The Real Digital Turf Wars are About to Begin

Now that all the big cards from MacWorld and CES are on the table it’s time to look at what this all means for the average consumer. Now let me come clean. Despite my proclamation that iPhones suck (and trust me they will until at least 2008), I’m a tried and true mac fan. I own an iPod, intel MacBook and an intel mac Mini. I also try to avoid MicroSoft products like the plague. No offense Bill.

I take a look around all the recent developments and I see a storm brewing like nothing before. The keyword here is convergence. Everything is converging toward a yet to be revealed future where life is a massive stream of digital content, a mix of user-generated content mixed with stuff from traditional media (both legit and contraband) and web services converge directly into our lives.

This isn’t necessarily bad for the consumer. At least in the short-term. It means that we’ll see more innovative and unique products that redefine what was once thought to be a mature market. This is where Apple excels. When iPods came very late into the music player game, nobody saw it succeeding. People thought it was more or less a mature and maybe even dying market of cheap knockoffs that would always play second fiddle to traditional media players. Now Apple’s looking to do the same with phones and TVs.

For the greater part, I think they will succeed. Why? Because Apple understands convergence. The unprecedented levels of content and tools we have at our disposal is really phenomenal if you think about it and something we couldn’t imagine just 5 years ago. Still, one thing we can’t do is make or generate time.

The average digital savvy person is short on time. Why? Because we’re drowning in information and the current tools are ill-suited to our needs when combined. Sure, technology has made great progress and all the digital consumer products that we use have become better with every passing year. But what are these manufacturers doing to free us from all this clutter and make sure we don’t drown in our own sea of content? The sad truth is not much.

That’s where Apple gets it and that’s why this iPhone is generating so much buzz. We need tools that fit well together and yet give us a suite of functionality that just works. On the web, companies like 37 signals and to a lesser extent Google are doing for our personal needs on the web and an area that MicroSoft is failing badly on all fronts with their lack of focus and products that are either unstable or badly-designed and many times both. Services like Flickr, del.icio.us YouTube, and MySpace allow us to access a lot of the things that matter to us in one place.

Now if Apple leads the charge and competitors and admirers follow suit to make our lives more enjoyable with innovative products and services how can that be bad? It’s simple because now someone can OWN you. Or at least a cartel of the best in the market.

When the dust settles this time we’re not going to have several major players but one and a host of smaller competitors much like what happened when MicroSoft emerged. Just as an exercise, try and name the biggest competitor after the following companies: Google, YouTube, del.icio.us, Digg, MySpace, Flickr, etc. If you came up with a name, think for a moment how well known those services are compared to the biggest players. Not much.

Even Apple with all its buzz and consumer goodwill still can’t shake MicroSoft in the computer market although I’m predicting that will change drastically in the years to come.

It’s becoming more difficult to put a name on it since there’s no single, clearly defined technology pushing the envelope like the internet did in the 90s and personal computers did before that. That’s why I think this time the winner will more or less be keepers.