My goal with this blog

I write about relevant changes in the way that people use the web and how startups are built to provide services and products for this ever changing wonderful thing we still know as "the web." As a former entrepreneur turned early-stage investor, my greatest hope is for this to be useful to other folks that are like me in the hopes that they can avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

The Unbundling of stickiness

Last week the Echo Nest got bought by Spotify, the largest music service outside of iTunes while at the same time Apple launched "CarPlay" to support replacing the mess of antiquated electronics integrated into most cars with one that supposedly widens the moat competitors of iOS will have to cross in order to be relevant. I doubt it will really work, and not only because of how few CarPlay enabled cars there will be over the next 2-5 years compared to the numbers that are relevant in the smartphone platforms (only about 10M new cars in total are shipped world wide each year compared to close to 1 billion smartphones) but because attempts such as these to widen the moats of post PC operating systems are being nullified by the type of success Spotify and other best of breed cross platform apps represent.

Just as there is no doubt that there was a time when the iTunes music experience represented a huge platform advantage, it has since been rendered irrelevant by a number of competitors like Spotify. These experiences are so far superior to that of creakily purchasing songs and the associated pseudo-streaming offering that the iTunes app often ends of buried in a folder on a back page labeled something like "Apple Junk."

And this pattern is not unique to music: Dropbox has replaced iCloud, Evernote the main Notes app, and others have eaten away at the calendar, the address book, the maps, etc. In fact for almost any first party app, there are a number of quite credible alternatives. And in the most lethal of cases (when it comes to the aforementioned platform moat), these alternatives have achieved cross platform parity with their Android versions and deliver most of their value through a cloud service which holds the canonical copy of a user's data on servers not operated by the platform owner.

Combined with Bluetooth 4.0, Wifi and other hardware independent means of connectivity, I find that today's leading platforms appear much less "sticky" than those in the PC era were and all of this talk of ecosystems and lock-in feels somewhat anachronistic. Back to CarPlay: connecting to cars, televisions, or health tracking devices may provide some of this in the short-term but I suspect just as the software/service vendors emerged with best of breed solutions and a cross platform mandate, new device makers without a dog in the iOS/Android race will do the same over time. Samsung may not make its Galaxy Gear or televisions for iOS (and even that is in doubt) but LG will as will Sony and a host of other competitors.

And the guys with the real lock-in over this next phase? The cloud-backed service providers who have fought with a better user experience for that first-screen real estate (Evernote, Dropbox, Spotify), a business model (freemium) which supports an independent path, and enough scale to matter on their own.

And this is a good thing for startups overall.