Battle of the media ecosystems: Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft

Four large tech ecosystems are currently vying for our attention -- and for our dollars. How well are they succeeding?

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Each of these four battling ecosystems has distinct strengths and weaknesses; there is clearly no single overarching winner.

When it comes to books, magazines and shopping, Amazon is unparalleled. Although Apple's iBooks can be considered somewhat of a success, it doesn't come close to Amazon's dominance in selling both e-books and print books. And while Google has tried to become an online shopping center (and a bookseller), Amazon's success dwarfs it.

Until recently you would have said that Apple's iTunes is the clear winner in the music category. But Apple has fallen somewhat behind other ecosystems because until recently it did not have a streaming music service (although it may make up for lost ground once iTunes Radio hits in the fall). Microsoft's Xbox streaming music service is very good and Google has introduced a similar service. Amazon does not yet have a streaming service, although it does have a well-done cloud-based music player for playing music that you own.

Amazon's video offerings best the other ecosystems, not only in selling DVDs -- subscribers to Amazon Prime can stream all the video they want. And Amazon has taken a page from Netflix and is in the midst of producing its own shows as well.

When it comes to console and computer-based gaming, Microsoft rules, although it's well behind both Google and Apple in mobile gaming. And while mobile gaming is only a small percent of the gaming ecosystem today, that may well change.

The upshot of all this? Despite their best efforts, none of the companies has yet succeeded in creating the kind of complete media ecosystem that can rise above all its competitors. So for now it's still a mix-and-match world, and looks likely to stay that way for a long time to come.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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