Competition across devices and platforms

Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb wrote an insightful post last week, noticing potentials from which web browser software and social networking services may evolve towards each other much closer than what we sense today. It is less surprising than it seems, because Facebook has been striving to become a single source of user identity and activity through projects such as Facebook Connect, while Mozilla is testing various methods to make it easier to organize one’s web browsing activities. As Kirkpatrick hypothesizes, if Mozilla integrates instant messaging, personal profiles and other networking functions to its Firefox web browser, it would directly compete with Facebook and other social networking services. Conversely, Facebook may come up with a proprietary client software which implements its social functionalities but still can be used as a web browser to surf other web sites (just more than eight months ago, no one could hardly predict that Google would build a web browser until Chrome took everyone by surprise, remember?).

As absurd as an idea might sound, there is another competitive front that spans across seemingly dissimilar markets. Only a couple of years ago, only a few would have foreseen that Apple would be a viable competitor to Nintendo; Microsoft and Sony were, apparently, but why would a computer and music player maker be any threat to the gaming console giant? Now we know, although both companies come from different backgrounds and hence divergent approaches to mobile gaming, but they do collide in the mobile gaming market more fiercely than ever.

Likewise, we would not know for sure, for now, whether web services like Facebook and web browser software like Mozilla Firefox may turn into direct competitors each seeking user participation instead of seperate products accommodating users in different levels. In a world in which PC manufacturer and mobile phone firm, movie studio and videogame publisher, or online service provider and productivity software developer become adversaries, competition heats up across various devices and platforms. Our implicit categories of products and services in these fields should be constantly revised, even fluidly reconnected to foster our own understanding of the development of such things.

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