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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Once Upon A Time, There Were Three Keiretsu

Bruce Schneier gave a talk at Authors@Google about his book, Liars and Outliers:Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive. I watched it a couple of months ago, and he provided a lot to think about.

What started as an off-hand observation and has since become increasingly useful is his metaphor of the Three Keiretsu. Keiretsu is a Japanese organizational structure of multiple companies in interlocking relationships for mutual benefit.

Bruce said that smartphones are feudal relationships where users pledge their loyalty to overlords, the phone of their choice, Apple, Android, or Windows phones.

I am a data point for a technology executives survey. They call, ask questions and I answer. I then get their reports and I learn new stuff.

Several years ago I took the call and the first question was “Has the mobile phone become the dominant web browser?” From their follow-on questions, I figured out it had.

Since Bruce mentioned keiretsu, I’ve come to understand how true his observation was and how high the silos are. Users of the three keiretsu make different use of their smartphones. The smartphone dictates how people work.

I am a maker using Google search, maps, sites, email, docs, forms, blogs and other tools for years before I got my smartphone.

I’m not cheap, I’m frugal. I use the Google tools to make useful software applications, that are often similar to commercially available software, except each does exactly what I want, usually around leadership or sales. Perhaps the Android keiretsu is for the frugal successor to Heathkit aficionados.

At Sales Lab, we have multiple Google Calendars for different projects, and they just show up for all the Android users. I am trying to integrate an iPhone user into our web tools, and so far she has minor capability.

But the iPhone has a better music system. She calls all her Apple gear “Shuffle” (a previous iPod) so I get requests for the red shuffle, the big shuffle, the other shuffle. Married people talk that way.

I think her iPhone has better battery, and it just works. As long as you want a stock application. Maps on her iPhone was the reason I decided to get a smartphone. I’ve been told I’m a reluctant adopter.

I wasn’t aware of the differences until I tried to combine functionality between handsets.

As an Android user, I don’t seamlessly switch my music across devices. But then, I think wearing earbuds walking in the city shows a lack of situational awareness. I keep seeing people bouncing off cars and buildings.

Microsoft realized their version of reality before smartphones. Several years ago I set up web presences for a half dozen companies at once and my cheapest resource was a dot net (Microsoft) programming team. By the third website launch, I remembered to ask the builders to uncheck the box that made the site available only to Exploder browsers. Who knew?

The few Microsoft smartphone users I’ve watched seemed to get value being text heavy and document specific. But earlier this month, I saw an Android user sending his documents from his Google Drive, pre-built answers for when the questions come up.

For me, all smartphones are a less capable version of a computer. However, they are more available. Most internet users consume, they don’t author, and a phone is a convenient way to consume.

To which keiretsu have you pledged your fealty, and how is that working out?

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