What is an Ecosystem and which one should you use?

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Check your email. What service do you use? When you checked, what device were you looking at? If you were on a desktop or laptop and viewed it on the web, what browser were you using?

All this plays into ecosystems, and all the big technology players have one.

Chances are, if sales figures and statistics have anything to say about it, you’re viewing this article right now on either an iPhone or Android, meaning you’ve entered in, at least in some capacity, to either Apple or Google’s ecosystem. An ecosystem is an interconnected family of devices and services that, for the most part, provide some sort of benefit for going “all in”, or participating in all facets of it.

For example, going all in on Google’s ecosystem can land you some interesting benefits. You could have the Google Pixel XL, watch YouTube videos in VR on the Daydream platform, check your Gmail account and ask the Google Assistant (either on your phone or on a new Google Home) for restaurant recommendations. The true benefit comes from utilizing as many of these services as possible since, as the services all get to know you, they can begin tailoring themselves to meet your needs. The same is true of Microsoft with things like the Lumia line of phones, Windows 10 and Cortana.

Apple, as the dominant seller of mobile technology, surprisingly has the least robust ecosystem of the technology players. However, they seem to have the upper hand when it comes to adoption rate, or what percentage of their users subscribes to one or more services they offer. More likely than not, you’ve probably got an extensive library on iTunes that you keep fresh by popping over to the iTunes store and downloading some new music. That or you subscribe to Apple’s paid music subscription, aptly called Apple Music.

But which ecosystem is the best? Which one should you plonk down all your hard-earned cash to be a part of?

The answer to that isn’t so easy. Truth be told, the odds that one of them will offer everything you want exactly how you want it and in a package you find palatable are incredibly slim. Most people opt to participate in bits of one while dabbling in pieces of another. The best I would be able to do is explain what I use and why I chose to use it.

With me every day is my Google Pixel XL, and as you’ll see, it has tempted me back to the world of Google services. I was excited to snag one of these online after I watched the announcement and saw some of the things Google was claiming it could do, including Daydream. I love the build quality of this phone. Yes, I know it looks shockingly similar to an iPhone, but that’s actually why I love it so much. Say what you will about Apple, they make one sweet device, so for Google to reproduce that kind of excellence is something to be lauded, not laughed at.

Complementing the Pixel XL in my pocket is my Daydream View VR headset, which is easily the coolest thing I have ever gotten for free. It’s a soft and comfy mobile VR headset that immerses me into a world of 360-degree entertainment. While the field-of-view may only be about 90-degrees or so, less than other entries into the VR space, the boundaries quickly fade into the peripheries. The thing is just so damn cool, and a much better way to watch movies and YouTube videos on the go rather than crooking your neck over a tiny screen.

In addition to Google’s Android OS and Daydream VR platform, I also use them for their Google Play Music, YouTube, Gmail, Keep, Chrome, and of course, Google Search.

The other items that remain are what are left after leaving a good deal of the Microsoft ecosystem behind. My Xbox One console adorns my entertainment center and feeds me games, television and my entire digital movies and TV show collection. It’s a great console, and I love that it has become the central hub of all that I do with my TV. When I get home, I throw myself down on the couch and say “Hey Cortana, Xbox on.”

This of course also activates Cortana on my Surface Pro 3, if I’ve pulled it out of my bag. My Surface is the hub of all my productivity. I do my schoolwork on it, run my business on it, and write articles like this one on it. I’m on it right now. I’ll say it right now; The Surface line is the greatest arrangement of tablet PCs that have ever existed. They took what Apple thought they had a lock on and stole the show. Don’t get a laptop. Get a Surface.

I mix and match which services I use from each ecosystem. Google doesn’t provide a great solution for home entertainment that offers movies, TV shows, and next-gen gaming, but Microsoft does. Microsoft doesn’t really have a mobile division anymore, but Google’s is amazing. I own nothing Apple, simply because Apple is the jealous type that doesn’t like it when you try to play with others.

You have the freedom to go all-in on whatever ecosystem best fits your needs, but you also have the freedom to pick and choose which aspects you adopt and which you leave behind.

If only we had that kind of freedom with cable providers…

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