Today’s Topics: TikTok’s Fate, Apple and Developer Good Will

What’s going on with TikTok is quite a saga. There are lawsuits against the US government, blog posts, and lobbying efforts attempting to show their transparency from everything to use growth to what data is used/collected, and where it goes. And now with the newly minted CEO Kevin Mayer announcing he is leaving the company. And even more news, today saying Walmart is joining the interested party and maybe linking up with other buyers in this sale.

Reports have suggested that whatever fate awaits TikTok is going to be announced shortly. While I’m not sure how a consortium of owners will play out, if that is indeed the resolution, TikTok’s fate has implications on a much broader global business strategy.

Years ago, I wrote an article called In Consumer Tech The World is Round. I was essentially arguing against the globalization theme of an easier ability to access a global market, which was the subject of the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman book called “The World is Flat.” My position was strictly that it may be much harder to be a global company than ever before. Everything from local currency, local apps, local entertainment and commerce, and even countries putting regulations in place that favor local companies over global ones entering their market. This is the China playbook, but it seems now, more than ever, this strategy is coming to most major countries. TikTok’s challenge in the US and India is the latest example and one this dynamic and may very well shape how companies think about their global strategies in the future.

This situation with TikTok has the potential to impact global strategy more than we currently comprehend. Coming off a decade where globalization was a key part of many company’s strategies, this pivot to semi-regionalization is fascinating to watch but also inline with the theory I presented in 2015.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the Walmart potential joint deal with Microsoft. If you look at what is a much larger trend of influencer commerce in China, and how major social apps have ties either to their own commerce marketplaces or in partnership with commerce platforms, it makes sense TikTok has ties to a commerce marketplace. Of all the social media apps I’ve used, TikTok is by far the best positioned for ads and social/influencer commerce. Mostly because the way the videos are produced makes ads feel fully integrated and often not like you are watching an ad. And second, because the promotion of products is so cleanly integrated into videos and in much more compelling ways than Instagram and Facebook ads. YouTube is a close second, but it is the continuous scrolling of the TikTok For You Page that better positions it for ads and social/influencer commerce over YouTube from a standpoint of discovery. If Walmart does indeed secure a position with TikTok, it will be interesting to see how Amazon and even Shopify can leverage potential integrations with TikTok. If any social media platform can pull off taking social/influencer commerce mainstream, I think it could be TikTok.

Apple Developer Good Will
I don’t want to get into Apple App store debates. in this section, but I do want to mention something briefly around Apple developer’s goodwill. While there are wide-ranging opinions on both sides of the app store debate, the one place I do think more risk exists is that of developer goodwill. This is also the one area I’m most sensitive to, and particularly when it comes to the smaller indie developers.

While I would not anticipate a max exodus of Apple developers for iOS, the concern I have over developer goodwill is more about the next platform battle than the current one. Admittedly the point I’m about to make is not terribly strong in my opinion, I do want to throw it out at least out there.

If this App Store situation were to greatly deteriorate Apple’s relationship with developers and create a wide sense of developers to be fed up with Apple, then developer support in the next platform (likely AR glasses/wearables) could be at risk. One of the primary arguments for Apple’s continued success from one platform generation (iOS) to the next is because of the software ecosystem. and developers who will create software experiences unique to Apple’s platform. The biggest risk to Apple platforms is absolutely losing their developer base.

If developer goodwill erodes to the point that a competitor can step in with a platform in whatever era comes next, there is a risk those developers are fed up enough and align more closely with someone else. Maybe Microsoft, Google, or someone new offers a more “developer friendly” approach with their AR glasses platform (for example,) and developers make the jump. Again, this is a big leap in thinking, but it is a potential scenario worth considering.

While I understand many of the arguments Apple has about the app store, developer goodwill is a central element to consider as they look to preserve what’s best for two sets of Apple customers, the end-user and the developer.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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