“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Dave Hendricks, president at LiveIntent.
Whether you’re a fanboy or phandroid, you’ve got to hand it to Apple. During a week last month when tech giants stumbled in the market, Apple stock rose with the release of a phablet, a category that for once it didn’t create. For a company that never wrote a song, owned a record label or played a live concert, Apple has had an undeniable and disproportionate influence on the music industry. And for a company whose own advertising tends towards the traditional – largely billboards, store displays and television commercials – Apple is having a similarly disproportionate impact on the ad-technology industrial complex, even if it isn’t a big player in mobile.
In both music and ad tech, Apple has disrupted itself programmatically. It systematically builds products, reaches critical mass, and then renders its products obsolete with one of its own inventions. It sounds crazy, until you realize it’s brilliant.
Where is your old iPod? The first and best example of Apple’s willingness to disrupt itself is the iconic standalone music player. Until 2001’s iPod, Apple was the iMac and MacBook. And then it was iTunes.
In 2007, Apple became a phone company and rendered its iPod obsolete by incorporating it into the iPhone. With that, it became an app exchange.
In 2010, Apple emerged as a tablet company and became a developer platform.
In 2014, Apple disrupted its tablet business with the new, bigger iPhone 6 Plus.
And in 2014, Apple became a deterministic marketing technology company.
How did this happen? Slowly. At a glacial pace.
Apple’s creation of the iTunes store, then MobileMe, iCloud, Yosemite and now Apple Pay has created a login-centric ecosystem that revolves around the iCloud credential and your biometrics. You log in to Apple using your iCloud ID or your fingerprint to access your music, phone, files and payments. There is no cookie there.
With the release of OSX Yosemite, Apple is now an addressable audience and identity company that happens to make devices that leverage and extend the concept of identity in a new way – seamlessly across devices. Apple doesn’t guess who you are, it knows who you are. And that is at the heart of the Apple ecosystem.
Inspired By Nature
Why did Apple call its new operating system Yosemite? It previously used big cat names before switching to California landmarks, beginning with Mavericks, a legendary surf spot. The National Park Service’s website calls Yosemite “a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life.”
Was this language the inspiration for this version of OSX? Is it a “shrine to human foresight?” Clearly linking identity to devices and permissions is divine.
Is the persistence of Yosemite’s granite a metaphor for user identity? If there is anything that’s reliably persistent for an Apple user, it is your iCloud ID or your fingerprint.
You cannot unlock the promised innovations without logging in. When you do, it just works. Apple calls this “continuity.” It looks like deterministic lock-in to me.
The groundwork for continuity was laid years ago with the elimination of unique device identifiers, the introduction of identifiers for advertisers, and the establishment of the login-based iCloud and fingerprint sensor as the user-authentication scheme behind the Apple app store. It wasn’t until a few years ago that this all came together. The iTunes Store initially required a simple user ID and password. But MobileMe, a failed experiment eventually reborn as iCloud, changed that system, with a new log-in scheme based on email addresses with a .me suffix. Fingerprint authentication was added along the way, and now your devices are united by this authentication scheme.
All of this iteration has landed us in this one place. Apple has created a deterministic personal computing experience. What does that mean?
We have yet to see, but if we are in a war of ecosystems between Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, surely the platforms with the greatest lock-in and clearest customer view across devices are in the best position to thrive.
With Apple’s release of Yosemite and Apple Pay, it appears there is a new player at the table. Will Apple’s deterministic user identification change ad technology like it did music?