Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference keynote on Monday revealed some interesting new stuff. Much of it will define the features of the growing and changing mobile computing landscape.
Let’s look at a few of the announcements through the real estate lens.
One of the large stories of the next iOS from Apple is booting Google out of the prime seat for maps. The new iOS will ship with Apple’s own mapping application, which is built on map data from TomTom plus some other features from other sources such as Getchee, DMTI, Localeze, MapData Sciences, Urban Mapping and Waze.
This shift in approach to source data for maps should be reflected in marketing plans dealing with search engine optimization, location-based paid advertising and locative media.
Apple’s "walled garden" approach may make adjusting to the new map landscape a little more opaque than most marketers would like. Now would be a good time to examine what sort of traction you get from current location and mapping initiatives driven by Google map technologies.
This will help you adjust to any disruptions that occur as the new map landscape unfolds.
Another theme of the new iOS is integration with non-Apple companies. Facebook will be built in. Yelp will be built in. Crowdsourced traffic systems not built at Apple will be built in.
This integration of non-Apple data sources presents some unique challenges and opportunities for marketing. Instead of Google’s aggregation of retail locations and reviews being dominant in both location services and Web search, Yelp will take that role in the iOS.
Many real estate brokerages and agents already use Yelp as part of a general reputation management plan. This sort of activity will become more important as the new mobile OS rolls out.
Of course, Apple is often known to switch plans midstride. So it may simply be a situation of replacing the unknown arcane lore of optimizing for Google with the capricious relationship habits of Apple.
The big move here, however, is a weakening of Google as a single source for data and replacement with a variety of sources. Understanding and utilizing these various sources will be critical to visibility in mobile on the iOS platform.
Apple’s Passbook is simply an app that stores loyalty programs. It seems fairly benign and pedestrian. General chatter might lead you to believe it is simply a less advanced clone of Google’s Wallet software (which features near-field communication for scanless payment processing).
However, I think that in the long run this development will be the largest and most relevant for many forward-thinking real estate professionals.
You could think of Passbook simply as a couponing platform or a place to keep loyalty cards. But the potential is a bit deeper. Apple has access to an incredibly large number of credit cards in its iTunes Store system.
Apple reports having 400 million active credit cards in its system. By contrast, Amazon has something like 150 million active credit cards and PayPal 110 million.
Whether Apple wants or cares to leverage this access into a full-fledged payment system or is happy to simply enable couponing and loyalty programs remains to be seen. But the fact remains that it sits on the largest pile of truly valuable customer data available.
Passbook will be the funnel through which companies must pass in order to benefit from that pile of data.
Some thoughts on mobile, strategy and Apple
Which brings us to Apple and strategy. In particular, Apple and strategy related to mobile. There’s no doubt that mobile will eventually be the primary access point for digital communication technologies. Which is why people are scrambling to line up their plans for mobile in the first place.
In real estate, events such as Zillow practically giving away websites to agents further highlights the commodity-ness of the browser-based Web. The value is somewhere else now.
Tim Cook, before he was CEO of Apple, developed and executed on the company’s logistics-driven strategy — the strategy that brought Apple to its current heights. Yes, Steve Jobs’ vision and marketing prowess contributed greatly. Yes, Jon Ive and his team of designers made beautiful objects that were easier to sell.
But Tim Cook built the engine that made the whole operation flow. Everything that happened on the operations side of the business — taking projects and making them real and getting them into the hands of the customers — was a logistical feat. Useful partnering with non-Apple companies to supply the parts — sometimes exclusively for years at a stretch — is a hallmark of Cook’s approach.
Another hallmark of Apple strategy is starting small and then following through to the greatest degree possible. For example, starting with an iPod Touch iterating through until you have an iPhone and then an iPad and then you’ve displaced the desktop/laptop market entirely.
To date, Tim Cook has been focused on everything that happens before a device ends up in the hands of customers. His role as COO under Steve Jobs meant that Mr. Cook was free to focus on this pre-customer aspect of the Apple business.
The developments coming forth in this WWDC keynote show how Tim Cook is applying his logistics-based strategy to the life of Apple product after it reaches the hands of customers.
By building a location-driven system based on a variety of partners (who most likely compete for the business as manufacturing vendors do), Apple is free to focus on deepening the user experience without having to build everything itself. This approach adds a significant amount of flexibility to the Apple platform.
By spearheading an initiative that places Apple product at the center of customer loyalty and transaction programs (perhaps in a way reminiscent of Apple providing capital to manufacturing vendors who provide extra capacity), Apple ensures that it becomes an important medium through which real money is exchanged.
The implications of what we might call the Cook Doctrine approach, for real estate professionals pursuing plans in the mobile space, involve:
- adapting to a level of flexibility in terms of data sources that has not been necessary under Google’s tenure as location gatekeeper.
- maintaining awareness of seemingly trivial experiments and how they might signal key shifts in user workflows around finding information.
- understanding that Apple’s ability to scale, grow and influence business will extend beyond the sale of devices. Tim Cook is only one-half of the way through implementing his vision.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt.
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