to choppy waters further down the line, perhaps even rattling Apple’s impenetrable ecosystem. In effect, we are talking about the spreading of the net across more areas, and how that can lead to a kind of exhaustion among consumers. This is best seen in the warnings over television ‘streaming wars’, with Apple TV + going up against Disney, Netflix, Hulu et al. If the market gets stretched, consumers will opt not to pay or use other means like VPN services that let you access blocked sites. Apple may seem secure, but the stretching of services can cause more vulnerabilities in the ecosystem.

Looking at something like gaming, where Apple has carved out something of a hidden gem in Apple Arcade. At around $5 a month, it’s a cheap subscription service that is well-liked by critics and a good deal for gamers. But, in the gaming world, Apple comes up against different providers, many of whom have more clout and experience, as well as a fast-changing industry.

Gaming Subscriptions Will Explode in the New Decade

For example, gaming is arguably moving away from being a solitary activity to a social one. By that, we mean there are millions of people who watch video games in the same manner as others might watch sports. Amazon is expected to launch its gaming cloud-based gaming service next year, one that could rival the subscription services of Google (Stadia), Sony (PlayStation Now), Microsoft (xCloud) and, of course, Apple Arcade.

We mentioned earlier that Apple had a built-in advantage of tying up its hardware into the ecosystem, but Amazon owns Twitch – the medium for delivering video game action to millions of viewers across the globe. That’s a significant advantage to get consumers into the Amazon ecosystem. While it doesn’t have the hardware advantages of Apple or Google, Amazon certainly has designs on building an ecosystem to rival both tech companies.

The move away from hardware has been talked about for several years now, and it will be interesting to see how Apple responds to it, if indeed it pans out that way. There is nothing to say that the Apple ecosystem is under threat, nor are we saying that Apple Arcade is a vulnerable spot. But the same truisms of the 2010s will not always be valid in the 2020s. For now, Apple’s ecosystem looks secure, but it might unravel one day.