The Thursday take

Ever since the Apple event last week, I've seen much discussion about how people perceive that it's difficult to switch to Android, or vice-versa. I couldn't disagree more: ecosystems no longer matter, and they're not the walled gardens the technology giants once wanted them to be. The walled gardens have become commodities.

As time has gone on, exclusive features that Apple, and others, formerly touted have become a normalized, commodity part of the operating system. We expect cloud storage, messaging and other components to just be there, or to come with us.

This started with good cloud storage, which was once the realm of Dropbox alone, but was rolled into every operating system and platform out there: Apple has iCloud Drive, Google has Drive and Microsoft has OneDrive. All of these offer the same features, and sometimes more, with a similar price, but baked in.

The same is now happening with cross-platform phone features. Microsoft debuted a new Windows 10 app called 'Your Phone' due to be released in October which brings seamless SMS and photo sync with Android devices to your computer. Google has plans for a new app called "Better Together" in October that will bring the same seamless functionality to Chromebook devices, along with Google Photos, and so on. W

For years the tight ecosystem play between iPhone and Mac was the big differentiator, but in this new world our data is more portable than ever, and the competition is catching up regardless of the device you use. iCloud Photos was one of the big plays in that ecosystem, but as Google Photos has become incredibly popular, it's built out a cross-platform library that improves on the original idea. 

Today, you can jump in and out of the Google, Microsoft, or Apple ecosystems whenever you feel like it, because it's easier than ever to move between them and still benefit from the cross-device harmony you'd want from macOS. We're all using multiple messaging apps, from WhatsApp to Messenger, so that's there too. I've done this move, and there's little differentiation between the platforms at this point: they work differently, but all of the stuff I'm using moves between them seamlessly.

This has only changed because Apple's dominance meant that the competition had to play nice. Microsoft, in the old world, would never have built cross-competitor sync, but now it's got exactly that. It's funny how the tables have turned in such a short amount of time, but it is refreshing.

Apple's big wildcard today remains iMessage, which is steadfastly only iOS and macOS devices, with no cross-platform app, or way to synchronize it out. I'm not sure that play is particularly defensible anymore, with so many great messaging apps, like Telegram, becoming the norm (at least outside the US). As we come to expect the portability we're familiar with from all of these other commoditized services, I suspect people will gravitate away from iMessage to other platforms (that said, people remain rabidly loyal to it!).

If that doesn't matter to you, it's interesting how fluid it is to move between devices. I could pick up a Chromebook tomorrow, and use it as my full-time device without skipping a beat or making awkward workflow changes. The same could be said of switching back to the Mac, or any other device out there. 

As ecosystems have become richer, it's become easier to move between them or to choose pieces of them that we like. For years it was all or nothing, but now, any of your devices can play nice if you're flexible enough. As you mull upgrading this year, it's harder than ever for this reason: everything is the same in software, it seems, except for what hardware is being used to access them.

Tab Dump

Facebook dating is launching in Columbia today
It seems so poorly planned to launch this on a year that everyone's still reeling from the Cambridge Analytica leaks, but Facebook charges ahead regardless. In this test, people can match with up to 100 folks a day at maximum, and the way it works is interesting.

Google's smart reply is rolling out to every Gmail user today
Fun article about how Google decides on these suggestions! I'm thoroughly looking forward to the day our AI robots are sending email to each other, forever and ever.

The founder of Linux steps aside after years of abusive emails
Linus Torvalds might be the father of Linux, but he had a tendency to be something of a douche. After years of demeaning emails, aggressive forum threads and so on, the founder is stepping aside, and unbelievably, has agreed to adopt a code of conduct for the community which has largely been dominated by men. Watch this space?

Gitlab raises $100 million in new financing round
This is an interesting development -- GitHub competitor, GitLab, has raised a bunch of new cash from investors. I'm almost certain that the Microsoft-GitHub acquisition helped this along, and as that closes, GitLab has a nice window to push for mindshare while the competition deals with merging the two companies. After a few years of open-source version tracking software being stagnant, this will likely be a big deal.

I'm not implying that Coinbase is gearing up for an IPO but I'm pretty sure Coinbase is gearing up for an IPO

Women at startups got less equity than their male counterparts
This is ridiculous, and contributes to a cyclical industry: men are able to exit with cash in the millions, invest in more (usually male-led) startups and so on with this capital, while women are left with less, and can't do the same as easily, resulting in the same thing again.