What’s in your ecosystem?

I’ll be the first to admit that my experience with the Apple or Android ecosystems is limited as a whole with just some basic time spent with any of their devices individually. This is by choice. I have assisted people with their devices on a number of occasions and made recommendations to use one device or the other if it makes sense for the person at the time. I’ll always share my strong opinion towards the Microsoft products. Although recently I’ve recommended to individuals who are looking to get a new tablet, phone, TV or game console to really consider how the device(s) they are buying fits into their ecosystem. Many times though folks won’t even know what that means. Apparently picking an electronic ecosystem is important to some and the furthest thing from mind for others, I see this more and more now a days and certainly understand and respect that. There are so many cool gadgets available from smart phones to tablets to ultrabooks to TV’s and so on. People often pick a device based simply on the cost of the device at the time and never really consider the long term impact that device may have. I tend to try to stick with things for a while and I want my devices to work well together. Whether it’s the latest gaming console, blue-ray player or smart TV, each device has it’s own unique interface and feature sets. Some people don’t worry too much about interface but for me this was a very important factor. I wanted to see a standard interface across all my devices. This is what started me on my hunt for the perfect ecosystem.

It was clear that the “gaming” console was going to play a key role in an entertainment system for my home. I had made my decision a few years back. Identifying which console was going to be part of my entertainment system wasn’t going too difficult by any means. There weren’t too many choices available, it was a toss up between the XBOX 360 and the PlayStation 3. I am not a big gamer at all so the games weren’t too important to the decision making process. I considered what sort of devices and operating systems I had spent most of my time with and where I felt the industry might be heading. Seeing that I work in the IT industry and spend countless hours around Microsoft products, my decision on the console side was an easy win for the XBOX 360 (Sorry Sony). In all honesty though another factor that helped me choose the XBOX was that there were vast supplies of failed RROD XBOX consoles out there for a low cost all I had to do was just pull them apart and apply some simple fixes to resolve. This allowed me to start exploring the XBOX at a low cost.

Now that the XBOX was in place it was clear that I had to find a media server companion to go along with the XBOX. The XBOX dashboard at the time was not capable of meeting my needs on its own, Netflix wasn’t even an option on the dashboard. One of the first media servers I had investigated was TVersity. Over the course of about a year or so, on and off I had spent some time with different versions of TVersity to see what it had to offer. TVersity looked promising but it seemed too much like an outsider and use of it quickly died off. This may have been what drove me to spend more time with the Windows Media Center, it was a Microsoft product so naturally it made sense that it should have a place at the table. WMC really started to fit the bill. I really liked the fact that the WMC interface could be pulled up on both the PC and the XBOX. Eventually, even though I did not own a Zune piece of hardware at the time, the Zune software made its way onto my PC. I wanted to see if there was any integration happening between the WMC, Zune software and the XBOX, to me it seemed obvious. The first version of the Zune software I tried was dismissed fairly quickly and with some frustration. There simply wasn’t much it had to offer. I continued going back and forth on this lack of integration. I thought to myself why in the world would the Zune software not talk with the XBOX and why would the Zune software and the WMC not play well together? Weeks, months and maybe even years had passed before I gave the Zune software another go at it. I downloaded and installed the latest version at the time. This time around the software itself seemed to be much improved. I’m not sure if I had missed the functionality in the first attempt or if it just wasn’t there. It still didn’t “connect” directly with the XBOX like I would have expected. Seeing how the WMC interface was used on the XBOX when launched I would have assumed the Zune interface would have done the same. I continued to explore anyway. I had spent time with the podcasts and this neat bit of functionality that allowed you to subscribe to podcasts and automatically download recently published. This automated functionality coupled with a networked storage device and WMC was not perfect but definitely getting there! I now had a nice interface on the PC and the TV (via XBOX and WMC) that allowed me to watch current podcasts of my choice on the big screen. Things were starting to come together nicely with various Microsoft products.

Fast forward a bit. As a regular beta tester of the XBOX dashboard for the past few years. I continue to get excited about the new features and interface improvements that land each fall. It’s great to get first hand look at the dashboard functionality and enhancements. Each one of which in my opinion makes the XBOX experience that much better year over year. More recently with the introduction of Windows Phone, Windows 8 / RT operating systems it’s clear to me that Microsoft is moving forward at full force to standardize their core offering. Coupled with the countless number of apps such as XBOX Music, XBOX Video, Skype, SmartGlass and SkyDrive to name a few in my opinion Microsoft is at the dawn of a rock solid, simple to use array of devices, apps and content that make up the Microsoft ecosystem.

My ecosystem goes back a few years with countless hours of experimentation on different products at a time when Microsoft in my opinion was in the early stages of their ecosystem. It’s been a fun journey which really has just begun and due to the time I have vested in Microsoft’s ecosystem it simply does not makes sense for me to stray at this point.

So, now that you know what’s in my ecosystem. What’s in your ecosystem? Maybe a bit of fragmentation? Cheers!