In one of my very first posts, I wrote about the process of setting up this blog, and how I discovered new modern and cheap tools for getting things done. More specifically, I wrote:
Big corporations likely pay extra for so much of stupid stuff. The tools available start to be so sophisticated that they go beyond our professional skills. I suspect in many cases much simpler and cheaper solutions would get the job done than what corporations buy out of habit.
Now, a few months later, I must say the feeling as strong as ever, as I’ve discovered some more good stuff. For example, my usage of the following apps has skyrocketed:
- SkypeOut: Duh. Of course, I’ve been a Skype user for, like, forever. Just one of those who never got around topping up the account, because I would mainly use my corporate phone for international calls to old skool phone numbers. After controlling costs in one consulting assignment caused me to put in some credit, I start to find the combination of price, call quality and the iOS UI quite irresistible, any time I have a call to make to an international mobile number.
- Dropbox. It came into the portfolio as “better flickr” as playing around with picture resolution versions became annoying. Then picture sharing to iPads. Then it started to serve as the file transfer workaround when either Mac and family PC got into disputes with the home network drive. And I must admit that the tupperware incentive of getting more free Dropbox space as friends join didn’t hurt either. And, suddenly, it is now my main destination folder for practical day-to-day files.
- Whatsapp. I used it somewhat when I was on Nokia S40 phone. But little on any smartphone. Then they offered it free for iPhone, instead of the what-I-felt-as-show-stopping (?) EUR 0.89 charge. So I take it into active use, and I find it as the most approachable way to send pics to my wife who has a Nokia Lumia. I also manage to look cool in the eyes of my 13-year goddaughter (only Whatsapp and Kik in her circles). I also find it as the good way to organize rides for my daughter’s hobbies with broadcast message feature.
- Google Drive. Out of habit, I started the season writing all my basketball coaching related stat sheets in Excel, like I had always had done. Until the guy I coach with asked to do it in Google Docs so we both can see them in real time. Then I notice how simple user interface Google had done (at least when compared to Mac version of Microsoft Office). So I decide to move all my blog writing to Google Docs as well, because I don’t need features much beyond the notepad.
Now, I didn’t write this list to tout my early adopter-ness. That would have been clueless. With tens or hundreds of Millions of users each, all these services are way way beyond being hidden gems. The interesting “business blog angle” is just which big mammoth company is going to acquire those still independent, and for how many Billions.
For me the interesting observation was my consumer behavior in what some people call ‘the war of ecosystems’. As a user, I switch over to a new habit that exposes me to a new habit that switches me over even more. And all this can happen quite fast, because at least I don’t “re-configure” my daily routines in a linear fashion, but in bunches, at certain points of lifestyle or equipment change.
Obviously, moving to free cloud comes with a risk. Of course, I could end up being taken on a ride any time later with changed pricing and switching costs (Dropbox, I am looking at you with some nervousness).
As for who is winning the war of ecosystems, I need to cut this entry a little short, because I need to go double-check that I don’t own any enterprise software sales and telecom subscription revenue dependent stock. Not because I would have some vendetta against the companies per se. Would I really care if WhatsApp was owned by a 100-year telco company, with a grey-hair CEO wearing a blue suit and a red tie, as long as the service worked the same way as it does now? Does it really matter if the great free cloud (home) office software is heir to the Luke Skywalker or the Darth Vader camp of software-making? No, on both counts. At the end, all these services are such scale-driven businesses that they will need to end up in the hands of some Big Corporation anyhow (or become Big Corporations themselves).
My point is really what these apps and services, being free or close to free, are doing to my willingness to pay for software. Especially, now that cheap offers do not automatically suck anymore. In fact, the cheap ones can actually be better than the bloated, legacy alternatives. And that’s a combo offer both me and my CIO, Cheap Infrastructure Officer, really like.