THE BLOG

Choosing Apple or Google Might Make Your Life Easier But There's An Expensive Price to Pay

05/01/2015 17:23 GMT | Updated 07/03/2015 10:59 GMT
Federico Caputo via Getty Images

I'm sitting in the car driving back after spending Christmas at home and for the third time this week I'm trying to explain to my mother how her Google Chromecast works.

It's not that she doesn't understand technology. Indeed she's one of the most tech-savvy people I know and at times has more enthusiasm about both new technology and the video games industry than her own son.

The problem is that I'm making a total hash of explaining it. It has taken me three attempts to try, and as I splutter through my third and final explanation my mother manages to hit the nail on the head.

"I don't need to know why something does work. If it 'just works' then that's fine. What I need to understand is why it won't work with some things but does work with others."

That's not a statement we should be hearing in the 21st Century. In an age where I can take a photo, share it to an album in the cloud and then have it on every device I own without doing anything, this simply shouldn't be a 'thing'.

If you speak to any technology CEO about their company's aims and objectives, one of the first things you'll hear them say is that [insert tech company] is trying to make people's lives easier.

This is a lie.

OK so it's not entirely a lie, but it's also not strictly the truth.

If I take a picture of something on my iPhone and then share it to an iCloud album, every device and every person who has access to that album will then be able to see that picture. It's a modern marvel that sadly only works with people who have Apple products.

My mother doesn't have an Apple product so isn't able to join the album that shows our family Christmas.

Instead I've had to take all the pictures, copy them into Dropbox, create a shared Dropbox folder and then invite her to either download the images or have them in her Dropbox folder. Any subsequent images that are then taken will need to be added manually in this fashion.

Right.

That's not making my life easier, that's giving me a beautiful set of fluffy ear warmers and then promptly cutting off one of my ears.

While Apple is an extreme example, the same can be said across all the major technology brands.

Chromecast is actually one of the simplest examples of consumer technology's fractured ecosystem. Netflix, iPlayer and YouTube will all work with Google Chromecast and they'll all work from either Apple or Android devices (a rare moment of harmony).

What you cannot cast is Amazon Prime or Sky Go. Why? Well Amazon Prime can only be sent from a smartphone or tablet made by Amazon to Amazon Fire TV. Sky is just Sky.

What about music and films that are bought from either Apple or Google? Can that be shared through Chromecast? Yes, but you'll need both an Apple TV to play all your Apple content and a Google Chromecast to play all your Google content.

So that's two things you'll need to buy straight away.

Still with me? If you're not then I entirely understand and I'd probably recommend just going down the pub. There won't be a Chromecast in sight and a glass of wine and a good book is almost certainly better than anything either of these companies have to offer in the first place.

If you are still with me then hopefully you're beginning to see the problem. If the two main technology companies can't get along, what hope in hell do we have of living this simpler life when we factor in all the other companies that make everything else for our homes like TVs, games consoles, ovens and yes, cars.

Why should the phone I have determine what car I own? Why am I having to pick this oven over another simply because it only offers functionality to an Android phone? It seems utterly ludicrous that the cost of making our lives easier is the absolute removal of choice.

This fragmentation is probably unstoppable. Samsung is already taking major steps to transfer its own products away from Google onto its own Tizen operating system. Google has pretty much made sure that Android Wear will never work with anything other than Android devices. What about Apple? Well Apple's been doing it for years but no one really minds because it looks so pretty when they do it.

What does this mean for the future? More buying. If you want to have the free and open ecosystem you've dreamed of you'll need to pay for it which means getting an Apple TV, a Google Chromecast and then downloading every third-party service that has thankfully tried to bridge the gap. Of course it'll never work that well because as you've seen, Dropbox doesn't play nice with everyone, I mean don't be ridiculous, that'd be verging on sensible.

As I say, go to the pub and read a book. The only things you'll need are a pub that's compatible with British sterling and a book filled with words that are compatible with your eyes.