I am a big believer in going against the grain… standing out in a crowd… rocking the boat… being “different”… In fact, this entire blog has been dedicated to writing about the “other” point of view! Lately, however, I have become increasingly aware of the benefits of staying with the crowd, at least where Technology is concerned.
Allow me to explain: Buy a not-so-popular mobile phone, and you find yourself stranded in situations when you need a charger and no one else can lend you one. Sign up for an obscure email service and your friends and family will find it difficult to remember your email address. Got a no-name MP3/MP4 player? I’m not sure if it will read your music files without needing conversion!
Many of us must have dealt with some or the other version of the above. The bottom-line is that there is comfort in numbers. Not to mention, the “Network Effect” that kicks in!
It’s not a problem that plagues individuals, alone. Apple has historically lost the “PC” war on account of not making its hardware and OS “open” to developers. The result? Microsoft came and swept the desktop world, with millions of small and big developers writing applications for a platform they could easily work with. Sony lost the video-cassette battle to the VHS standard. As a result, its superior Betacam format was restricted to a niche place in the industry. Most recently, a fierce war is being fought over DVD standards with entertainment majors like Sony and Toshiba on opposite sides of the BluRay and HD bandwagons. In each such case, there is major money to be made by the organization that backs the right horse… its survival may just depend on that decision.
For an individual like myself, this “platform power” yields some very powerful and exciting benefits.
A good example is the iconic iPod which has now spawned a whole world of related technologies (e.g. podcasting?) because of its sheer popularity. Some of the gadgets I own, or services I subscribe to, are no different.
The bluetooth device I own (Jabra BT250) has worked seamlessly with the last six mobile phones I purchased. The MP3 player in my car (iPod Nano) is loaded with podcasts from Harvard Business School and the NY Times TechTalk. My blogging service (WordPress) sports widgets that integrate beautifully with my other subscriptions from industry-standards like Feedburner. And, it doesn’t stop there… Even my state-of-the-art Digital SLR (Nikon D40) is designed to work with any Nikkor lens manufactured by Nikon since the 1970s!!!
Once you begin reaping the benefits of the “platform”, it doesn’t make sense going back, does it?