Apple just announced iCloud, their service to ‘store(s) your music, photos, apps, calendars, documents, and more. And wirelessly push(es) them to all your devices — automatically‘. Or as other people described it: MobileMe that really works. And what is even more surprising, where you had to pay for MobileMe, iCloud is free. That is also the case for iMessage, a free way to send messages to other iOS users using native iOS functionality.
However is there such a thing as a free lunch? Are iCloud and iMessage new features or are it lock-ins? Basically every app on any platform is a lock-in. Every app you buy makes it harder to switch, especially since there are real switching costs involved (re-buying the new app on the new platform) and other switching costs such as reinstalling and finding the apps you need on the new platform, configuration etc etc.
iMessage the lock-in
If you are using iMessage you won’t need a subscription for SMS, as long as your friends and family you would like to text have an iOS device. If an iPhone costs about 600 euros, and let’s say other mobile phones cost about 300 euros it means that you have to close a 300 euro gap which can be done in a reasonable time with using iMessage alone (you will save on your message bundle). Is iMessage therefore a feature or a lock in? It is both, though abondining iOS is now even harder, since it not only means you have to pay for messages to your friends on iOS, it also means that your friends have to pay to message you since you are not on iOS anymore. So with switching to another operation system you are not the only one having a disadvantage, your friends have a big disadvantage as well.
iCloud, another lock-in?
What about iCloud? Using iCloud doesn’t affect your friends, there are no costs involved and it syncs everything to everywhere (as long as it is Apple). And why did Apple make it free? For the simple reason that creating a lock-in is more valuable than asking for a subscription fee. iCloud makes it convenient to have your information always and on every device with you. However it only syncs with Apple products. Moving away from Apple’s platform means losing the iCloud functionality, creating immense switching costs, since how are going to manage then to get everything in sync on all your devices?
Switching is harder
So in general iCloud and iMessage are great new features, though by adopting these features you will make it harder for yourself to switch to another platform. Since the way in which this new features and the platform work is really easy, however there isn’t currently a way out for both iMessage and iCloud, there is not something outside iOS that offers the same integrated experience. There are some alternatives though, but none if these are integrated with the native new features just presented by Apple, which means that either you, or even in case of iMessage your friends have a big disadvantage if you switch to something else than iOS.