Apple’s New iOS 6 Ad Tracking Feature Is ‘Broken,’ Says One Source

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

With the new iOS 6 operating software released with the launch of the iPhone 5 last Friday, Apple introduced a new version of a feature that allows advertisers to track phones to serve targeted ads. But it seems that for people who updated their iPhones via wireless networks, Apple’s new Advertising Identifier is not working.

That’s a big deal for advertisers, for which iPhones and iPads are a rich channel for mobile marketing. Without being able to identify users–or more accurately, their phones–they can’t track whether those ads produced a sale or other “conversion” such as an app installation. And they may not to spend a lot on iOS ads until they can do that again. “It’s crucial for the advertising market,” says Ravi Kamran, CEO of the apps marketing platform Trademob, which discovered the problem. “It drives the whole ecosystem.”

Apple’s new Advertising Identifier, which replaced a Unique Device Identifier widely seen as flawed from a privacy perspective, shows numerical IDs that are entirely zeroes instead of the usual unique sequence of numbers. In an interview, Kamran said the problem affects only those phones updated via WiFi, not via iTunes on a computer or via Xcode that Apple software developers use, but that’s a lot of people.

For the time being, advertisers will have to depend on third-party identifiers such as Open Device Identification Number, Kamran says. IPhone and iPad users who don’t like being tracked may be perfectly happy the Advertising Identifier doesn’t work. But the new identifier also offered a way to opt out of tracking, so ultimately a working Apple identifier is probably desirable for all concerned.

I’ve contacted Apple on whether it’s aware of the issue and what it may do about it and will update this post if and when I hear back.

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Is The Long-Awaited Facebook Ad Network Here? Not Yet, But Here’s An Early Glimpse

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface

Facebook mobile interface (Photo: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

For years, advertisers have been wondering when Facebook would create its own ad network like Google’s AdSense, which syndicates ads across thousands of websites. Google grossed more than $10 billion last year on that business.

Now we’re getting a hint that Facebook may be preparing to flip the switch on its own ad network. Today, the social network said it’s testing Facebook ads that use its own data to target ads to Facebook users as they land on other websites and on mobile apps.

The company isn’t calling it an ad network, because for now it’s just a test. A Facebook spokesperson says it’s using outside Apple iOS and Android ad exchanges to run the test, not its own technology, but it is an ad network in function. So you can bet that if it works–and Facebook hasn’t decided how long the test will be conducted–a bona fide Facebook ad network won’t be far behind.

Details are sparse, since Facebook isn’t saying which advertisers, publishers, and mobile ad exchanges are involved in the test. It’s a “very small number” of each, says Facebook. Most of the ads, which will be standard banners and “interstitials” that run just before a web page loads, will likely be for app installations. The main value for marketers and apps is that Facebook’s user data on age, gender, and “likes,” offered freely by its members, is usually considered to be more accurate than other kinds of data collected on people as they browse online.

This is the latest and still relatively limited move by Facebook to expand its ad business beyond Facebook.com. In June, it started placing ads on social games site Zynga.com, the social games siteed on Facebook. The same month, it introduced the Facebook Exchange, which lets marketers target customers and prospects with ads on Facebook using their own data, not just Facebook’s.

This is also a further push into mobile advertising, the lack of which has been a thorn in Facebook’s side since its less-than-blockbuster initial public offering in May. Separately today, Facebook announced a new version of its  Pages Manager mobile app that will let businesses buy a new mobile ad format called promoted posts directly from their mobile phones.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that he thinks mobile will be even bigger for Facebook’s ad business than the Web. Today’s announcement shows it’s more than just talk.

But investors and advertisers will still have to wait awhile longer for the full-fledged Facebook ad network–and the big boost in revenues that they hope will come with it.

Five Reasons Apple May Not Dare To Sue Google

The official online color is: #A4C639 . 한국어: 공...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Now that Apple has scored a decisive win over Samsung in its smartphone patent trial, the big question is whether the maker of the iPhone and the iPad will go after the real enemy: Google. The search company is the maker of the Android software underlying Samsung’s and many other companies’ mobile devices, after all.

But a direct shot at Google looks unlikely at this point for a variety of reasons:

* Apple’s schoolyard bully strategy of going after the legal weaklings like Samsung worked like a charm, so it’s likely to continue going after hardware firms such as HTC and the now Google-owned Motorola Mobility, rather than Google directly. There are many other cases involving those companies, as well as Samsung, around the world–plenty to keep Apple busy, especially now that it has such a clear victory to build upon.

Indeed, patent expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, a persistent Google critic, thinks Apple is more likely to go after Amazon.com first. As Mueller told Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt: “If I were in Apple’s shoes the next company I would sue is not Google, but Amazon, which has an even weaker patent portfolio than Google and sells large volumes of Android-based devices with a subsidies-centric revenue model, which is even more of a threat to Apple’s margins than Google’s advertising-based model.”

* Other hardware makers may now decide to settle with Apple, ratcheting down the need for Apple to go after Google. Analyst after analyst notes that with the clear loss for Samsung, the leader among Android device makers, other firms may decide it’s not worth continuing a fight they now seem more likely to lose.

* Apple looks less likely to win a patent infringement case versus Google. For one, Google itself mostly makes only software, and although its Nexus S device co-branded with manufacturer Samsung was identified by the jury as infringing Apple’s patents, it’s the only one and it’s not clear whether a single device provides a strong case for a separate suit. (It’s also not on Apple’s list of Samsung products it wants banned from sale.)

What’s more, Google doesn’t charge hardware companies for using Android, relying instead on ad revenues derived from Android device use, so there may not be much for Apple to sue about. Finally, let’s not forget that Android existed well before the iPhone came out–in fact, Google bought the company that made it in 2005, two years before the first iPhone. That doesn’t guarantee that whatever Google has done with Android since then is on firm patent ground, but it doesn’t seem a stretch to cast doubt in a jury’s collective mind that Android is simply copying iOS when Android the company clearly predates the iPhone.

Not least, Google has pockets deep enough to counter whatever legal threats Apple throws at it. Indeed, this ruling could well galvanize Google’s mostly passive efforts so far to protect Android hardware licensees. Apple may get all it wants from going after hardware producers, given that Apple makes most of its money from hardware itself.

* Apple has already gotten what it wanted from Google with this ruling: the likelihood that Google will have to change aspects of Android to avoid infringement, potentially reducing the competitiveness of Android devices. As Needham & Co.’s Charles Wolf writes: “Google will be forced to design workarounds of the violated software patents, which was the intent of Apple’s lawsuit, not the monetary award. These workarounds are likely to materially degrade the Android user experience relative to the user experience on Apple’s iOS operating system.”

* Google itself may start talking with Apple about some kind of way to avoid litigation. Wells Fargo Securities’ Maynard Um told investors in a note today that the $250 million or more that Apple could get in licensing fees from Samsung–not to mention additional fees from other device makers that may settle or lose in court as well–would be significant enough for Apple to be worthwhile. Add Google in there, and it may be a cash flow Apple can’t resist. After all, it apparently already offered a royalty deal to Samsung, whose rejection led to Apple’s suit.

One might wonder why Apple would feel the need to deal. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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