This quadrant is characterised by command-and-control and
generative orientations. In this quadrant, networks would remain global but access to content and services would be tied to the use of specific networks and associated information appliances. Individual (business) viability would triumph over the economic potential of the common pool of the Internet. Financial incentives for content producers and software developers would result in continued innovation within the appliance-based model. Control over suitability of content, pricing, licensing and other concerns would be firmly in the hands of relatively few large commercial organisations. Proprietary, closed technologies would abound and exclusive deals with content producers and physical communications networks would result in consumers having to purchase multiple appliances and associated subscriptions to avail themselves of the full range of innovation on the network.
Factors driving towards this scenario
The overriding driver in this quadrant is the desire of both large commercial organisations and niche content providers to increase their margins and the profitability of their businesses. These organisations desire greater control over their commercial destiny. This applies to producers of both hardware and software products and to network operators. Other drivers include the desire to control access to content either to increase its value or to ensure the maintenance of centrally imposed standards. These standards may be intended to provide a more guaranteed user experience, to produce more reliable products, and to prevent the use of appliances for running applications or accessing content deemed undesirable by the manufacturer. Fear is a driver here too – fear of lack of profitability leading to business failure, and fear of the consequences (for brand, reliability, profits, control) of exposing platforms to the open Internet.
Factors attracting away from this scenario
What forces would prevent this quadrant from coming to dominate the reality of the Internet? The desire of consumers not to be controlled or artificially restricted in their ability to use devices that they have purchased outright i s a very strong force. Open alternatives to closed information appliance platforms also provide a check on the extent to which appliance vendors can exert and extend their control.
In mid-2009 over 3000 applications were downloaded from the Acme Application Store every minute. The release of the Acme’s updated smartphone in 2010 so increased their share of the Internet-enabled mobile device market that all other handset manufacturers raced to adopt their business practices. The mobile operators successfully transitioned their business models to replace voice and call termination revenues (regulated down to a minimum) with a combination of data tariffs and app-store payments garnered from subscribers eager to own the latest in a long line of shiny networked toys. Mobile operators that failed to secure exclusive partnerships with the most popular platforms withered.
The development community was quick to take notice as more and more individual developers or small teams became hugely wealthy as their $2 apps were downloaded by millions. Open source solutions increasingly lagged behind the features and functionality of the closed, yet (almost) freely available alternatives. Protocol development became the preserve of closed clubs of partisan developers only interested in better enabling their chosen platform to rise above the competition and thereby net their apps more download revenues.
The global and unprecedented havoc wrought by the Netficker.OMG virus in 2011 nicely complemented the already well established lobbying and publicity efforts of Nemesis Research and others which consistently portrayed the open Internet and open technology base that supported it as a threat to the stability and security of developed economies throughout the world. The backlash resulted in a huge increase in sales for the newly released Acme and Beta netpods – networked information appliances that were the first such platforms that came with guarantees of software quality and assumed liability for any personal damages arising from use of the appliance.
By 2015 choosing a platform for Internet access was almost as important as choosing a life partner. Subscribers quickly found that they had invested so much in third-party services and applications that changing to an alternative pr ovider was unthinkable. Consumers were persuaded to trade almost all personal privacy for applications and services that offered unprecedented functionality and ease-of-use, and personal identity became embedded within their chosen appliance. Teenagers rebelled against their parents by switching information appliance platforms and adopting whatever was most different to the platform their parents had brought them up on.
As software development of third-party applications for information appliances became increasingly lucrative for developers and increasingly risky for vendors and operators as the scope of their liabilities widened, software develop ment became highly regulated. Developers became licensed professionals, provided with the tools they needed by the information appliance vendors and offered free connectivity by the operators in return for maintaining a veil of secrecy over the inner-workings of the platform they were developing for.
The largest ‘tribes’ of information appliance users and developers – the Betabots and the Acmecores – regularly engaged in baiting each other with the perceived supremacy of their respective platforms. This simmering animosity peaked after a scheduling snafu resulted in both Beta and Acme’s main developer conferences being scheduled simultaneously in San Francisco. The streets ran with the caffeine-rich blood of coders bludgeoned to death with shiny, multi-function communication devices.
Ultimately the number of major networks dwindled to the point that any effort to optimise across anything broader than the subscriber base of a single network was abandoned. At that point the networks were floating in space, unconnected and unable to agree on ways to share access to each other’s revenue streams. The business model remained highly profitable for platform vendors, operators and developers, although the inefficiencies of developing applications separately for each platform went un-costed. The true potential of an open innovation platform was never realised and individual freedom and the greater good of society was sacrificed in the face of irrepressible market greed and a fear of the alternatives.