Getting connected is so much more fun when one operating system fits all

Jim Barthold, FierceIPTVThe better half and I recently ordered a two-bike carrier for her SUV. To be clear, it's not because we're driving off to take Lance Armstrong's place in triathlons or seeking out the mountains of South Jersey in preparation for the Summer Olympics; she's just a little tired of having to jam my bicycle into the back of her car every time I puncture a tire on storm-ravaged roads that haven't been cleaned in a month and call for help because I'm too old, cranky and impatient to repair the tire on my own sitting on hot asphalt surrounded by biting insects.

But that's another story—storm ravaged roads and communities in South Jersey. This one is about how, after ordering the unit and having it assembled, we were told by the bike shop salesman that it was all for naught: It wouldn't fit on her car.

"This thing fits on just about every car," he explained. "Just not that one."

So we suggested perhaps it might work on my coupe. This is not the best idea in the world and not something I really wanted to do because the coupe is a lease and it's going back in October but …

"Nope. Believe it or not it won't work on that one either," he said after looking in his book.

So there you have it: two tries, two misses. Kind of like Wilt Chamberlain shooting free throws.

The salesman, to be fair, was really contrite—and not just because he had to refund my money. He, like I, had seen literally thousands of cars driving around with bike carriers and bikes—all kinds of cars, all kinds of bikes, all kinds of carriers. How is it that neither of ours could join the parade? I like to think I'm unique, but, like Abraham Lincoln I put my pants on one leg at a time so surely I'm not that unique.

Whining aside, I have to confess I wasn't surprised. After all, I own an Android phone and, even worse--when it comes to fitting in with the rest of the world--an Android tablet. While iSomething owners raved about TV Everywhere, I struggled to watch Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) YouTube. While HBO Go was going strong on iPads in airports, I was reading books. It's not that I have anything against books—I love books—but I would have liked to use my Xoom as something more than a glorified Kindle.

Recently I got my chance when HBO Go became part an Android tablet app. And now that I've joined the rest of the connected world, I have to say it was worth it. It's not, of course, the same experience as watching The Wire on my HDTV, but, in a pinch it beats watching cat videos on YouTube.

Which brings me to my roundabout point: The world is so much better when one size fits all. I really didn't want to go get a new car just for the bicycle carrier and I'm sure there are millions of Android users who, after investing in Android, really don't want to get new Apple devices just for the thrill of the apps. And yet, without a one-size-fits-all application, that silly alternative seems almost to make sense.

There is something to be said for being the first to market as Apple surely is and has been in every step of the connected space. But there is also something to be said for competition, for having an alternative device and, silly as it seems, for personal preferences.

There is a difference between product differentiation—something is built distinctly for either Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS or Android—and application lag. Service providers must, and I believe do, understand this. The world is made up of users, whether they're equipped with iOS or Android, and it's up to the vendors, service providers and applications developers to treat them all fairly.

Sure, one-OS-fits-all is a tough, unwieldy and potentially expensive concept. It is, though, in the long run, the only way to serve a still-fragmented society that chose to own different devices but expected to receive the same benefits.--Jim