Apple Ping Is Not a Social Network Site

When it comes to Apple you have two camps, the fanatical Apple fanboys and the Apple haters. The divide in between these two camps is wider than the digital divide and when it comes to real points both sides usually get them wrong. Since Apple announced iTunes 10 and its social commerce component Ping, I’ve seen this debate flare up again with new FUD and fodder. The first misconception between Apple fanboys and haters alike is that Ping is another social networking site. Ping is very much social, but it is not a networking or a site. Ping is a social commerce component integrated into iTunes via the iTunes desktop application and the iOS iTunes app available for the iPhone and iPad. Ping is a game changer, just like the Apple App Store was before that, and the iTunes before that, and the iPod before that. Ping is a game changer and tech pundits and press are trying to make it out with old rules from previous games/products, that’s their first fallacy. It is clear that one will use Ping to contact an old high school buddy or stalk an ex, like they would on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. Ping is all about social commerce, not social networking.

Unlike Facebook, that is forced to make money by extorting advertiser to buy ads to their own Facebook Pages, or forcing application developers in using their Facebook currency that is as worthless as a $10 billion Zimbabwe bill, Apple Ping is not about connecting you to friends and family and it sure doesn’t care about your social graph, it care about your consumption graph. Ping won’t compete for users with other social networking sites at the same level that Facebook does with Google Buzz or MySpace. For the most part, social networking sites like Facebook aim to be nothing more than a time sink, and they have grown in large part by social games oblige users to poke and send virtual lasagna to each other. Ping complements the users iTunes experience when they are already on iTunes looking for new music. This is evidently clear especially when you look at how social networking sites like Facebook uses numbers to describe their growth. Facebook describes their growth by counting the number of users that were active in a given month and trying to track the average number of hours a user is on Facebook. Apple tracks its growth by the number of products it has sold. Facebook is designed to simply waste peoples time and have them click on clicks, and Apple designs products that appeal to users.

I want to be clear about the following fact, especially since it is what most Apple haters get wrong. Apple does not need to be the marker leader to make the most money!!! Even though Apple has seen a growth in its market share in laptops, for example, it still has a small slice. But with double digit margins, it means it can sell less product and still make more money than commoditized competitors like Dell or HP. Apple has played this card well before, for example it is choosing a similar approach in the mobile space. It would rather have a small market share, and simply have a better profit margin and more control over its products. Unlike Facebook, Ping doesn’t need market share to be profitable. For example, Facebook requires millions of impressions to make a buck or two on ads.

In its current release, Ping reminds me a lot more to the first generation iPod than the iPod Touch. Currently, Ping feels clunky, is sparely populated, doesn’t have enough bands listed, has a ton of spam, doesn’t support music or apps, etc. At this stage, Ping is still lacking many features to make it comparable to what we expect from a social networking site. For example, when it was released numbers where not formatted with a comma for values larger than a thousand. This issue was fixed within a day of release. I would also like more personalization of my profile page, the ability to add my homepage URL, my other social networking sites, etc. Basically Ping needs a lot more polish, but I’ve heard that Steve Jobs has done that once or twice before for a new revolutionary product line.

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