Tuesday October 11, 2011

✦ Customer Insight

Rene Ritchie over at TiPb writes about how Siri increases Apple’s insight into customer behavior:

But there’s more. If Apple chooses to adopt a Google-style business model, they can aggregate and anonymize that data and sell it to advertisers and marketers. That turns the customers into products, something they tried — and have thus far failed — to do with iAds in apps. Siri moves it to the OS level and while it won’t display ads, it will collect data that can be fed back into iAds, or other advertising and marketing platforms.

If you want to follow the privacy game going on today, make sure you follow the money.

Apple optimizes its business so that the money flows directly from the end users. This isn’t just a fly-by-night business move, this is a deliberate long term strategy that they’ve executed on for at least a decade. You could cynically say that they are trying to milk as much money from users as possible, and that would be technically true as any business would do. But don’t pretend that a business offering you “free” service isn’t going to maximize their income from you either.

Rene speculates that Apple may use the insights it gains from Siri as a new revenue stream by selling it. I hope not. And I doubt it, too. They suck at that game. They separate this customer data from app devs, in app subscribers and their ad network. Marketers are frustrated with it.

Apple became the most profitable company in the world through selling directly to the user. That’s very unusual in the consumer electronics space today. I find it fascinating that they are disrupting in business models as much as they are in technology.

There’s no guarantee they won’t shift their business model over time. Keep an eye on where the money comes from. In a world where we have tradeoffs between privacy and convenience, revenue streams will be key to understanding which businesses can be more trustworthy than others. Make sure you’re the customer. That gives you leverage.