blog & news

Can Apple Stay Apple?

I am struggling to understand how Apple Inc.’s purported plan to dramatically expand its digital-advertising business makes sense for a company that has successfully differentiated itself by selling products and services, rather than information about its customers.

A sad face emoticon is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration on May 25, 2018. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

On June 1, the Wall Street Journal reported Apple was looking to expand its advertising business with a new network for app-makers such as Pinterest Inc. and Snap Inc.

“The digital ad effort, if it proceeds, would push Apple into territory dominated by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which claims 35% of the mobile ad market, and Facebook Inc., which has 25%,” the Journal reported.

It could also take Apple farther away from its original vision, which has in many ways been the secret to the company’s success.

Steve Jobs decided long ago that Apple would make its money selling great products and services. He believed people would be willing to pay a premium for such products and services, and if they did, then Apple would not have to make its money off their personal information the way that competitors such as Google (now Alphabet Inc.) and Facebook Inc. increasingly were.

In recent months, Apple CEO Tim Cook seemed like he was doubling-down on that original vision, emphatically declaring that Apple’s customers are not its product.

“If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money. We’ve elected not to do that,” he told Recode in March. “We’re not going to traffic in your personal life.”