Anti-Competitive AND Potentially Creepy

via @drbarnard

Here is another wonderful blog post I found, a link to the original blog can be found at the end of this entry.

I’m at WWDC and don’t have time to fully polish my thoughts, but I thought this was important enough to post a rough draft… please excuse the rough edges and rambling. I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, but the story just didn’t go deep enough into my thoughts about this fascinating turn of events.

The new terms in section 3.3.9 of the iOS developer agreement are all about Apple taking back control of how developers and third parties access and use sensitive user data on their iOS platform. The amount and detail of data that can be gleaned from a person’s mobile device is absolutely staggering and I honestly think that Apple has been a bit naive about how developers have been collecting, processing, and using data from iOS devices.

Last fall I was pitched an advertising platform for displaying the Honeywell ads in my Gas Cubby by FRAM app. The goal of this ad platform was to build a network of apps using their ad analytics so that they could cross pollinate data to deliver laser focused ads. Let’s say one app collects a user’s UDID, and because the app has sync, the person’s email address, or maybe the GPS coordinates of all the gas stations they’ve visited in the last 6 months (because an ad is served every time the user launches the app at a gas station, and the ad requests the user’s location to provide a targeted ad). Then that same person plays a game that asks their age to customize the experience (and that data is also packaged with the UDID as all analytics are). Then a 3rd party browser app sends a users search terms to better serve ads. And other games just log gaming sessions, sending the user’s UDID and detailed stats on when and how long they play certain games.

So, as the ad network grows, it’s absolutely incredible the depth of information that developers can collect and send to analytics/ad platforms over time. And that data is all quite easy to correlate based on the unique device identifier (UDID). Do you remember what a big fuss everyone made when Facebook used Beacon to start delivering “more relevant” ads by scraping personal information. Well, that’s what’s been slowly building right under the noses of mobile users and generally without their consent.

When you use Google search and other Google products, they collect a tremendous amount of information and use that information to customize and better serve the ads that are the core of their business. Many users don’t even realize this is happening, others are comfortable with it and have some level of trust for Google’s intent in using that data.

Well, Apple doesn’t trust the benevolence of Google, developers, and other third parties involved in the iOS platform. Apple wants to control the flow of user information. They may use more detail in targeting iAds than they are going to allow others to use for their own ads and other analysis, and that’s a competitive advantage, but it’s a fair competitive advantage for them to maintain on their own platform. Apple hasn’t said AdMob can’t advertise on iOS, just that they must get written permission from Apple for ANY user and/or device information that is sent back to AdMob servers.

For reference, here’s a story about Amazon not allowing third parties access to user’s purchase history to prevent them from usurping Amazon’s incredibly valuable recommendation engine:

But this goes way deeper than just screwing Ad Mob/Google and having a competitive advantage for iAds, it’s about Apple taking back control of how user and device information is accessed on their platform.

At the end of the day, when someone buys an iPhone, they are putting a certain amount of trust in Apple. And Apple is positioning the App Store as a place where users can trust the apps that they buy. See Neven Mrgan’s excellent post about the benefits of Apple’s walled garden approach:

If Apple allows 3rd party apps unmitigated access to user data, they’ve essentially passed that trust and responsibility down a level to developers and other 3rd parties. If Apple is going to position the App Store as a walled garden of apps that are safe to buy and use, they MUST control these aspects of what’s going on under the hood.

If Apple didn’t do this, a year from now a self-conscious woman would look down at her phone and see an ad promoting weighloss products to overweight 41 year old women with thinning blond hair who live in a blue house and drive a black Ford Tauras. And that’s going to scare the crap out of her. Who’s she going to blame? What product is going to trashed in the press for enabling this kind of eerily specific advertising?

Many people think that this kind of targeting is the future of all advertising (it has been slowly and subversively taking over the web), and it might be, but mature companies realize that privacy is a very delicate thing and must be treated with extreme care. See this excellent Wired article about deciding it’s still just too “creepy”:

By controlling the flow of information and how targeted the iAd platform becomes, Apple is taking back control so that it can decide what is appropriate. And I trust Apple in that regard a hell of a lot more than I trust Google, Facebook, etc. The thing is, Apple is a hardware company, that’s where they have and will continue to make their money. Google, Facebook, and others trade in information. The more detailed and specific, the more valuable that information. For Apple, the better the overall experience of the device, the more valuable that device becomes. They can throttle ad targeting and the specificity of 3rd party analytics according to the taste of users. Trusting 3rd parties to do so would be incredibly foolish, and Apple seems to have just recently figured that out.

Then there’s Google’s incredible competitive advantage in being able to track copious amounts of device and user demographic data, usage patterns, and other data on a competitor’s platform. This deserves another full blog post, but I’ll quickly preview my thoughts…

If you think about it, Google (via Ad Mob) being able to collect specific usage data about iOS would be a HUGE competitive advantage in shaping their own Android strategy.

This is a completely reasonable attempt by Apple to prevent their direct competitor from gaining a competitive advantage. In fact, Google may have spent the $700 million (a ridiculous sum of money for what it appears they were buying) for just this reason. It’s essentially like the Greeks having been able to just buy the Trojan Horse, with warriors already positioned inside, from someone who had established trust with the Trojans.

Oh, and there’s also AdMob’s incredibly flakey “Mobile Metrics” reports. They do such a hatchet job on those it must drive Apple nuts. Why do you think Apple cited so many “more reliable” sources of statistics on the mobile market during the keynote on Monday? Don’t even get me started on how poorly AdMob has been handling that data. Here’s a really smart take on it:

That’s pretty rough, but I’m still processing…


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The Walled Garden

via Neven Mrgan

This is a BEAUTIFUL  blog post by Mr. Neven Mrgan about why walled gardens can be good.  A link to his blog can be found after the text.

It is the Portland Japanese Garden, a city landmark that should be on any visitor’s shortlist. It’s beautiful, peaceful, clean, and well visited. Some consider it the most authentic Japanese garden worldwide (outside of Japan).

The garden is also walled off. Literally. It is run by a private, nonprofit organization, and it’s funded solely by admission earnings and donations. Adults pay $9.50 to get in. Once you’re in, you can’t smoke, you can’t use a cell phone, you can’t have a snack – you can’t even buya snack on premises. No pets, no professional photography, no weddings.

This is because the garden is meant to create and foster a certain tranquil mindset, a contemplative mood of oneness with Nature. You may find this corny or old-fashioned; if so, you’re better off seeing other city sights. If you buy into the garden’s premise, however, it’s a rewarding and unique experience.

A software store is not an actual garden, not literally. But enough people have used this metaphor that it’s worth thinking for a second about what it’s actually supposed to mean.

I’m assuming we’re supposed to compare this approach to the freer alternatives such as community gardens and city parks. Ignoring for a moment the fact that these gardens are also regulated by serious restrictions on what one can and can’t do, it still puzzles me that the “walled garden” is presented as an obviously undesirable structure.

Aren’t the benefits of a closed, carefully managed garden clearly visible? The experience is controlled, so it tells a story – one which may not emerge from a democratic, anything-goes process (or do you think this sort of slow and deliberate story would emerge in a busy American city in the year 2010?) Charging for admission means that the place can be maintained, improved, and marketed. There are downsides to this, of course — maybe the management makes boneheaded decisions now and then. Maybe you think that vine maple would look better a little to the left — maybe you’re even right.

But you see why they run things they way they do. And no one is forced to live in the Japanese Garden, just as no one is forced to commit fully to the App Store and refrain from exploring the rest of the world. Sure, this is Portland’s nicest garden – maybe they have a sort of monopoly on gardens. Maybe it’s because people like it, because it is so walled off.

I’m not saying the App Store is a beautiful garden. That is not a very good metaphor at all — but insofar as it applies, it doesn’t strengthen any App Store detractor’s case… unless they’d also argue that the Portland Japanese Garden should open its doors, run on monopoly money, and turn from a meditative oasis into a busy bazaar.

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Google and China

I have to weigh in on this whole Google vs. China thing. First off, let me say, Google should of never been there in the first place. WHy is the HELL was they catering to a country that censored the internet when Google IS, for a purposes, the internet? One word answer, MONEY! And the other simple fact is Google would still be censoring search in China if they would of never been hacked. China hacked them and got caught and if not for that than Google would still be doing what it was doing before all this happened. So don’t be to quick to think Google has taken some kind of moral high ground, they haven’t. Now they say they offer uncensored search through Hong King or The problem with that is, China just censers people accessing SO, now Google gets to offer what looks to be uncensored search and gets labeled some high and mighty moral person and China keeps its censorship. They both win.

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Census and Race

I read an article the other day about a census report and on that census report they ask for your “race”. Now as I was reading the comments on this article I found many, many people to be offended by the question and others even put “human” down instead of the common answer. But I hate to tell them ,Humans are a species. Although on the surface, the question may seem loaded and racial, I implore you to reconsider. I know some of you may feel, that by putting down your race, your gonna be descriminated aginst and the government has no business and shouldn’t care if your white or black etc. And I was BLASTED by a person in the comments for taking the side of the census survey by saying it can be a good thing. This is why I was prompted to write this post. It upset me to be called racist for something as small as saying I agreed with the survey and think population surveys are a good thing for everyone overall..So, what you have to realize is that the census data is used for real things that help us. Medical research for one. Look at cycle cell.  Sickle cell is, in the United States, very prevalent among dark skinned people and almost completely absent in “white” populations. This is why sickle cell anemia has been, for a very long time, associated with people of dark skin color. This association has been based on the partially correct assumption that sickle cell originates in Africa and those who are of African descent (and therefore very often dark skinned) are the only people who can carry the gene for the disease and pass it on genetically. Now, this is only an example. But if you cant see the medical benefits to sickle cell research as its related to the census survey (population survey), your blind and maybe your the racist one here. It helps research to know the given amount of african americans, for instance, in a given area if conducting sickle cell research. They can tell if sickle cell is more predominant on the east coast or west coast, etc.. All thanks to the help of the Census survey. So before you put “human” as your answer, think again. You may be hurting yourself and own race by the stand your trying to make.
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My first real post using my iPad.

Well, as I sit here and write my first full blog post using my iPad I can honestly say I think I can so this without any problem. This is much better than I expected. I can actually type fairly quickly with this big touch keyboard. I am now convinced that people say they can’t get by with this is just crazy. I have used by laptop at least half as much since I got this iPad and I think that will end up being the case for most people. It’s hard to get out of our geek world and into the normal one. Us geeks are hard to impress when it comes to technology. I’m a geek and can be quit picky when it comes to my tech but most people just don’t care as long ad it works and with the iPad, it’s gonna set a new bar for people who have never cared about tech. Now these people will use the iPad and it being there first touch tablet experience will have a very high bar set for any other tablet coming after. It’s hard to impress when your customer starts out with the top of the line and this is exactly the experience I have had with my idevices.

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A Short Post On Apple Anti-Trust, BP Oil Spills, and Google Gets ad blocked. What A Week It’s Been.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Google when it comes to matters of market share and anti-trust. Recently Google has been crying about Apple cutting it off from its iOS platform in its new TOS. At least it seems that is what Google wants the public to believe but the truth of the mater is the terms don’t block Google from serving mobile ads in iOS, they just block Google from collecting analytics (information) on its users. With as much info Google has on all us already, it makes me happy knowing Google isn’t gonna get my mobile info so they can stuff ads down my throat while I use my iPhone. I just think its funny that the largest internet ad company (Google) just bought the largest mobile ad company (Admob) and now they are mad and crying cause the new guy on the block wont share his info. I say screw them.

Now on to a rather more serious headline. The BP oil spill of 2010. Well, its not an “oil spill” technically, its an “oil leak”. The difference being spills happen fast and are over, leaks continue to seep liquid until the leak is stopped, which looks like it wont be till August if we are lucky. Thats f**ked. Everybody knows i’m not a big “save the planet” kind of guy, but I live here. Im not worried about the planet, Im worried about me and my kids. What else is there to say besides “we really done it this time”.

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A great Insight By J Bernard Jones

Oh, Jesus keep me near the cross! Give me a freakin’ break, will ya? The whole hysterical “Apple is evil” mantra being spouted here presumes several major misconceptions/flaws in logic/lies:

1. That the end user doesn’t have choice and that Apple is “restricting” how consumers spend their money. Don’t like the iPod/iPhone/iPad? Buy a Zune. An HTC Phone. A JooJoo tablet. An HP Slate. An Archos. One of the zillions of touch screen phones from Samsung or HTC or God knows who else, including Google and their different iterations of the Android platform. Play games on a dozen different devices on the market.

2. Is anyone — ANYONE — as stupid as the author suggests to not know that Apple is a “closed system” at this stage of the game? Can you run ANYTHING on a Sony device that isn’t pre-approved, vetted or allowed by Sony? Doesn’t Facebook edit apps that run on its platform? Does Microsoft allow Linux applications to run natively on Windows 7? Does Ford allow you to swap the engine on a Mustang with that of a lawn mower? Does HBO run hardcore porn? IF you don’t like the product or the practices of the company that don’t allow “total access and complete freedom to do whatever you want,” don’t buy the product or support WHICHEVER COMPANIES DON’T “LET” YOU DO ANYTHING YOU WANT. Period. See number one.

3. How is Apple’s “walled garden” approach to app approval and distribution via iTunes any different than how the tv networks, the music industry or — say it isn’t so — Google or Microsoft or any other company that leases both in-house and third party products through their distribution channels? Because that is what iTunes ultimately: a distribution channel. if you don’t like it, see number one.

4. Apple charges a 30% cut and publishers/music partners/etc. are mad. Really? So, let’s say I agree to distribute your content. You produce your content, you put it in a format that works for our store (which is no different than how Neiman Marcus or Walmart operate) and I handle all of the aspects of inventory, management, bandwidth, all credit card/purchasing transactions INCLUDING refunds and chargebacks and fraud and the associated perils therewith, and a 30% cut is too much? Did the author of this piece publicly rail with such wide-eye, sky-is-falling abandon against AMAZON charging publishers up to 60% — that’s SIXTY PERCENT — to distribute books and other materials through it’s store for the Kindle?

I know the pejorative term that Apple haters love to use is “Apple fanboy,” but these “Apple is evil” mantras that are now taking root are a whole lot sexier and much more accessible than the outdated “Apple is a beleaguered company that is going to fail” position these same folks took not that long ago. It’s like the tech version of the Tea Party.

If the iPod/iPhone/iPad are material manifestations of Apple’s evil, then don’t freakin’ buy any of them. There is a Nexus One, a Zune HD, or a JooJoo tablet with your name on it.

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