Every major disruptive innovation we’ve had over the last decades has started as a walled garden.
The Web started with AOL and Compuserve building their own closed off small corners of web pages. Reuters’ open-system financial terminals never stood a chance against the sleek Bloomberg terminals. Smartphones and tablets didn’t take off until Apple took out all the unnecessary fluff and designed a sleek user experience, heavily controlled in terms of content. Social media didn’t fully take off with MySpace‘s messy, do-what-you-want interface, but rather with the heavily locked-down interface of Facebook.
It seems that it’s a necessary trade-off to do in the first stages of a new technology, sacrificing functionality for usability. Then, after the initial walled garden has existed for a few years, successful, “messier” options can succeed.
Once users have gotten used to the gist of the service, and a need has been established, then they start venturing out for more options. Now for example, after 6 years with iOS, the messier, customizable Android has now become the dominant driver of smartphone innovation.
Even for the Internet as a whole, it seems people now want their own “splinternets”. The much-faster, university-only Internet 2 was hyped for a long time, and now of course, in the wake of Snowden, Brazil and other countries want their own Internets.
Now, it seems we need the same thing for the Internet of things. Products run on a number of different standards, products don’t talk to each other if they’re from different manufacturers, and setting everything up can get really complicated. A lot of functionality exists, but it’s often pointless, like the washing machine discussed the other day on the O’Reilly Radar podcast that is somehow Internet-enabled, but doesn’t actually do anything useful with that connection.
Further, security is an issue. As Stacey Higginbotham discussed the other week on the GigaOm Internet of Things podcast, the way it is today, someone could hack into your coffeemaker and wreak every-day havoc.
We therefore need Apple to step up to the plate and play its role of chief technology simplifier and beautifier. Don’t let Nest beat you to it (or these guys). Imagine a sleek iHome console that cuts out unnecessary functionality and delivers a seamless experience. That would rejuvenate my hope in Apple.