Cast your mind back. Way back….
It seems with technology there is always a battle of the platform.
Way-back in time it was Commodore, Spectrum, Atari, BBC, IBM (PC), Amstrad and Apple (for those creative types)
In that battle it seems the PC won because of its OS from Microsoft called MSDOS and then Windows, where as Apple was always in the background and was more popular for design; This attraction was based on the UX.
The IBM / Microsoft partnership worked because the PC was universal and worked for home and work; It was the office where it found its true success. The work place started to introduce more PC’s to automate business and they became essential tools for increasing productivity. PC manufacturers around the world partnered with Microsoft for the OS. Intel was the chip of choice. The ‘Wintel’ partnership would last for many years.
In the background the consoles had their own battle on the platforms which still continues today. The survivors being Xbox, Playstation and Wii.
Apple was always in the background and at the height of their troubles they allowed other manufacturers to make their hardware. Apple had lost its USP. It looked liked the battle was over but Apple brought Steve Jobs back, focused on what made it special in the first place and brought some excitement into the beige world of PC’s with their launch of the colourful iMac.
The new range of iMacs caught the imagination of the users and because most users were now using computers for browsing the Internet, office admin, graphic design etc it didn’t really matter what they used as most files were transferable between the platforms.
Apple focused their efforts on UI and UX. The PC market was saturated with hundreds of hardware manufactures and many different versions of windows. For ease of use Apple stood proud.
The battle would carry on for a few years until Apple released the iPod. The iPod changed the way we consumed music forever. Apple walked into the music industry and changed it forever. Realising that users would pay for digital downloads they took the world by storm, iTunes was born.
Then Apple released the iPhone. This changed everything (and killed flash). Mobiles before had many different platforms but were predominantly java based. Producing content on these phones was fairly difficult (because of the low spec) and porting to all devices was a nightmare.
Apple, realising that content was king, opened up their platform to developers allowing anyone to make content for their devices. They knew that that iOS could change everything. They followed their success with the iPad which completely revolutionised the industry, now tablets seem the norm. Google’s Android being the main competitor, with Microsoft lagging behind with windows mobile.
The Patent Wars ensued over a few years between the major players with many lawyers benefiting.
Apple is now by far the most successful in terms of profit, where Android is by far the biggest mobile platform.
Having decent content available is the route to success. Apple and Android are the leaders in this area.
Now mobile web traffic (tablets,mobiles etc) is bigger then the traditional PC. Mobile tech enables new frontiers such as m commerce, health, loyalty etc. Our mobile technology has become the epicentre of everything we do.
So has the war of the platforms settled? Will it be Apple vs Google for the next few years?
I think the answer is no.
The platform battle began in the home and moved to the office, whilst always touching on gaming. Mobile came and changed everything, now the battle goes back to the home with the birth of IOT.
IOT stands for Internet of Things. Basically it enables devices to speak to each other via the Internet. This technology promised to change the way we interact forever. For the first time ever the Internet is not just focused on a screen but will be all around you.
With IOT technology, users will be able to automate their homes and workplaces like never before.
IOT encompasses many of the platforms that we are used to but connects them in ways we have never seen. Your TV, mobile, security system, locks, lights, heating, air conditioning, white goods will all be connected together.
Now the new players in the IOT market are Intel (IOTivity), Google (Android, Brillo), Samsung (Android, Smartthings) and Apple (Homekit, iOS, Apple TV), Amazon (echo, kindle, fire TV)
The battle for the house isn’t just confined to tech companies but will drastically change the landscape for the media giants such as sky, Netflix, BBC etc
What does this mean for the users?
I converted to Apple many years ago because I hated Microsoft Vista with a passion (for good reason).
Before I knew it my house was full of compatible Apple devices such as Apple TV, AirPlay speakers, airport extremes and Apple time capsules for backup.
It enabled me to beam any digital content (music , video, photos etc) to any speaker or screen in the house. It was easy to setup and works well. It’s changed they way I consume media forever. I don’t need Sky or Virgin anymore. Subscriptions are gone.
Now IOT offers so much more. Google acquired Nest last year and Samsung bought a startup called Smartthings. Apple have acquired Metaio (Augmented reality platform) and Primesense (the maker of Kinect). I do not know whether allowing Google into the house would be a step too far for privacy.
Apple already have Computers, tablets, phones and Apple TV in the home whereas Samsung have TV’s, white goods, stereos, phones, tablets and much more.
Samsung last year launched Smartthings, which is a collection of IOT devices with a hub at the centre. There are motion sensors, open close sensors, proximity sensors, water sensors, cameras etc. It’s an open platform that works with most compatible zigbee or zwave devices, it also has a great developer community who are constantly coming up with new integrations.
So what does IOT mean for you?
IOT promises to make our lives easier, automating tasks and making management of the home / work simpler.
I’ve been using Smartthings for a few months by incorporating Philips Hue lights around my house and I’m currently evaluating smart thermostats and smart locks.
Smartthings has made my house manage itself.
Imagine this. When I return home my house recognises me, switches off the alarm, unlocks the doors, turns on the lights to a setting perfect for relaxing, switches on the heating, checks whether the cats are in and asks me what music I want to listen to. If somebody knocks at my door I am notified (whether I am home or not). I can speak to Amazons Alexa (which is always listening) and ask to switch the TV on, change the lights, turn the heating up, find a recipe etc. Amazon is like Siri but does not need the use of a phone. The Amazon Alexa is one of Steve Wozniak’s favourite devices.
The light in my hall turns blue if it is going to rain or the temperature is below 0 allowing me to dress appropriately. If my house senses an intruder the lights turn red, the stereo emulates a dog barking and the cameras send footage to my phone of the intruder. If my pipes burst, I am notified immediately and a plumber is called.
By introducing gamification into the mix I can play with my energy usage. This will lead me to be more efficient and environmentally friendly.
I no longer need to use the thermostat or the light switches in the house. The lights follow me around the house turning on when they sense that somebody is there.
I was going to wait for the New Apple TV featuring Homekit as I though that would be a direct competitor to Smartthings. However my impatient nature made my purchase it as well.
It turns out that the new Apple TV is great, brilliant for movies and media, OK for games (need to get used to new control system) and fantastic for media streaming. However the furthest I managed to get with IOT was to wire my Philips Hue lights up and control the lights via the TV or Siri (Siri also works with Apple TV).
Apple’s effort with IOT seems pretty basic and they are using Apple TV as the central Hub which is a good idea. Apple’s HomeKit requires hardware manufacturers to install a HomeKit chip which is a barrier to entry for many suppliers.
However, by nature, Apple have a very closed ecosystem which completely goes against the ethos of IOT. They are not the only ones.
Amazon Echo released today in the UK can use my voice to control my house but it will not allow access to iTunes (without a clever hack). Smartthings does not directly speak to Apple devices. Philips have been in trouble for locking out alternative lightbulbs from the Hue bridge and have recently back tracked when the community kicked off.
There’s a work around that can connect 3rd party devices and it is called IFTTT.
IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It is a free web based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Smartthings, Philips Hue etc. IFTTT is independent of the major brands and therefore is powered by users for the users and is open in nature
Samsung have created a large developer community and works with IFTTT. The only thing I can see from Apple that is in IFTTT are reminders.
With Samsung’s other devices and an open platform they could rule the market. However we need to watch out for Intel, Google, and Microsoft and what they have planned. I think Google will have an issue with trust (do you really want to let Google know everything?) whereas Microsoft doesn’t have the market penetration with smart devices that they own.
The next year will be one to watch where IOT becomes the norm and we all make our homes and workplaces manage themselves with this smart technology.
Is IOT perfect? No, most definitely not. It is still in its early days but it promises to be the next big revolution that will change the way we live, work and play.
My next mission is to turn our 1968 VW camper van into the first IOT camper.
Watch this space.