When you look at nature and the environment, why is it so important to save an area of wetland? Why is it important to save a type of wildlife? The reason is balance. An ecosystem is a delicately balanced environment. If you are missing an animal, then other elements of the ecosystem suffer as well. When there are gaps in the ecosystem, in short, it stops working.
This concept applies to business as well. Why has Apple been successful? Is it because the build top-notch quality products? In part yes, but not entirely. Is it because they deliver products that met the users’ needs better than any other product? In part yes, but not entirely. No, the real reason that Apple has been so successful is that their products and services are part of an ecosystem that they’ve developed. Tied together beautifully, that ecosystem just works. It is that element, that it just works, that really has been the reason Apple has been so successful. It’s also the reason why other competing companies have failed to develop any type of Apple-product-killer. As a competing company you can’t build a product that will kill anything! You might build a product that is better than any single competing product from Apple, but without the ecosystem to tie it all together, to balance everything, to make sure that it all just works – without the balance, competitive products are fighting an uphill battle.
You can see a similar strategy with Google. They too are trying to build an ecosystem. The are competing head to head with Apple on many fronts, most notably at the moment with the Android phone platform. They will however in the coming months begin competing on the laptop OS front as well as Google introduces their own OS called Chromium. So what is the strategic core access point for Google? It isn't an iTunes-like product/service. No not at all. For Google, the SCAP has always been Search. That is their point of control and from that they have spread outwards creating an ecosystem that builds off of search.
To be successful in your own industry, uncovering the potential to build an ecosystem for your customers is definitely something worth taking a look at. I think over the next several years, we'll see more and more organizations trying to create these types of environments to deliver products and services.