The little locators that allow you to find lost objects had their charm, but they have been shaken by the final (and long-awaited) launch of the Apple Airtags.
At a functional level there are no big differences: they are two practically identical devices that basically do the same thing. The problem? That Apple is in more than 1,000 million devices with which to take advantage of these locator devices. Let’s see who is the handsome one (with or without Tile) that can compete with that.
Tile faces the impossible: the ecosystem
There is nothing new about the AirTags approach, but that is not important: the Cupertino company has always been able to harness “old” ideas in products that it refines and launches as new. What AirTags do, Tile devices (and other manufacturers) already did, but the difference is in the Apple ecosystem.
That ecosystem means that right now more than 1,000 million devices can work with AirTags right off the bat , without doing anything . Tile has long been trying to expand its own ecosystem by signing alliances with Qualcomm or Toshiba, but once again Apple’s size makes it difficult to compete with it.
Apple knows this well, and to avoid possible monopoly behavior lawsuits it was careful to recently announce the opening of its new Find My network to third parties.
There are already some products that have signed up to be part of that ecosystem of “potential lost objects”, and among them are the Chipolo locators, which also basically function as Tile or AirTags and act in a similar way.
As analyst Benedict Evans explained, these types of movements are common in large companies, launching new products and services that basically take advantage of old ideas.
Cinema and popcorn
The market is merciless with these types of situations. If a small business creates something useful that can be integrated into a product of a large company, the latter will almost certainly copy and integrate it. What will happen then? That the small business that created that add-on will not be able to compete and will likely have to go out of business.
It has happened and happens constantly in the computer industry , but also in other types of industries. It was pointed out by Steven Sinofsky, who for a long time was one of the most responsible for the development of Windows and Office at Microsoft.
The classic example, that of popcorn in the cinema : people bought it outside and took it to the cinema, so the owners of the cinemas made a logical decision: they put popcorn stands inside their cinemas (at prices, by the way, exorbitant in many cases) and destroyed the competition.
In doing so they “destroy” the competition – Amazon is being investigated for something like that in the EU – because the ecosystem makes those who provided that product or service overshadowed by the technology giant that has implemented that same idea.
Is that unfair? Sure. Can we do something to avoid it? That has a difficult answer, and it is not feasible to prohibit Apple from launching its AirTags , especially when they have had the ingenious detail of opening their standard for others to sign up (although for this they have to integrate the U1 chip that of course, only manufactures and sells Apple).
All is not lost, of course, but the reality is that the appearance of AirTags now complicates life a lot for companies like Tile. We will see how this firm reacts.