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10 important tips for living a multi-platform life

Ryan Faas | Sept. 4, 2014
With the rise of different mobile platforms and content ecosystems over the past decade, the technology world is becoming increasingly fragmented.

With the rise of different mobile platforms and content ecosystems over the past decade, the technology world is becoming increasingly fragmented.

Fifteen years ago, there were only a handful of platforms that — Windows PCs, Macs, and perhaps Linux on the desktop, and primarily BlackBerry in the mobile space. Today, the number is far greater — Windows (further divided into the pre- and post-Windows 8 offerings), OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, Android (in many varying incarnations), iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Amazon's Kindle and Fire products, to name the most common. Each of these platforms has become increasingly insular, making lock-in to a specific vendor, device, or OS much more common. 

Although it is possible to switch from an iPhone to Android, or from Windows to Mac, there is often a trade-off in making the switch. Apps, music, ebooks, and other content may need to be re-purchased. There will likely be some learning curve. The offerings in the new ecosystem — apps or — may not match the experience to which we've become accustomed, and some may not be available at all. 

Here's some guidance on how to switch platforms.

Understand the limits of each ecosystem that you select .Whatever platforms or ecosystems you choose, there will be pros and cons. Ecosystems have limitations that come in a range of types and sizes. For instance, one con of Apple's iTunes ecosystem is that much of the content you purchase is designed to function on only Apple devices or Apple-made apps like iTunes for Windows. Limitations can also come in the form of available hardware accessories that are compatible only with certain types of PCs and mobile devices (Apple's iOS device connectors being one example), accessories or app features that require specific hardware (like Bluetooth LE), or services like streaming content and some cloud and mobile app are available only to certain platforms. 

Look for services and content that functions across multiple platforms. Although many ecosystems are company or platform-specific, some are more open. Amazon is an excellent example, as the company's Kindle platform includes both dedicated devices and apps that run on a variety of mobile and desktop platforms, complete with sync capabilities across all of them. Microsoft is also beginning to embrace this concept with Office 365, Office for iPad, and OneDrive. Services like Box and Dropbox are also good examples, as are some of Google's range of services like Google Drive. Make sure, however, that you look at what features are supported across platforms, since there may be capabilities available on one platform that aren't available or don't work as well on others.

Choose services and apps that make use of each platform's strengths. This is a bit of a qualifier to the last tip. Although you want to look for solutions that offer a unified experience or capabilities across the board, there are vast differences in the way different platforms are designed and what they offer to developers and end users. Ideally, you'll want solutions where developers have really tapped into the unique hardware features, interface features, and services available on each platform — be it the ubiquitous web experience of Chrome OS, Apple's forthcoming Touch ID security system in iOS 8, or the contact-centric aggregation in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. This is much better than an app or service that was designed for the lowest, and thus broadest, denominator and feels like it was badly ported to most or every platform on which it's available.


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