I Still Don't Want To Be Part of Your Fucking Ecosystem

One of the most popular blog posts I have written is called "I Don't Want To Be Part of Your Fucking Ecosystem".

In it, I rant against service providers trying to lock their customers into a monoculture. Companies are always looking for the edge which will make them stand out - they think that restricting what their users can do is the answer. It is not.

Openness and network effects are the biggest drivers of usage - an MP3 bought from Amazon works on an iPod bought from Apple, and an MP3 bought from iTunes works perfectly on a Kindle Fire bought from Amazon. Customers and businesses both win when open standards are embraced and lock-in is eschewed.

I started my blog post by asking for something I thought to be quite reasonable, but some high-priests of Brand Synergy took to be treason:

I want to watch Nokia movies on my Samsung hardware running Google's Android, and then back them up to DropBox.

Today I've rubbed up against the annoying side of proprietary unreasonableness. Amazon Instant Video.

For reasons best know to themselves, the geniuses at Amazon have decided to put up the cost of Prime membership by 60%. As well as getting next day delivery on thousands of items, I can now also watch Amazon Instant Video - previously known as LoveFilm.

Deep joy.

This has gone down like a lead balloon among many erstwhile Prime customers. Not everyone likes watching TV, or even has the broadband to support this.

But, hey, I thought I'd give it a go before deciding if it wasn't for me.

Panasonic

I have a fairly new Panasonic TX-L37E5B (as sold on Amazon). Barely 18 months old. It's a "Smart" TV - with access to BBC iPlayer and a host of other services.

But not LoveFilm.

For over a year Panasonic has been refusing to update their app store to include Amazon's LoveFilm. Or 40D, ITV Player, Demand 5, etc. I wonder if they've done a deal with Netflix to keep competing services off their TVs? Or if Panasonic's SDK is so hideous that Amazon simply can't deliver a competent service using them?

This is what Panasonic's ecosystem looks like. How many names there do you recognise?

Panasonic Ecosystem-fs8

I repeatedly contacted Panasonic for a comment about this, but each time I received the same bland reply.

Panasonic, it seems, are quite happy to ignore customer demand. Once they have your money, they cease to care.

I spoke to Amazon about this and asked which TVs they support:

I have checked into this, and I can see that the eligible models for the televisions are:
LG Smart TV (2012 or newer)
Samsung Smart TV (2012 or newer)
and Sony Smart TV (2010 or newer)

Ah well, I thought, I can just use Panasonic's Web Browser to access LoveFilm, eh?

You need Silverlight software version 4.0 or higher to watch this title.

You need Silverlight software version 4.0 or higher to watch this title.

It looks like rival Netflix are abandoning Silverlight. Even Microsoft, the technology's creator, sees no future in the decrepit software - it's not much of a surprise to see that it's not available in TV browsers. But, perhaps, the browser will work with Flash sites?

The web browser does not support Adobe Flashplayer, and therefore, is unable to display catch-up services such as ITV player and 4oD. There are no current plans to upgrade the browser's compatibility.
Panasonic's FAQ

Now, in fairness, Panasonic just about supports some HTML5 video.

Panasonic HTML5

So it's theoretically possible that Amazon could decide to use open standards for its new video service, and Panasonic TV owners would be able to watch via their browsers rather than having a dedicated app.

Android

There's no Android App for Amazon Instant Video either. Just let that sink in for a moment. Amazon produce the Android powered Kindle Fire - and yet can't be bothered to produce a video streaming app for the millions of Android devices out there.

Screenshot of search results forAmazon Instant Video on Google Play - nothing found.

Madness! Or, a pathetic attempt to get people to buy Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets - seemingly the only Android devices allowed to access their streaming service.

"Ecosystems" Can Go To Hell

Amazon - for reasons best known to them - have decided to bundle a physical-goods delivery system and a video-streaming platform. I'm sure an MBA somewhere can explain why this multiplay service is destined to win hearts and minds.

Because Amazon have chosen to go down a locked and proprietary route, they've missed out on the interoperability which makes the world wonderful.

I'm not a Luddite. I have a modern TV, smartphones, tablets, and games consoles - none of which Amazon have chosen to support.

Actually, my Xbox 360 will support it - after I pay £40 per year for Xbox Live Gold Membership.

Here's an idea... Amazon could use open standards, develop apps which work on the majority of available platforms, and gather millions of customers who actually want their service.

Instead, they've gone with the rent-seeking approach of strong-arming their customers into paying more for a service they cannot use and do not want.

I've no doubt some folk will cancel their Prime membership - but enough will put up with the price rise to make this quarter's numbers look just swell!

Customers get screwed and Amazon gets to artificially inflate the numbers on its moribund streaming service.

This will not do.

I do not want services which only run on specially blessed devices. No one wants that! Companies which artificially restrict access in order to prop up their business models don't deserve to survive in the modern, interconnected world.

The true meaning of "ecosystem" is a bunch of independent organisms competing and co-operating. Symbiosis - not synergy.


30 Responses to “I Still Don't Want To Be Part of Your Fucking Ecosystem”

  1. mikecane Image of mikecane

    You're right. Samsung just announced the Gear Fit, the first smartband I'd want to have -- and that I think most people would want to have. But will it connect to anything except Samsung phones and tablets? No. This is absolute madness. The iPod didn't become the popular player it did until it could connect with Windows -- something Jobs didn;t care about or want to do until Apple employees constantly argued for it. Not being a Prime customer, I didn't know until now that there's no Android app for watching free Prime videos. Who the hell wants to buy a Kindle Fire to do that? Not me. Keep yelling at everyone. You're absolutely correct.

    Reply
  2. Martin Image of Martin

    I judge the value of the Amazon Prime membership by the value of free shipping. Any video is just a collateral use case. If the free shipping is not worth the money for Prime, i quit.

    The ecosystem sickness has spread too far. The result on the consumer side is clear: (s)he is becoming an opportunistic feeder. He is not willing to pay much for the content and he takes any source (like PirateBay) that is available.

    Or to say it with Princesse Leia: "The more you tighten your grip, Apple/Amazon/Samsung/Google, the more consumers will slip through your fingers."

    Reply
  3. Florian Bösch Image of Florian Bösch

    Don't forget that Amazon, Netflix etc. are pushing HTML DRM which will a) not work on your TV either and b) will become decrepit and vendor incompatible just as fast. Maybe make a blog entry about that? Because DRM is the ultimate form of vendor lock-in.

    Reply
  4. akismet-c16917ac6ed806b1e4e9b2cab9393c31 Image of akismet-c16917ac6ed806b1e4e9b2cab9393c31

    Watching TV (legally) over the internet is broken. Mainly this is due to the content producers and distributors being at odds with each other. The sad state of affairs is that it is easier and cheaper to consume torrents than pay for what you want to watch.

    Reply
  5. Matt C. Wilson Image of Matt C. Wilson

    Can you point to any one of these providers (Amazon, Netflix, Panasonic...) and show how much money they're leaving on the table by their present behavior? Or how much customer loyalty (and then translate that into future revenue?)

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      That's an interesting question. By not supporting Android, Amazon are cutting out at least 50% of their base. That said, because they're forcing people to pay, they're not losing any money.

      Reply
  6. jcfiala Image of jcfiala

    This is why I didn't buy a smart tv - I got a dumb but HDMI TV and then bought a wireless bluray player that also does netflix/amazon/hulu/youtube. (Although these days I've been using the xbox for that more, since that also has CrunchyRoll.)

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      And what happens when a major provider decides they don't want to support your BluRay player? Or that they only want to provide services to PS4 customers? You've just swapped one jail for another.

      Reply
      • jcfiala Image of jcfiala

        How does that make any sense? If they won't make bluray disks that don't play in a standard bluray player, then I won't buy the disks. If a company doesn't provide service to my blu ray player, then I'll do without or use something else. The whole point of having a non-smart tv is that it's easy to replace the bluray player when needed - I think I spent a hundred on it a few years ago, and by the time I need something better I'll be able to upgrade fairly cheaply - I'm keeping an eye on the Chromecast now, which is pretty cheap. Small pieces of technology that interact with each other, instead of a monolithic chunk that has to be replaced all at once.

        Reply
  7. Matt C. Wilson Image of Matt C. Wilson

    My guess is they'll wait until the tablet/phone market is sufficiently saturated with prospective Fire customers. Then they'll open up the "long awaited / much anticipated" Amazon Instant Video app and have a brand new stream of subscription money coming in hand over fist.

    Reply
  8. duggi Image of duggi

    pretty sure your TV supports an HDMI in. or do you want to keep waiting for big $$ to figure out DRM and licensing before you can enjoy media on the screen of your choosing?

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      What should I plug in to my HDMI ports? Does that mean I need to buy a NetFlix box, a cable TV box, an Amazon box, a YouTube box, a Vimeo box etc.?

      Or, do I run one box that magically supports them all? Apart from DailyMotion who've decided they want me to buy their special adapter....

      Reply
      • KJ Image of KJ

        Roku 3 supports all of these services. It also will work with some cable providers for channel content. What it won't play, you can stream through plex (official Roku channel linked to your computer).

        There are some consumer friendly products out there.

        Reply
          • Ben Image of Ben

            But you could always just plug in a media centre PC. It could even run Linux.

            Reply
            • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

              Again, incorrect. Neither Netflix nor Amazon work natively on Linux. There are various hacks, and shims, and workarounds - but none are user friendly, none are official, and none have support.

              Reply
            • Ben Image of Ben

              Okay, not Linux then. But Windows will support everything you could possibly want on your TV. You could even dual-boot with SteamOS.

              Whilst I agree with your premise of not wanting to part of an ecosystem (Whatsapp) I believe when there are perfectly reasonable alternatives we should just go with those.

              Reply
  9. adyendrus Image of adyendrus

    A few years ago there was a large debate about "LCD vs Plasma". At the time I worked at a TV repair shop and knew more about TVs than 99% of the population. Panasonic chose to go with the sinking plasma ship and nearly ended their TV line due to the complications resulting from that. Being a consumer with that knowledge, do you think I would ever purchase a Panasonic product and expect it to get better?

    Also, it's not fair for you to name names. My reasoning behind that is every big box company (major cell phone manufacturers, electronics companies, media distributors, etc) have a phase for customer acquisition, but then they don't care about you, because you earned them X dollars of revenue, and they don't see a way to earn more money from you by keeping you happy. I don't agree with this at all, because I was always taught "don't bite the hand that feeds you". However, I purchased another company's TV, and despite it being a smart TV, it wasn't compatible with the iPhone app. The next model up was. Zero difference in hardware. I was out of luck because I had bought a TV too soon from them. Most companies do this.

    I would also agree with Martin's comment, where he said the reason behind Amazon Prime is for the shipping bonuses, not the Instant Video aspect of it. I've heard torrenting is pretty good these days.

    Reply
  10. mundiff Image of mundiff

    I'm pretty sure this came as a bundled app on the hardware but I have a Logitech Revue (Google TV) that I still use on my main TV. It's a separate set-top box but it does have an Amazon Instant Video app on it and I have used it. The interface is still Amazon's site essentially, but I'm able to stream video. I tried and i cannot stream Amazon Instant Video with the Chrome browser on Google TV.

    Just thought I'd throw that in there. The app apparently exists, it just doesn't exist on the Google Play store.

    Reply
  11. Elwood Image of Elwood

    I cancelled my love film due to Amazon's stance on this.

    Their Cross platform kindle strategy has changes the way many people consume books, and is the reason I have spent a ton on ebooks, yet they've done the exact opposite with Netflix, even though as you said they already have an android app on the fire tablets.
    So now my money goes to Netflix instead....

    Reply
    • Terence Eden Image of Terence Eden

      Yes. Yes it is. Most browsers will auto-update to the latest version, and the codecs are either royalty-free or bundled into the browser.

      Reply
  12. Angus Fox Image of Angus Fox

    I've just been through this. I bought my Roku 3 in the US (a mistake perhaps). My PlexPass works fine with it (yay) and it has Amazon Cloud player and Amaxon Instant Video apps (yay) but they won't work with my Amazon.Co.UK prime account (boo). They kind of halfway get to registration and show up in the Amazon 'couldplayer.com' device lists but then they fail to authorise. Annoying. Its not insurmountable to overcome what I precume to be a geolock but it is an irritation. Oh and its playing through my Panasonic TV that I bought in the John Lewis Clearance because it said 'Viera' on it but doesnt turn out to have the 'Viera connect' software on it at all although it has an RJ45 for streamed freeview channels. I didnt appreciate the difference.

    Reply

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