Why Apple Hasn’t Gone Web 2.0

November 16, 2007

Andy Beal wonders why Apple isn’t embracing social networking and considers them the worse off for it. Apple doesn’t have a corporate blog, and hasn’t come forth with a grand, social “Web 2.0″ strategy – say “iFacebook.”

I think it’s worth digging a little deeper into what Apple is really doing in regards to Web 2.0 and why I believe they’ve been smart to stay out of the Web 2.0 space for now.

Andy believes companies should have a social networking strategy in order to communicate with users. Despite their lack of a corporate blog – I don’t get the sense Apple doesn’t listen.

Each time Apple messes up, time and time again I’ve seen Apple respond quickly:

The biggest example of Apple listening to users are the iPhone and iPod Touch products themselves. For nearly two years before each product, fan boys kept speculating about how cool it would be if there were a “full screen iPod” or “if only Apple made a cell phone.” Apple actually went ahead and did it.

The second point I want to make is that Apple has been looking into Web 2.0 technologies, which isn’t apparent unless you dig a little deeper.

However, despite all these moves on the back end, as far as a social networking strategy – say “iFaceBook,” Apple hasn’t gone there.

A bit of Apple history is in order. Since the return of Steve Jobs, they’ve focused on:

  1. Eliminating all the non-essential products. Right out of the gae, Jobs killed the clones and the Newton, and all the confusing product models.
  2. Beefing up existing product lines and making them the best they could be. The “product matrix” with four quadrants (consumer desktop, consumer portable, professional desktop, professional portable) was brilliant.
  3. Only entering established markets that really make sense for Apple. They let other companies build up a market with less than insanely-great products and then come in with their vastly superior version and dominate. Many other companies had MP3 players which weren’tvery good, Apple saw that they could add the “Apple touch,” and the result was the iPod. Apple is now doing the same thing with the iPhone.

You can see Apple’s caution by examining what businesses Apple has not entered into (flat screen televisions, PDAs, Tablet PCs, eBooks). I can imagine some Apple product managers looking at these technology ideas and concluding “these products are interesting – but don’t make sense for us at this time.”

I believe Apple is doing the same thing with Web 2.0. Most of the current Web 2.0 money has been made through advertising and huge buyouts, neither of which are games Apple plays. Web 2.0 doesn’t demonstrate a clear road to profitability that works for Apple’s current strategy of hardware, software, and digital content.

Web 2.0 (whatever that really means) has hit the level of hype that people are starting to think all technology companies must have a Web 2.0 strategy. I politely disagree. I see nothing wrong with a hugely proftiable company waiting to see if this social media stuff can demonstrate business viability before calling it a necessity. As long as Apple continues to sell scads of iPods and Macs, they can afford to wait.


  1. Dave says:

    Wow. I read that Andy Beal post and I don’t really get his spin on this.

    You hit the nail on the head. Blog? Why would Apple need a blog? A blog is a great tool for a company that needs to generate buzz and press. Apple doesn’t need a blog to do this. They’re Apple – the media will always cover them. Their *actions* generate enough buzz. On top of that, Apple has a healthy eco-system of non-affiliated fansites and bloggers. Those Apple fanatics do more than help spread the word about Appley-goodness to the world. Andy acknowledges this, but dismisses it. I’m not sure why. If I had a rabid army of evangelists would I be motivated to tackle that particular problem or focus my attentions elsewhere? Does the mainstream audience that Apple is wooing really want an ongoing dialog with Apple (vis a vis a Blog?). It reminds me of Facebook’s conceit that “consumers” want to have direct and frequent contact/interaction with their favorite brands via the new Facebook Ad program. Maybe they’re right. But I really don’t miss not having an official blog (fake steve jobs will do, thank you very much).

    As for Web 2.0 sites/businesses, I agree that Apple is NOT playing the advertising game. They are playing the media game — but only insofar as premium services are involved. And this is fine.

    Of course, as you say above Apple is assuredly part of the current trends in computing/internet usage/creativity. Tools like iMovie, iPhoto, Garageband, etc all play into the “anyone can create and make content” movement. And there are countless examples of tools that foster connectivity and communication between users (the integrated video camera for video chat, desktop widgets, online commerce, etc.).

    I’m glad they are avoiding the whole “web 2.0″ moniker. They don’t need it to validate their strategy or business model. Frankly, I think it’s generally a good idea to steer clear of these types of label regardless of who you are or what you do. The group of folks that talk “web 2.0″ are often very different from the audience that Apple or any of the fledgling web 2.0 startups are looking for.

    On a final note. My guess is that as various “web 2.0″ concepts gain more traction and more mainstream acceptance, Apple will fold the best of the movement into their apps and services as necessary.

  2. JC says:

    Jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon just for the sake of doing it is what Microsoft does. (And very unsuccessfully, I might add.) Like you said, Apple doesn’t do anything that is being done very well already by others. It looks for weaknesses in markets and provides a superior product if it can. If it can’t, it forms a partnership, or it stays away entirely.

    That’s why Apple partners with the likes of Google when it knows it can’t top Google. As opposed to Microsoft going head-to-head with Google and getting its hat handed to it.

    For all the talk about Jobs being a megalomanic, he’s actually quite aware of his limitations and those of his company. So instead of trying to compete with YouTube, for example, he’d rather provide his customers with the tools necessary to make YouTube videos and publish them.

    This strategy has done very well for Apple with regard to Web 2.0 technologies in its products. Podcasting, for crying out loud, is named after the iPod. And though late to the party, Apple did provide podcasting tools in Garageband and blog publishing tools with iWeb (both shipping free with every mac). They’re also stepping into social networking slowly with .Mac (photocasting, web galleries, .Mac groups, etc.). But they’re not taking on MySpace anytime soon, and for good reason.

    The bottom line is that Apple can’t afford to just “do everything” and hope one or two things pan out. As successful as Jobs has been in the last six years since the iPod, there are always scads of reporters just itching to write about Apple’s failures. Unlike MS, who gets a free pass on its complete flops, and then praise when the second version comes out and sucks less. (Have you read a Zune 2.0 review lately? It’s really sickening.)

    So I’d have to disagree with the statement that Apple “doesn’t get” Web 2.0. I think Jobs gets it just fine.

  3. AppleFanBoys says:

    Apple fanboys…

  4. Dave says:

    ^ Is that the best you can throw at us?

  5. webomatica says:

    Dave – yep I do think Apple is focusing on giving folks the tools to participate in web 2.0, and could see them adding some more social stuff to their websites – .Mac could really use some beefing up IMHO.

    JC – remember the apple of old – that had 500 performas, strange stuff like CyberDog, OpenDoc, the Newton, and clones – a lot of interesting ideas but not much focus.

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