But it’s also super depressing, because it’s just another example of how the rise of streaming media has brought crazy digital rights management back into our lives. We’ve completely traded convenience for ecosystem lock-in, and it sucks.
Right now, the Echo can play music from Amazon’s Prime Music service, Pandora, and whatever random music I’ve uploaded to my Amazon cloud locker. This means that the music selection is pretty bad! I stopped buying music around the time I started using Spotify, so I don’t have much new stuff to upload, and Prime Music has a fairly thin catalog compared to Spotify. Basically this thing can play my 2000s-era iTunes collection at me, which means I’m listening Wilco and The Clash way more than I have in the past few years. Is that good? It might be good.
Patel has a point – the rise of all these streaming music services has completely undone the end of DRM in the music industry. It’s most likely entirely unrelated, but Steve Jobs’ scathing letter condemning the use of DRM is no longer available on Apple’s website – just as Apple is rumoured to launch its own streaming music service.
The same has happened in IM, chat, messaging, or whatever you want to call it. It’s 2015, and I have five messaging applications on my smartphone – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Messenger, Hangouts, Skype – and I also use iMessage occasionally (on OS X) because some of my friends are locked into it and don’t want to use something else. These companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook – are actively and consciously making the choice to make the lives of their customers as difficult as possible.
If these companies really cared about their customers – as they always claim they do – they would’ve come together and used or developed a proper open standard for messaging. Instead, we get Facebook (through WhatsApp) banning users for using 3rd party WhatsApp clients on Sailfish, or we have Apple making grandiose promises about turning FaceTime into an open standard, but then backtracking once they realise they can frustrate and lock-in consumers by keeping it closed. Google, meanwhile, seems to have no idea what it’s doing at all, flipflopping left and right (Hangouts? Messenger? What’s it going to be, Google?). Skype is Skype.
Now that iOS and Android (and to a lesser degree, Windows Phone) are entirely and wholly interchangeable, companies are looking for other ways to lock their consumers into their platforms – and much like in music, the companies are placing their own interests above that of their consumers.