In April 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s eagerly-anticipated mobile advertising platform, iAd. Promising to change mobile advertising as we knew it, Jobs painted a vivid portrait of the future he envisioned. It was a bold prediction that, three years later, has largely come true… for Android.
Shortly after Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011, The Wall Street Journal declared the iAd service a dud. From losing key executives in the iAd division, to the company’s embarrassing reduction of its minimal annual buy in requirement for advertisers (from $1 million to $100,000) Apple's mobile advertising platform clearly did not set the mobile ad world on fire.
Still, many credit Jobs for lighting the match that would help the mobile ad industry heat up in the years ahead. Some argue that it was Jobs alone who provided critical inspiration for innovation at a time when the nascent mobile advertising business needed it most.
"There's no question that iAd has been a disappointment for iOS," marketing analyst Mike Randazzo tells Examiner this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. "But Jobs elevated the level of discourse on mobile advertising to such a degree that he helped spark a trend of innovation that worked to move the entire industry forward."
Ironically, in what amounts to perhaps the cruelest twist of fate for Jobs, today’s mobile ad boom has benefited the Android platform tremendously. In fact, the profitability for developers that Jobs wanted to produce on the iOS side has really only happened on the Android side.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine Steve Jobs liking this outcome, regardless of his affection for mobile app developers.
“I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product,” the late Apple chief once declared. “I'm willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google's products—Android, Google Docs—are s**t.”
Despite his reputation as a business and tech visionary, not even Steve Jobs could apparently foresee the vibrancy of today’s Android ecosystem.
“A prosperous network of quality app developers is critical for Android as competition among Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft in the fast-growing mobile gadget market heats up,” says the writer Alexei Oreskovic. “Eye-catching design and top-notch hardware components are key selling points for smartphones and tablets, but vibrant digital apps and content are becoming equally essential to a product’s overall appeal.”
Clearly, it’s more than a device war. This is now a full-fledged ecosystem battle. And Android is winning.
“Android phones reached a significant milestone during the fourth quarter of 2012,” says Erica Ogg of Gigaom. “They drove more mobile advertising impressions than iPhones during a quarter, for the first time ever.”
“In the U.S. we think that this is considerably helped by the emergence of Samsung and the Galaxy S III,” asserts Mahi De Silva, EVP of Opera’s consumer mobile division. “They’re pouring a lot of dollars into the market, and they have favorable pricing with mobile operators, so that entire market has a lot of momentum [toward] adoption of Samsung Android devices.”
In addition to the hardware makers and app creators giving Android unprecedented thrust, mobile ad networks are doing their part as well to fuel the little green robot’s expansion.
“Look at Airpush,” Randazzo says. “It’s an Android ad network that doubled in size every quarter last year, mostly on the strength of their innovative ad formats. These ad networks are seeing the type of growth and engagement that iAd would kill for. But last year the mobile ad industry’s biggest gains came from pioneers on the Android side of the aisle. And I suspect that will remain true for 2013 as well.”
So while Jobs’ legacy in mobile advertising definitely lives on today, the question now begs to be asked: Was Steve Jobs’ creation of iAd the best thing that ever happened for mobile advertising on Android?
You be the judge.