WWDC 2018: Ap­ple’s coun­ter­in­tu­itive busi­ness moves

Ap­ple’s re­cent de­ci­sions seem to run counter to the com­pany’s busi­ness model, but they may just be its most savvy moves yet.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY DAN MOREN

There’s a great scene in my fa­vorite Christ­mas movie, Mir­a­cle on 34th Street, where a Macy’s sales man­ager is shocked to overhear the de­part­ment store Santa Claus send a dis­traught mother to a com­peti­tor to buy a toy. But what starts as a fire­able of­fense ends up be­com­ing a mar­ket­ing strat­egy, as Macy him­self re­al­izes that, coun­ter­in­tu­itively, there’s a ben­e­fit to be­ing seen as a store that cares more about its cus­tomers than its prof­its.

Ap­ple, it seems, has taken this phi­los­o­phy to heart. The com­pany has al­ways put forth the im­age that it cares more about sur­pris­ing and de­light­ing its cus­tomers than about cold hard cash, and on oc­ca­sion it seems to make de­ci­sions

that would oth­er­wise seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive to the cap­i­tal­is­tic idea of sim­ply rak­ing in as much money as it can.

This year’s WWDC an­nounce­ments ( go. mac­world.com/wdcs) were no ex­cep­tion: the com­pany showed off more than a few fea­tures that seem as though they go against the grain of the com­pany’s busi­ness model. But, as with Ap­ple, there’s al­ways a method to the mad­ness.

YOU SCREEN, I SCREEN, WE ALL SCREEN

One of the big­gest pushes dur­ing this year’s key­note was about spend­ing less time with your de­vices. IOS 12 in­tro­duces fea­tures like Screen Time, which tracks not only how much time you’re us­ing your smart­phone or tablet, but also which apps you’re spend­ing your time in—it even lets you lock out apps once you’ve hit a cer­tain limit. The­mat­i­cally sim­i­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties let you hide no­ti­fi­ca­tions, or tweak Do Not Dis­turb in more sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing at night.

On the face of it, this idea would seem to be di­rectly con­trary to Ap­ple’s busi­ness model. Why would you want peo­ple to use your prod­ucts less? But that’s the thing: Ap­ple doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need you to use your iphone or your ipad more. You’ve al­ready bought the de­vice, af­ter all. All it needs to do is en­sure that when you do reach for a de­vice, or have to make a de­ci­sion about pur­chas­ing one, you opt for one of Ap­ple’s.

And, in the mean­time, just like Macy him­self fig­ured out, be­ing seen as the com­pany that ac­tu­ally cares about your well-be­ing is a great way to build loy­alty in the long term. Es­pe­cially since Ap­ple and other de­vice mak­ers have re­cently been crit­i­cized for not car­ing about peo­ple be­com­ing “ad­dicted” to their de­vices. The com­pany doesn’t even have to work par­tic­u­larly hard to get you not to use your gad­gets; it just needs to pro­vide you the in­for­ma­tion to make that de­ci­sion (or not)

for your­self, and it still ends up look­ing like the good guy.

PER­FOR­MANCE ISSUES

Among the first things Tim Cook talked about was the is­sue of IOS per­for­mance. Older iphones are es­pe­cially no­to­ri­ous for strug­gling with more re­cent ver­sions of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, and Cook has said that Ap­ple is work­ing hard to im­prove that across the board with IOS 12.

Again, this seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive: Surely Ap­ple wouldn’t want your older phone to re­main us­able, be­cause what mo­ti­va­tion would you then have for giv­ing Ap­ple more money to up­grade to a new phone? Over the years there have been plenty of con­spir­acy the­o­ries about Ap­ple slow­ing down old hard­ware in this kind of forced ob­so­les­cence, most re­cently in the ker­fuf­fle around per­for­mance throt­tling for bat­tery life.

But this idea of main­tain­ing per­for­mance on older de­vices is, I main­tain, a bril­liant one. Think about it this way: Would you pre­fer your cus­tomer who’s in the mar­ket for a new phone to be en­ticed by the cool new fea­tures of your lat­est prod­uct, or an­noyed and ticked off that they have to drop a bunch of money on a new phone be­cause their old one is so slow? By keep­ing their old de­vices work­ing well, Ap­ple en­gen­ders good­will— they’re at least try­ing to help their

Older iphones are es­pe­cially no­to­ri­ous for strug­gling with more re­cent ver­sions of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, and Cook has said that Ap­ple is work­ing hard to im­prove that across the board with IOS 12.

cus­tomers get the most out of their money. That goes a long way to con­vinc­ing peo­ple to buy from you again in the fu­ture.

PRI­VATE LIVES

Then, of course, there are Tim Cook’s and Ap­ple’s stands on pri­vacy. This isn’t nec­es­sar­ily some­thing that the com­pany— or re­ally any­body—should need to trum­pet, but given this climate of data min­ing and on­line track­ing, Ap­ple can demon­strate a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage by talk­ing about the ex­tent it goes to to keep your in­for­ma­tion safe and se­cure.

Again, it cer­tainly seems as though the com­pany could stand to make much more money by delv­ing into its users’ lives, min­ing them for all sorts of use­ful in­for­ma­tion that they could then turn around and mon­e­tize, or sell to a third­party. But by not do­ing so, Ap­ple gets to put forth it­self as a pro­tec­tor of its cus­tomers.

This feels like one of those rare cases where the right thing to do also hap­pens to be good busi­ness. Peo­ple value their pri­vacy, and they’re go­ing to re­spond to and re­spect the com­pany that val­ues it just as much as they do. And that, in turn, leads to even more loy­alty.

Look, I’m nei­ther naive nor cyn­i­cal about Ap­ple’s mo­tives here: all of this goes to show that, in the end, the ideas re­spect­ing your cus­tomers and mak­ing a profit don’t have to be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. As Mr. Macy in Mir­a­cle on 34th Street re­minds us, be­ing seen as the store that puts pub­lic ser­vice above prof­its is a sure­fire way to bring in more prof­its than ever be­fore. ■

This feels like one of those rare cases where the right thing to do also hap­pens to be good busi­ness.

IOS 12 Screen Time.

Ap­ple’s Craig Fed­erighi talks about im­proved per­for­mance in IOS 12.

User pri­vacy was a point of em­pha­sis dur­ing the WWDC 2018 key­note.

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