Here’s Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and his description of how Apple can be differentiated from other technology giants.
When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
Obviously, Cook’s statement was aimed at the likes of Google, Facebook, and to a lesser extent Amazon, but the clarity is pure Apple.
Apple has hundreds of millions of customers and works diligently to satisfy their needs. Google and Facebook’s customers are advertisers. Though financially successful, there’s an obvious misalignment going on; a strange conflation of user, customer, and product, sufficient that executives from Google, Facebook, and Amazon don’t want you to know about, and will defend any attempts to publicize it, up to and including the spread of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD).
A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers. I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper.
See the problem? Zuckerberg is defending an indefensible position, conflating customer and user and product in an obviously creepy way. That got me to thinking about how modern technology giants, in this case Google, Facebook, and to a slightly lesser extent, Amazon, have disrupted the once clear differentiation between users, customers, and products.
In other words, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are becoming more creepy. I wonder why.
Google’s former CEO and adult supervisor, Eric Schmidt:
There’s such an overwhelming amount of information now, we can search where you are, see what you’re looking at if you take a picture with your camera. One way to think about this is, we’re trying to make people better people, literally give them better ideas—augmenting their experience. Think of it as augmented humanity.
Facebook is in a similar position. The company tracks who you are, where you are, what you say, who you say it to, what you see, and can aggregate all that information to form a profile about you which is then sold to advertisers, Facebook’s real customers.
Amazon’s position is slightly different, but equally creepy. Amazon’s customers buy from Amazon, but Amazon tracks who you are, where you are, what you view, what you search for, why you buy, when you buy, and aggregates all that information to form a profile about you so it can better serve you by trying to sell you more products in tune with your wants and needs.
Amazon’s two latest technology gadgets are the new Echo and the smartphone flop, Fire Phone. Both devices can listen to what you say, store that information so Amazon’s profile of you grows, perhaps more accurately every day. Why? To better serve you more products to buy.
To a growing extent, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have reached a point where their pervasiveness and public goal is as obvious as the title of the short story by Damon Knight, ‘To Serve Man.’
That brings up another question. Are the co-founders and executives of Google, Facebook, and Amazon– Paige, Schmidt, Zuckerberg, Bezos– merely 21st century descendants or perhaps proxies of the Kanamit race?