See What's Happening: Apps & The Future of Open Ecosystems

Welcome to a new series in the Amber Creative blog called See What’s Happening—a series of editorials that look into the newest, trending news & tidbits from the vast, dizzying world of digital marketing, web development and design! For this first instalment, we’re looking at mobile apps and what is dubbed by many as its future—the Open Ecosystem.

Everyone’s been trying to project the future of mobile app development especially post-pandemic, after app-usage went through the roof. It looks like the future is mobile, and so we need apps to expand and make interconnectivity possible.

A brief backgrounder on mobile apps

Mobile ecosystems allow users to access the internet using different apps and systems. There are two major mobile product families in existence that help do this—Apple and its Apple Store and Google with its Playstore. Windows & Blackberry also have their own but represent a minuscule market share. Currently, the two tech giants have a monopoly over mobile app development technologies as well as platforms. But this is a two-edged sword; while the two have allowed developers to offer their products to millions of users worldwide through their product families, this massive commercialisation also limited developers.

This friction fuels the ongoing war that developers are waging against app store policies: Facebook has been criticising app stores’ policies and how it affects business users; and Spotify and Fortnite even joined forces to create the Coalition for App Fairness to openly criticise not only app stores policies but also the mandatory commissions.

What to expect with open ecosystems?

One brand is said to be leading the charge against these restrictive policies—China’s Huawei. And this comes on the heels of their ongoing trade ban with the US. Huawei’s CIO Tao Jingwen shares that the company hopes to overcome these restrictive policies through a software system that developers could benefit to get behind—the open ecosystems.

Speaking at the 2020 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) and again in TNW 2020 in October, Jingwen called for unimpeded collaboration in order to create a more robust ecosystem. In his discussion, he cited the growing technologies included in the 4th Industrial Revolution and how this is the best time to capitalise on its transformation.

Put simply, open ecosystems seek to decentralise development opportunities, keeping these away from the tech giants and their limiting policies and onto the direct supervision and management of developers. In short, digital sovereignty that banks on developers.

But ideal as it comes, Huawei’s plan comes with its own set of challenges, one of which is in getting developers as well as firms to actually come on board and embrace the new open-source ecosystem. The promotion of industry ecosystem development relies heavily on ICT industry’s cooperation, as well as relevant partners and investors interested in forwarding an open and more flexible digital ecosystem.

So where are we on this journey?

In 2017, Huawei has launched its Global OpenLab Program which directly encapsulates its Open Ecosystem agenda. It’s been four years and the tech giant has since opened its labs in many parts of the world as well, including India and Korea, to facilitate their proposed digital ecosystem development. They’ve pledged to invest US$1.5B in the next five years for this, including a plan to “provide funding to universities, individuals, start-ups and enterprises” that supports learning, product development as well as marketing.

The future of open ecosystem software management and development is brimming with possibilities, especially for immersive, developer-driven technologies. Overall, the end goal here is in giving developers enough power to headline innovations with their evolving products for a wholly connected future for everyone.

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