iAd for the iPad (and iPhone/iPod touch)?

Xavier Verhoeven
29 March, 2010
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Rumours abound that Apple is set to unveil a new mobile advertising platform on 7 April, likely resultant from their its acquisition of Quattro Wireless earlier this year.

It’s not uncommon for Apple to buy smaller companies and incorporate their technologies into its own. Its purchase of Steve Jobs’ company NeXT in 1997 formed the basis of the OS X operation system a few years later, and its 2005 decision to buy FingerWorks likely propelled the touch-based computing seen on the iPhone and iPod touch since 2007. More recently, Apple bought PA Semi, a Californian semiconductor company, in 2008. That purchase probably stimulated Apple’s internal development of mobile processors, and may have been behind the A4 in the upcoming iPad.

Apple’s intentions in acquiring Quattro Wireless have been pretty clear from the outset: “We acquired Quattro because we wanted to offer a seamless way for developers to make more money on their apps, especially free apps,” chief financial officer Peter Openheimer said after the first-quarter earnings conference call in January.

But given that Apple only bought the mobile advertising company earlier this year, the announcement that the purchase is bearing fruit after only a couple of months comes as a surprise.

Beyond Openheimer’s comments, there are few details on what the platform might entail. An interesting suggestion based on an Apple job advertisement is that Apple will develop a software development kit (SDK) that allows easy insertion of ads into applications built for its mobile OS.

The platform has been dubbed ‘iAd’, and has apparently been described as “revolutionary” by Steve Jobs. There is also suggestion that the platform will incorporate location-aware ads, and probably a deluge of demographic information gleaned from users’ iTunes behaviour.

Of course, this news furthers the increasing level of competition between Apple and Google, the latter of which also bought AdMob, another mobile advertising company, earlier this year. But given that Steve Jobs and Google CEO Eric Schmidt were spotted on a coffee date last week, perhaps the two companies are not as at-odds as we might believe. Then again, perhaps the photos were staged.

I look forward to seeing whether Apple can make the ads on my free iPhone apps a little less annoying.

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