Friday, February 17, 2012

Most consumers are less obsessed with staying out of the "walled garden" than tech writers; publishers should take note of their readers desire for one-pay solutions

Many tech writers and consumers wag their finger knowingly at Apple and accuse the company of attempting to force consumers into "the walled garden" of their iOS and Mac devices. The accusation is that Apple wants to force customers to only use their systems and products.

Those who have been Apple customers since before the Mac (that's me) chuckle at the notion, remembering that it wasn't so long ago that Apple stock was around 10 bucks and the rumor was that the company would close down or be bought out.

For many consumers, however, there is a real desire to make their tech choices easier, to spend less time worrying about how and if things will work. For them, Apple's "walled garden" is a welcome relief from other technology choices that appear random, buggy and faulty.

The example many always give when discussing the complexity of technology is the television remote and the video recorder. Just scheduling a recording, or figuring out the settings on a television can be daunting. But printer drivers are probably a better example. As a Mac users I simply never worry about them, whereas my wife has been conditioned to think that printers should work about as well as an AT&T phone on the west coast – hit or miss.

But the issue is not limited to computer technology. Have you shopped for a coffee maker lately? If you buy one of those single-serve makers you soon have the issue of finding coffee for it: those plastic coffee cups won't fit in every machine, you know.

That's why it always surprises some when Apple drops the ball on a feature, such as AirPlay or AirPrint. We were promised that our iPhone or iPad would be able to print wirelessly, but the fact remains that only a few printer models are AirPrint compliant.

But the lesson for publishers is that consumers are more and more demanding that their purchase choices be simplified and made consistent. If I buy a subscription to your magazine I expect to be able to access the iPad edition for free. But many publishers only look at their own costs and forget that to many readers their brand is one product, no matter how many different versions they produce.