Big data reveals Mac users book pricier hotels

It appears as if Apple (s aapl) users’ willingness to shell out a little more cash for a premium experience doesn’t stop at computers. According to Orbitz (s oww) CEO Barney Harford, his company’s data-crunching shows Mac users also spend about $20 more a night on hotels than do Windows (s msft) users. For anyone any still wondering why Hadoop is so hot right now, it’s because it helps uncover insights like this.

The Mac versus Windows revelation is one of many in a Hadoop-focused interview with Harford by travel-business news site Tnooz. In the interview, Harford discusses how Orbitz Worldwide analyzes every aspect of visitors’ sessions on its sites in order to determine to a tee the preferences of any given visitor. Just like with every e-commerce site on the web — from Amazon (a amzn) to eBay (s ebay) to Etsy — more personalization means more sales, and that’s exactly where many companies in the business of selling stuff are focusing their analytics attention.

The insight into Mac users’ booking preferences is just a very illustrative case in point. It’s the kind of seemingly mundane question web sites might not have thought to ask until big data processing and analytics technologies made it possible. Knowing what it knows, though, Harford said Orbitz eventually plans to provide Mac users with a different hotel-sorting experience than it provides their Windows counterparts.

It’s easy to see how a single data point like this could spread. Maybe that predilection toward more-expensive hotels carries over into car rentals and flights, too. Maybe Mac users buy more (or less) tickets to local activities in their destination cities, or buy different types of tickets.

If other sites haven’t been tracking customer behavior based on operating system, perhaps they’ll start, because it’s one more opportunity to personalize the online experience before ever knowing anything about a visitor’s activity on your site. I’d be willing to bet there’s a general trend of Mac users buying more-expensive products overall, and of buying different types of products and services than Windows users buy. New eBay property Hunch certainly found meaningful differences between the two camps.

But deploying Hadoop alone won’t make insights magically appear. It would be great to see more companies highlighting some of the interesting data points they’ve uncovered, so that newcomers to big data have an idea where to start and what’s possible. Big data technologies can help users find the answers, but (with some exceptions for pattern-detecting algorithms) they can’t tell users what questions to ask.

Image courtesy of Flickr user ricardoalvarez.