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Integration within and Across Systems


One thing in computing that’s always considered a great plus is integration or the ability of a system to be able to work with another system. This is generally refered to as open systems and the manner in which this works is the adoption of standards.

Standards that have been developed by a vendor and that get commonly adopted to be considered a standard is referred to as a defacto standard. Then there are standards as defined by the IEEE a standards based body.

Both forms of standards are considered legitimate and fine although their workings come from two very different places. The important thing about these standards is that they are open and work across systems.


Apple is commonly accepted as a proprietary world however, many of their technologies have gone on to become open standards. However, Apple’s great success is based on this proprietary approach that has led to a very robust ecosystem wherein almost everything talks to everything else.

Apple’s product’s tremendous ability to communicate throughout the ecosystem has been critical to their major run up. Yet, within Apple products we see the use of many open and deficit standards. Exchange is a perfect example of a defacto standard developed by Microsoft which is commonly used and thus Apple has built direct Exchange support within their products.

Yet, their use of Open standards within a proprietary environment is extensive. Apple moved from a very proprietary sync protocol called sync services to a fully open protocol/s (caldav, carddav) for calendaring and contacts management.

However, Apple’s resounding success is primarily based on a robust proprietary world in which everything easily talks to everything else and that’s exactly what the consumer wants. Add to this software developer’s support for the environment and success for all has been the outcome. Applications run identically on IOS as they do OS X which simplifies greatly the users life.

Cross Systems Compatibility remain an A-Priori Concern

There are many reasons for Apple’s success in the market from well built products to excellent customer support and a fantastic working environment. However, nothing can account for their success more than the level of integration that exists within its ecosystem.

Yet, the demand for cross systems integration is increasing substantially and will only grow. The person using an Android, Blackberry or Windows phone wants to be able to operate within the Apple environment as much as Apple wants to participate in the Microsoft environment.

We are seeing, as a result, applications that run identically across system environments with their great upside potential. The thing that anyone in systems has tried to avoid is what is referred to as the island of operation**. That is, no one should be an island unto themselves unable to communicate with rest of the world.

Interestingly, although this might seem counter-intuitive, Apple benefits from cross systems operation extensively. There are some environments that you can be entirely locked out of if your system is not seen as cross systems compliant.

To be the corporation Apple has become they have not only an inherent interest in working with other systems but to be good corporate citizens in not locking people out in the cold which does no one any good. However, in the end Apple’s ability to work with other systems only strengthens their position in the market.

Open Systems Value and Benefit

It is likely that Open Systems will not only remain of importance but will only increase in such value. It is likely the market will remain differentiated amongst:

  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Windows

As long as there are different systems with perceived value ebbing and flowing in the value chain people will continue to use these different systems and move between them. The pressure will remain to prevent any islands of operation. No systems manager wants this and no one wants this with their friends.

Thus, interconnectivity between systems will remain increasingly important. People at one moment might want to use an Android and then switch to the iPhone. Systems perceived value reigns over systems loyalty.

Secondly, the ability to operate applications across platforms and have them automatically sync will increase in value.

As an example, it is possible to have a Blackberry fully interconnected with the Apple ecosystem. Further, key applications can inter-operate between the two environments.

Android would probably prove to be a stronger example. Regardless, it is easy to see how there is tremendous value in interconnectivity and interoperability between these environments. Choice will not lessen but will increase as we march along and it is important that we’re able to capitalize on those discrepancies.

Waiting for Godot

In some ways, today’s system’s environment often feels like Samuel Beckett’s acclaimed play Waiting for Godot where two friends wait endlessly for the plays character Godot. At times, it appears great strides are being made in interconnecting systems and at other times it feels like we’re waiting endlessly for such solutions.

Many of the key solutions are there now. However, more needs to happen. It’s interesting the challenges presented to get around the problems but it is often very rewarding when such solutions are discovered. In fact, often what needs to be done can with the right understanding, skill level and ability to try different things. However, what will truly be valuable is when the solutions are open box solutions likely based on Open Standards.

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