Apple released a trio of new iPhone ads, all of which are available at its website and on YouTube. The ads all share the tagline “If you don’t have an iPhone” and focus on key platform-exclusive features that aren’t available to any other device. It’s a good idea for Apple to highlight the areas where it excels, but I’m left scratching my head at why iBooks is one of the three highlighted features.
The first of the three ads focuses on the App Store, which is an obvious choice. Apple still owns the app market, despite the rapid growth of available software on the Android platform, so when Apple makes claims that Android users don’t have access to the largest selection of apps, there’s nothing to dispute.
It’s the same with the second ad, which talks about the iPhone’s iPod app and iTunes music store access. Apple wins at digital music distribution and has ruled the media player space almost as long as there’s been one to rule, and probably won’t be ceding that market anytime soon, despite new competition.
The last ad is the one that sticks out. It argues that if you don’t have an iPhone, you’re missing out on iBooks and the iBookstore. That’s true, but it’s hardly a landslide competitive advantage for the iOS platform in the way that the App Store and iTunes are. Apple may use the same formula for all three ads (the iPhone has store X access, which provides content Y for use on your device), but while the first two seem to be selling the iPhone using platform features as incentives, I’d argue that the last is doing just the opposite.
The iBookstore has failed to gain the kind of traction of Amazon’s Kindle storefront and app, which is multiplatform and had a significant head start in the e-book market. Back in October 2010, TUAW posted a dismal overview of the state of iBooks, and the situation hasn’t changed much, though Apple now has Random House in the iBookstore stable in addition to its original five major publishing partners. Even with that addition, Apple still only boasts around 200,000 titles, while the Kindle store offered more than 800,000 at last count.
Apple is poised for a stand-off with Kindle come June 30, when the Mac-maker begins enforcing its in-app content purchasing rules, which would see Amazon have to give up a 30-percent cut of book sales made through its iOS apps, and prevent it from offering a link to its own external storefront. The inclusion of Apple’s iBooks in this latest ad campaign may be a subtle move on Apple’s part to foreground its own Kindle alternative as it prepares for the possibility of losing Amazon’s popular e-reading solution altogether, but ultimately, it only serves to remind us that iBooks is the area Apple most needs to work on improving.