Solve This: What All Tech Giants Rely on for Success Except Apple

I know everything about you.

My AI will use all that I know…everything and more…to enhance your experience with me…to create more meaningful interactions…more immersions…in short…to get you to buy more.

What’s wrong with this picture?

On the most elemental of levels…you don’t know everything…not even close, and simply from a PR point of view I wonder why companies keep leading with this. As the legendary Lester Wunderman has always said about data — consumers would sleep way better if they knew how little of their personal data that is collected is actually usable and valuable.

More. We are living in a time of the perfect storm of conflict…the scary intersection of privacy, security and transparency. A time when even the most mundane of companies touts its data-collecting abilities, and frankly, without a data-collection story linked to AI and such, it’s doubtful that some/many of the higher-valued companies of our age would be so highly valued.

Critical information to ponder as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the most successful product of all time, as reported by QZ last week:

In “The First Trillion Dollars is Always the Hardest” posted earlier this year, Engineer and HBS alumnus Horace Dediu summarized the iPhone epic by looking at its astronomical numbers…:

In its first 10 years, the iPhone will have sold at least 1.2 billion units, making it the most successful product of all time. The iPhone also enabled the iOS empire which includes the iPod touch, the iPad, the Apple Watch, and Apple TV whose combined total unit sales will reach 1.75 billion units over 10 years. This total is likely to top 2 billion units by the end of 2018.

…iOS will have generated over $1 trillion in revenues for Apple sometime this year.

So what does my POV on data collection have to do with this auspicious celebration:

The Economist put it best:

By any measure, the iPhone, which hit the shelves in America ten years ago this week, has been an extraordinary success. But it is also exceptional for a less obvious reason: it has allowed Apple to become the only consumer-oriented technology giant whose business model does not rely on collecting reams of personal data, usually in order to target advertising to users. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has made the company’s stance part of his sales pitch, calling privacy a fundamental human right.

Think about that when your Web pages slowly (by Web standards) flicker back and forth as the myriad of algorithms fight, with your data, to serve you one of those enhanced, meaningful, immersive experiences I mentioned before.

Think about that because, to date, data collection – for sale to the highest bidder ­– has not been an Apple strategy. Reams of your own data might slow down your system (I have way too many names in my contact file) but hyper-targeted or retargeted ads for whatever have up to now not been a culprit for slowdown or distraction.

Yet here’s the thing…

According to some, the Apple model is not sustainable, nor is it competitive in the era of “We know all…”

The Economist continues:

That distinctive approach may not be sustainable, however. Indeed, how Apple deals with data will be more important in determining its success over the next ten years than the endless questions over the firm’s ambitions for TV sets or cars….

But the era of stand-alone electronic devices, however slick, is coming to an end. They will increasingly become a vehicle for—and be subsidised by—services based on machine learning and other artificial-intelligence techniques. The quality of these offerings will in turn largely depend on how much data developers have access to. The more questions a digital assistant hears, for example, the better its answers will be. Although Apple’s Siri was one of the first digital assistants, Google’s and Amazon’s offerings are now much smarter.

To stay competitive, particularly as rival devices powered by Google’s Android operating system have become almost as good as Apple’s, the firm will come under increasing pressure to collect more data and make greater use of them. The opportunity for Mr Cook is to make Apple a model for how to balance the benefits of data and the right to privacy. That means being transparent about what type of data it collects and how it will use them. It means leaving users in charge of their data as much as possible, as it already does with health and fitness data on iPhones. It might also mean experimenting with new data-sharing models—for instance, paying consumers if they contribute valuable types of health information.

The Siri point is obvious but is the rest necessary? Or imperative?

Or might it in fact be a continuing and possibly even stronger competitive advantage as consumers realize there is actually one safe haven out there for them…

There is so much to write about iPhones, and over the next couple of weeks I will be tackling questions like just what did it change in our lives.

But for my first birthday post, I felt this was really the core of who and what the iPhone has been and hopefully will remain.

When Steve Jobs described the iPhone, at launch, it wasn’t the possibility that they had created the ultimate data collection machine that excited him…listen:

“What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super-easy to use. This is what iPhone is. OK? So, we’re going to reinvent the phone.” Steve Jobs

And as he has said, its greatest innovation was “What’s the killer app? The killer app is making calls!”

As we ponder the landscape of products, and as we dwell on the products and services that claim it is their data collection (meaning yours) that makes them so desirable….ponder the iPhone…ponder whether or not you find it useful and valuable even though some claim it’s “dumb” and ask yourself if your experience with it would be any better if it “knew everything about you” and told others…

What do you think?






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