What it is: iAd was Apple’s online advertising network that Apple is shutting down this summer.
When Apple first introduced the iPhone, you couldn’t install any apps to it. Developers clamored for the right to create their own apps and Apple finally created the App Store. Right away, developers learned what seemed to work best. Initially, developers tried to sell apps but forcing people to pay money upfront for an unknown item meant limited sales. That’s the reason why so many programs on desktop computers offer free trials so you can see if the program does what you want before paying for it.
Yet in the App Store, Apple blocked demo software. An app had to be fully functional, so developers found two ways around this problem. First, they offered fully functional apps that allowed in-app purchases so you could unlock additional features if you needed them. Second, they offered their apps for free but displayed advertising. If you wanted to get rid of the advertising, you could pay or just enjoy the app for free in exchange for viewing ads.
While Google and Yahoo helped define the online advertising market, Apple decided to jump into the fray with iAd. The idea behind iAd was to provide an advertising platform for app developers so Apple could get the advertising money rather than Google, Yahoo, or any other company.
Unfortunately, Apple simply botched iAd. They made iAd harder to use and less compelling to use than rivals. Not surprisingly, most app developers chose to ignore iAd in favor of online ads from Google, Yahoo, or other companies. Apple tried to fix iAd but it was too late and now Apple plans to shut down iAd completely by the end of June.
iAd along with other recent failures such as Ping shows that Apple doesn’t always have the magic touch because they violate their own general guidelines. Namely, they should have created iAd to be the best experience possible for its customers, which were the developers who were going to use iAd to create and display ads within their apps.
Because Apple made iAd harder to use than rivals, it’s no surprise that developers simply chose other ad networks besides iAd. The bottom line is that when you fail to focus on your customers, your customers will always fail to focus on your product or service.
Apple’s failed social network, Ping, was another exercise in futility. Ping served no purpose and offered no advantage over other social networks like Facebook or Google+, so why should anyone have used Ping? The answer was few people did, so Ping quietly disappeared like iAd is disappearing.
If you want to fail in business, ignore your customers. This formula for failure worked for Apple, it works for Microsoft (Zune, Windows RT, Windows 8, etc.), and it works for every company and person in the world. The lesson is clear. Nobody is perfect and the root of most problems in business is ignoring the people who pay you money.