In behavior that’s typical for this company, Apple has been sitting back and letting the world (read: other companies) do their R&D for it, and it is the smartest move that Apple continues to make. It’s played this card with its hardware products and will soon play it again with new mobile ad products.
What impresses me most with Apple is not their focus on design, their revitalization in the last decade or their existing dominance. It is their calculated patience.
It is no secret that Apple is rarely first to market. However, it’s important to note that they are not simply sitting back resting on the laurels of their existing successful businesses (iPhone, iPad, Macs, etc).
Time and time again, Apple enters a market roughly 3-5 years into the given market’s maturity. They buy their courtside ticket and scout their competition, who inevitably lights the clear path to the basket.
Certainly we can consider the Apple Watch process as a prime example of this strategy. Wearables have been a hot topic for the last 3-4 years or so. They became more “mainstream” when companies like Jawbone, Fitbit, Pebble and Nike entered from a more practical angle of fitness/health tracking. However, none of these companies have seen the wearable technology take off outside of buzzworthiness. During this time, Apple sat back, monitored the buzz, investigated the micro-winners/losers, took strategic board seats (Tim Cook being on the board of Nike) and let others spend their capital and time throwing things against the consumer-wall.
These companies became Apple’s extended R&D team.
Once manufacturing logistics, feature-set, demand and path-to-dominance became clearer, Apple made it no secret that they’d be jumping in.
This game-plan is in play right now while Apple sits back and watches companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google start to define successful ad units and monetization opportunities for mobile.
In this case, Apple uncharacteristically launched their iAds product early, back in 2010. iAds in almost all senses failed. It simply replicated banner ads from the web and tried to force itself upon a unique mobile workflow.
Wait, did it really fail?
My bet is that Apple did this knowing its perceived attempt would be disappointing from a product standpoint; but more importantly, it would be exactly the move to make the industry and competitors get involved in its mobile monetization R&D project. It attracted the competition, just how they planned it while they conducted an “Irish Exit”.
Like a moth to a flame…
Fast-forward a few years, and we finally have “native” mobile ad types proving to be quite successful. The iAd banner ad era, with companies like Millennial Media and Velti dying out, gave birth to mobile monetization that actually works and fits the unique mobile use cases. Facebook’s mobile install and engagement ad types have arguably been the primary contributors to Facebook’s post-IPO success. Many have followed like Google, Twitter and Instagram; and there are surely more to come.
The biggest newcomer in mobile advertising will be Apple.
And this time, when they do jump in, they are poised to catapult to the top of mobile ad revenue-generating companies.
The moment Apple releases their own install or engagement ad types, we’ll see the most powerful player in mobile monetization become the ad player of choice in the mobile space. Not simply because of a successful ad type, but in addition, they’ll win due to having the least-friction implementation of this monetization method. Low-friction is Apple’s success factor, and it will be the key to their victory in mobile advertising as well.
The Apple SDK is already firmly embedded into the 1,300,000+ apps on the app store. With a simple flip of a switch, Apple will have the largest and most diversified native mobile ad network available with targeting inputs being gathered from TV, Computer, Phone, Tablet and Human Body (sensors in Apple Watch).
While many, including Apple insiders, say they are just “not a software company,” I don’t buy it. Neither should you.
This day will come, and it will come soon. Once it does, it will be another industry shifting product, which is the only type of product that Apple is interested in launching.