There Were 3D Cameras Capturing the NBA Slam Dunk Contest 

Malcom Owen, writing for AppleInsider:

Owners of the Apple Vision Pro may get a lot more basketball content to watch using the headset, with the NBA Slam Dunk Contest offering a close look at a camera used to capture the immersive video. [...]

In a clip of the first-round highlights from the 2024 NBA Slam Dunk Contest tipped by @lujahehe on X, an unusual camera is displayed next to the judges. The camera isn’t mentioned or used at all during the broadcast nor particularly highlighted by the camera, but it happens to appear fairly prominently in the frame.

It seems very likely that is a stereoscopic camera, but I wouldn’t assume that’s it’s specifically Apple’s. Could just as well be the NBA’s. But if I had to bet, I’d bet it was Apple’s, or is part of an exclusive deal between Apple and the NBA.

And surely, they had cameras in other locations too. Watching the dunk contest from right behind the backboard must be astonishing.

Nylas for Email and Calendar APIs 

My thanks to Nylas for sponsoring last week at DF. Nylas just launched v3 of their API last week. They rebuilt an already-great API platform with the developer experience and productivity in mind — redefining what a modern API should look like. Nylas offers a single great set of APIs for email, calendaring, and contacts.

Start building with Nylas today to discover why Nylas is trusted by 250,000+ developers at companies like Upwork, Wix, Salesloft, and Remax.

Epic Games Store Coming to iOS This Year in the EU 

Epic Games, in their 2023 year in review:

We’ve received our Apple Developer Account and will start developing the Epic Games Store on iOS soon thanks to the new Digital Markets Act. We plan to launch in 2024. Epic Games Sweden AB will operate the mobile Epic Games Store and Fortnite in Europe, with the Store team leading development.

Epic Games Sweden has 3 studios and 60+ employees.

Tim Sweeney, on Twitter/X:

I’ll be the first to acknowledge a good faith move by Apple amidst our cataclysmic antitrust battle, in granting Epic Games Sweden AB a developer account for operating Epic Games Store and Fortnite in Europe under the Digital Markets Act.

This is the first serious announcement of an iOS EU app marketplace I’ve seen, and a seeming refutation of the notion that “no one” would accept Apple’s proposed terms.

Make the iOS Epic Games Store a hit. Make Epic lots of money. Make Apple a reasonable €0.50 per game installed. Bring Fortnite back to iOS. If Fortnite only comes back to iOS for EU users, then that’s a clear win for the DMA.

Apple plays hardball, for sure. And Apple has a long institutional memory and knows how to hold a grudge. But Apple is not a spiteful company. Apple likes its corporate nose right where it is — on its face. They play hardball strategically — to their own advantage first, to their users’ advantage second. That’s something Apple’s most vehement critics just don’t get. Setting up Epic to be a winner under their DMA compliance also sets Apple up to be a winner.

Who better to get on their side than Epic? This isn’t exactly what we wanted but it’s better than before, and so thanks to the DMA and the European Commission, Fortnite is back on iPhone and iPhone users in the EU have a great new game store that isn’t available anywhere else in the world. That would make the EC beam with pride. The fact that Epic (and Sweeney personally) still aren’t entirely happily would just make the EC more certain they did a good job. If no one’s quite happy, it must be fair, goes the thinking of all lazy referees.

It would be quite the public relations coup for Apple to get Epic and Tim Sweeney on their side. And game stores in particular seem like a perfect fit for Apple’s marketplaces, because games primarily monetize by getting players to pay, not just be tracked to be shown ads. Strange times make for strange bedfellows.


The European Commission Had Nothing to Do With Apple’s Reversal on Supporting RCS

The European Commission, earlier this week:

Yesterday, the Commission has adopted decisions closing four market investigations that were launched on 5 September 2023 under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), finding that Apple and Microsoft should not be designated as gatekeepers for the following core platform services: Apple’s messaging service iMessage, Microsoft’s online search engine Bing, web browser Edge and online advertising service Microsoft Advertising.

The decisions conclude the Commission’s investigations opened following the notification by Apple and Microsoft in July 2023 of the core platform services that met the quantitative thresholds. Among these notified services were also the four services concerned by today’s decisions. Together with the notifications, Apple and Microsoft also submitted so-called ‘rebuttal’ arguments, explaining why despite meeting the quantitative thresholds, these four core platform services should not, in their view, qualify as gateways.

We’ve had pretty obvious hints since early September that iMessage and Bing would be considered exempt from “gatekeeper” status, and thus exempt from the DMA. Now that’s official.

But in November, when Apple changed course and announced that it would support the RCS messaging standard, many Apple critics/EC cheerleaders simply presumed that Apple’s change of mind on RCS was somehow the result of the EU’s regulatory muscle. This made zero sense, other than revealing an irrational, dare I say fanatical, belief in the righteousness of overzealous government regulation versus natural market forces. For one thing, it made no sense timing-wise: word leaked from the EU in September that iMessage was not going to be considered a gatekeeper — a decision made official this week — but somehow Apple announced “coming next year” support for RCS in November?

Second, the DMA makes no mention of “RCS” anywhere. It’s just not mentioned. There are provisions in the DMA regarding messaging platform “interoperability”, but that’s about some sort of fantasy world where disparate platforms like iMessage, WhatsApp, Instagram DMs, and Facebook Messenger could be forced to allow the interchange of messages between platforms while maintaining end-to-end encryption, and open themselves to interop with upstarts like Signal. RCS isn’t an interop protocol between messaging platforms. RCS is a messaging platform itself — one that offers no encryption in its standard, and which is controlled by cell phone carriers. RCS is just a slightly better replacement for SMS.

The surprisingly-commonly-held assumption that the EC forced Apple’s change of mind on RCS is just lazy thinking: Apple said, for years, they didn’t want to support RCS (true); the DMA is imposing new regulations on Apple that will force it to do some things Apple doesn’t want to do (true); therefore it was the DMA that forced Apple to change its mind on RCS (fallacious conclusion). It also belies an ignorance of what iMessage is. iMessage is not SMS with blue bubbles and higher-resolution attachments. iMessage is a wholly independent messaging platform that is offered as a free-of-charge service for Apple device owners, with full-featured clients for Mac, iPad, and Vision. You can — and most people do — use your phone number as your primary unique identifier for iMessage, but you can also use any email address attached to your Apple ID account. Other platforms that have nothing to do with carrier-based SMS or RCS messaging use phone numbers for identifiers too — e.g. Signal and WhatsApp — but iMessage stands alone among popular services for allowing you to use it without even having a phone or phone number.

RCS is like SMS in that you must have a phone, must have an active SIM card with a cellular carrier, and can only use that phone to use RCS. You might say, “Hey, wait a minute, I send and receive SMS messages in the Messages app on my iPad and Mac — not just my iPhone.” But that’s just clever programming on Apple’s part. Every single green SMS message you send or receive on your iPad, Mac, or Vision Pro is being sent and received through your iPhone. Messages simply handles the “it just works” magic between your multiple devices to make it seem like other devices can act as true SMS client devices. Power your iPhone off and try to send or receive an SMS message from another Apple device. It doesn’t work, because it can’t work, because SMS is a phone carrier protocol. RCS is exactly the same in that regard. You need a phone to use RCS. You don’t need a phone to use iMessage.

So even if iMessage had been deemed a “gatekeeper” messaging platform by the European Commission — which it was not — adding RCS support to the iPhone Messages app would not have mattered a whit when it came to DMA compliance. The Messages app is a client for multiple messaging platforms — SMS and iMessage. It’s the iMessage platform that the DMA might have applied to. And adding support for RCS to the Messages app on iPhones wouldn’t have made any difference at all regarding interoperability with non-cellular “gatekeeping” messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

But then why did Apple do a 180° turn on RCS? I can’t say for certain, alas, but after spending the last few months periodically poking around the trees inhabited by little birdies, I do have good news for fans of coercive government regulation. Apple’s hand was effectively forced. But by China, not the EU.

Chinese carriers have been proponents of RCS for years, and last year, the Chinese government began the process of codifying into law that to achieve certification, new 5G devices will be required to support RCS. (Here’s a good English translation on Reddit of the parts relevant to Apple.) Shockingly, the Chinese government seemingly isn’t concerned that the RCS standard has no provisions for encryption. The little birdies I’ve spoken to all said the same thing: iOS support for RCS is all about China.

Apple would prefer simply to continue ignoring RCS, on the grounds that they want to support neither any new non-E2EE protocols, nor any new carrier-controlled protocols (whether encrypted or not). But when the CCP says device makers must jump to sell their products in China, Apple asks “How high?”

China, unlike the EU, seemingly knows how to draft effective regulations to achieve specific goals. 


Trump Ordered to Pay $355 Million in NY Civil Fraud Trial Ruling 

Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess, reporting for The New York Times:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Not only did Justice Engoron impose a three-year ban preventing Mr. Trump from serving in top roles at any New York company, including his own, but the judge also applied that punishment to the former president’s adult sons for two years and ordered that they pay more than $4 million each. One of the sons, Eric Trump, is the Trump Organization’s de facto chief executive, and the ruling throws into doubt whether any member of the family can run the business in the near term.

In his unconventional style, Justice Engoron criticized Mr. Trump and the other defendants for refusing to admit errors for years. “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” he said.

Trump’s social media feed today is chock full of dozens of (totally sane, rational, well-reasoned) comments on this court decision, without a single word regarding Russian political prisoner and Putin critic/rival Alexei Navalny’s death in a Siberian prison. But he did make time to mention that he’ll be at Sneakercon here in Philly tomorrow.

Putin Rival Alexei Navalny Dies in Siberian Prison 

Robyn Dixon, David M. Herszenhorn, and Catherine Belton, reporting for The Washington Post:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the defiant anti-corruption crusader and democracy champion who was President Vladimir Putin’s despised nemesis, died suddenly in an Arctic Russian prison colony on Friday, penitentiary officials said, removing the most prominent figure inside Russia willing to challenge the Kremlin’s rule.

Referring to Navalny as Putin’s “nemesis” — which description the Post also uses in its headline — whitewashes just how despicable his attempted assassination, yearslong imprisonment, and now (presumed) actual assassination were. It’s a dysphemism — the opposite of a euphemism. Navalny was a political rival and staunch proponent of democracy. Putin was Navalny’s nemesis, but not the other way around.

His death — foretold as almost inevitable, including by Navalny himself — sent shock waves across Russia and was quickly condemned by global leaders, some of whom joined Russian opposition figures in calling it a state-sponsored murder. Navalny, 47, had appeared a court hearing by video link the day before, seemingly in good health and with his trademark humor intact.

Navalny’s family and his team, who continued to run his political operation in exile, had warned that his life was in danger since his arrest in January 2021, when he returned to Russia after recovering in Germany from being poisoned with a banned nerve agent. An investigation led by Navalny and Bellingcat, an investigative journalism organization, had identified a team of Russian federal security agents as responsible for the assassination attempt, and his supporters noted that in prison he was in the clutches of the very government that had already tried to kill him several times.

Until 2017, Navalny’s death would have been met with bipartisan, near-universal condemnation here in the United States. No more. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a political party that has turned against fair democratic elections — a party whose undisputed leader has, just weeks ago, argued in court that the president of the United States could not be prosecuted in court for ordering the assassination of his political rivals — sees Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a model to follow, not an enemy to defeat.

Nearly 250 years after the founding of our nation, genuine democracy remains a radical — and alas, fragile — idea.

Meta’s Oculus Quest App Lab 

So I found an answer to my intrigue regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s off-handed quip about “neural interfaces”, but I’m still at a loss to understand his positioning of Quest as the “open” alternative to Apple’s “closed” Vision. One friend sent me a pointer to Meta’s “App Lab”, which they announced in February 2021:

Whether the goal is to build a business, create a community, test and experiment with new apps, or get feedback on new ideas, you control how your app is distributed. App Lab supports both free and paid apps, which are shareable via a URL or Oculus Keys. While App Lab is distinct from the Oculus Store and App Lab apps won’t appear in the Oculus Store, customers who install apps from App Lab will find them in their Quest library. App Lab apps can also be searched by exact name and found in the “App Lab” section of results. App Lab apps can access the majority of standard platform features, including automatic update distribution, platform integration and SDKs, app analytics, release channels, and more.

We’ve taken steps to reduce the technical requirements and Virtual Reality Checks (VRCs) to make submission as simple as possible. In order to promote a safe, secure and positive experience, App Lab apps are required to comply with our App Lab Policies, including our Oculus Content Guidelines, Data Use Policy, and App Policies.

Follow that link to “App Policies” and you’ll see that this doesn’t sound very different from Apple’s iOS-derived platforms:

Apps hosted on the platform may not contain, use, or make available commerce solutions — including for app payment processing, in-app purchases, or in-app advertising — except as provided in the platform SDK, or otherwise expressly agreed by you and Meta Platforms Technologies in writing. For example, if your app has in-app purchases, and your app is distributed through any Meta Platforms Technologies distribution channel, including the Meta Quest Store, you must use the Platform In-App Purchases to handle such payment processing.

There’s also a third-party thing called SideQuest that ostensibly lets you “sideload” apps on a Quest, but it requires both desktop software on a Mac or PC and a Meta developer account. I can definitely see how Quest is at least slightly more open than Vision, but on the grand scale of open-vs.-closed platforms, it seems pretty closed. What am I missing?

Meta Acquired a Neural Interface Startup in 2019 

Nick Statt, reporting for The Verge in September 2019:

Facebook today announced that it will acquire neural interface startup CTRL-Labs, a company that makes a wristband capable of transmitting electrical signals from the brain into computer input.

The deal, which Bloomberg reports is worth somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion, is the most substantial acquisition Facebook has made in the last half decade, since it paid $2 billion to acquire virtual reality company Oculus VR in 2014.

I don’t remember noting this acquisition at the time, but a friend reminded me of it the other day after my sort-of “Whoa, what?!” reaction to Mark Zuckerberg just casually suggesting that hand-tracking might be merely a stopgap interface for XR headsets until we have “neural interfaces”.

From that same Verge report:

Bosworth says CTRL-Labs, which was co-founded by Internet Explorer creator and neuroscientist Thomas Reardon, “will be joining our Facebook Reality Labs team where we hope to build this kind of technology, at scale, and get it into consumer products faster.”

Patrick Kaifosh is CTRL-Labs’ other co-founder, and he is also a neuroscientist. Reardon, the company’s CEO, left his career in software engineering to study neuroscience and received his PhD in 2016.

That’s quite the second career for Reardon. If I recall correctly, Internet Explorer was fairly popular at one time.


Phil Spencer Puts Apple’s Money Where His Mouth Is

The Verge’s Tom Warren landed an interview with Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Xbox CEO, regarding their (sort of) announcement that four previously-exclusive Xbox games are going cross-platform to PlayStation and Switch:

Launching a few Xbox exclusives on rival consoles feels like the natural next step in Microsoft’s grand plan, but it’s also a risky one: it could undermine the Xbox hardware sales that support Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription effort and its Xbox ecosystem, forcing Microsoft to go fully multiplatform and become a software-only games company like Sega.

Spencer is all too aware of the risks, but he sees an opportunity to make more money on rival consoles to support Microsoft’s game creation, and ultimately bring games to more players.

One weird aspect of this announcement — hence my “sort of” parenthetical above — is that Microsoft hasn’t actually named any of the four formerly exclusive titles they’re porting to PS5 and Switch.

The whole interview is interesting, and it sure sounds like Microsoft is working on a Steamdeck-like handheld. The strategy sounds a little bit like Warner Bros Discovery putting some of their library content on Netflix. Netflix is to PlayStation what Max is to Xbox? Second-fiddle bends to the market leader. You don’t see rumors of Sony putting PlayStation exclusives on Xbox, and you don’t see Netflix putting any of their original content — no matter how old — on Max.

Toward the end of the interview Warren asks Spencer about Apple and the DMA:

Warren: Some of that regulatory work isn’t done like you mentioned, so what do you think about Apple’s changes for the DMA? And is there room for Xbox Cloud Gaming now on iOS?

Spencer: There’s not room for us to monetize Xbox Cloud Gaming on iOS. I think the proposal that Apple put forward — and I thought Sarah Bond’s comments on this were right on — doesn’t go far enough to open up. In fact, you might even say they go the opposite direction in some way, but they definitely don’t go far enough to open up competition on the world’s largest gaming platform.

We will continue to work with regulators, and Apple and Google, to create a space for alternative storefronts. I’m a big fan of how Windows works, and you’ve got a Microsoft Store on Windows, you’ve got Steam, you’ve got the Epic Games Store, you’ve got GOG. You have alternatives, and I think alternative ways for people to buy things creates goodness for consumers and creators. I think the largest platform for gamers, which is mobile, should have the same.

Sarah Bond is Xbox’s president, and I believe her only comment on Apple’s DMA compliance plans was this tweet:

We believe constructive conversations drive change and progress towards open platforms and greater competition. Apple’s new policy is a step in the wrong direction. We hope they listen to feedback on their proposed plan and work towards a more inclusive future for all.

More than any of the words in her own tweet, what conveyed Microsoft’s actual stance towards Apple’s proposals is the fact that her tweet was a retweet of Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s diatribe lambasting the whole proposal.

But I don’t understand how Warren let this answer slide. If Spencer thinks Apple’s proposed DMA compliance is a “step in the wrong direction”, and he’s “a big fan of how Windows works”, then why doesn’t Xbox work like Windows works? There’s no Steam or Epic Games Store or GOG on iOS. But there’s no Steam or Epic Games Store or GOG on Xbox. So how in the world does Spencer think Apple should be forced by government regulators to open their platform to these alternative stores when he could snap his fingers and open his company’s own platform, Xbox, to these same stores?

He says “I think the largest platform for gamers, which is mobile, should have the same” rules as Windows, so I think he’s trying to make an argument that different rules should apply to iOS than Xbox because iOS is more popular. But iOS became this popular with all of these rules. It’s not like iOS used to be open, became popular under more open rules for software distribution and digital content purchases, and then Apple closed it down. iOS is more closed than open, but it’s only become more open over time.

If the CEO of Xbox were able to say, “iOS should have the same rules and policies for alternative stores and payments as Xbox”, that would be a credible argument. But it’s ridiculous for the CEO of Xbox to argue that iOS should have similar rules and policies to Windows, when Xbox — another platform from the same company — has rules that are, if anything, more restrictive and exclusive than iOS. It would be ludicrous for Tim Cook or Eddy Cue or Phil Schiller to argue that Xbox should have the same rules as Windows — but they’re not making that argument. Spencer is. And he’s in charge of Xbox!

If he thinks iOS should open up to zero-royalty, zero-fee native app distribution, open up Xbox first. Put your money where your mouth is. 


Mark Zuckerberg on Vision Pro 

I really found this interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s just incredibly down-to-earth. Most of the video was shot in a single take, using a Quest 3. Just very casual — but it’s the CEO of a $1 trillion company reviewing and critiquing the rival product from a $3 trillion company. I can’t imagine Tim Cook (or Sundar Pichai) making a video like this. It would just be so out of character for Cook and for Apple itself. But this felt very natural coming from Zuckerberg. Apple is clearly better at making computers, but Meta is just as clearly better at social media. And I really would love to hear Tim Cook’s thoughts on the Quest 3 and how it compares to Vision Pro.

Zuck makes the case that Quest 3 isn’t just good for its price — he goes all-in and argues that it’s a better headset, period. Whether you agree with him or not, he does a good job delineating the very different trade-offs Meta and Apple chose to make.

At the end, he makes the case that each new generation of computing devices has an open alternative and a closed one from Apple. (It’s interesting to think that these rivalries might be best thought of not as closed-vs.-open, but as Apple-vs.-the-rest-of-the-industry.) I’m not quite sure where he’s going with that, though, because I don’t really see how my Quest 3 is any more “open” than my Vision Pro. Are they going to license the OS to other headset makers?

Lastly, Zuckerberg, discussing Apple’s decision to use hand-tracking for control of the interface, just casually mentions that hand-tracking is effectively a stop-gap until we get a “neural interface”.

Update: Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth has posted a short video review, too.

The Talk Show: ‘I‘m a Real-World Man’ 

Adam Lisagor returns to the show to discuss, while wearing, Apple Vision Pro.

Audio only:

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LastPass Rip-Off Named ‘LassPass’ Made It Into the App Store 

Mike Kosak, writing for the LastPass company blog:

LastPass would like to alert our customers to a fraudulent app attempting to impersonate our LastPass app on the Apple App Store. The app in question is called “LassPass Password Manager” and lists Parvati Patel as the developer. The app attempts to copy our branding and user interface, though close examination of the posted screenshots reveal misspellings and other indicators the app is fraudulent.

“LassPass” sounds like a Scottish dating app.

I was able to install LassPass earlier today, before Apple removed it. I think it’s just a blatant brand rip-off, not an attempt to phish the credentials from actual LastPass customers. The app itself doesn’t look like LastPass, and never prompts you to log into an existing LastPass account. Instead, the scam LassPass app tries to steer you to creating a “pro” account subscription for $2/month, $10/year, or a $50 lifetime purchase. Those are actually low prices for a scam app — a lot of scammy apps try to charge like $10/week.

But whatever LassPass is, it obviously shouldn’t have been approved by App Store review. And that leads to a predictable knee-jerk response:

  • “Hagen”: “fake password manager in the app store. isn’t this what the 30% cut is supposed to protect us from?”
  • Emil Protalinski: “I don’t understand. I thought Apple uses the money from its 30% tax to stop phishing apps from getting into its app store?”
  • Mary Branscombe: “if Apple is going to insist that having the only app store on its devices is there to be a security barrier, letting through fake apps doesn’t help with that argument”

Branscombe is correct that even isolated incidents like this hurt Apple’s arguments in favor of App Store exclusivity. But what’s the counterargument? That anything short of 100 percent accuracy at flagging scams and rip-offs renders the entire App Store review process pointless? That if, say, 1 in every 1,000 scam attempts slips through, the entire process should be scrapped? That argument can’t be taken seriously.

Disney Buys Partial Stake in Epic Games for $1.5 Billion 

Disney:

The Walt Disney Company and Epic Games will collaborate on an all-new games and entertainment universe that will further expand the reach of beloved Disney stories and experiences. Disney will also invest $1.5 billion to acquire an equity stake in Epic Games alongside the multiyear project. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

In addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with Fortnite, the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love. This will all be powered by Unreal Engine.

Corey Weinberg, at The Information:

Disney’s $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games values the Fortnite maker at $22.5 billion, a person familiar with the matter said. The price is about a 29% drop from where investors last valued the company less than two years ago.

The investment makes the “Fortnite” maker one of the largest private, venture-backed companies to sell new shares at a steep discount since higher interest rates hit tech valuations. Disney’s $1.5 billion investment will dilute existing Epic shareholders by 9%, the person said. The size of the investment would imply a roughly 7% stake in the company.

The interesting third wheel in this relationship is obviously Apple. Apple is exceptionally cozy with Disney — from the whole Steve Jobs thing with Pixar to Bob Iger appearing in last June’s WWDC keynote to help Tim Cook announce Vision Pro. Apple is not so cozy with Epic Games.

Will this change anything on that front? If these new experiences require Fortnite to play, right now that rules out playing them on iPhone, iPad, or Vision Pro, because Epic Games no longer has an Apple developer account for Fortnite.

YouTube Says a VisionOS App Is ‘On the Roadmap’, but I’m Not Sure I Care 

Nilay Patel, writing at The Verge:

Here’s a little bit of an about-face: YouTube now says it has a Vision Pro app on its roadmap. I mean this literally, as YouTube spokesperson Jessica Gibby just emailed me the following statement: “We’re excited to see Vision Pro launch and we’re supporting it by ensuring YouTube users have a great experience in Safari. We do not have any specific plans to share at this time, but can confirm that a Vision Pro app is on our roadmap.”

This of course follows YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix all declining to allow their iPad apps to run on the Vision Pro before launch — and the last time we asked, there was no mention of a proper visionOS YouTube app coming in the future, so something’s changed in Mountain View. (One theory: the immediate popularity of Christian Selig’s Juno app for YouTube on the Vision Pro.)

Is Juno so good that it might have altered Google’s development plans for supporting YouTube with a native app? I suppose that’s possible. But given the design quality and adherence to platform design idioms of Google’s iOS apps (poor), I’m not sure they’re even capable of making a Juno-quality app.

I’m also unsure whether Google cares, ultimately, that Juno is and will remain the premier client for YouTube on VisionOS for the near future. Because Juno is mostly just a redesigned presentation of youtube.com, it doesn’t block ads. If you don’t like YouTube ads you should sign up for YouTube Premium (which of course works great in Juno) — one of the best bang-for-your-buck values in all of media.

Juno: Christian Selig’s YouTube App for VisionOS 

Christian Selig (developer of the late great Apollo client for Reddit):

At its core, Juno uses the YouTube website itself. No, not scraped. It presents the website as you would load it, but similar to how browser extensions work, it tweaks the theming of the site through CSS and JavaScript.

That results in:

  • Tweaking backgrounds so the beautiful glassy look of visionOS shows through. As the great Serenity Caldwell once said, “Opaque windows can feel heavy and constricting, especially at large sizes. Whenever possible, prefer the glass material (which pulls light from people’s surroundings).
  • Increasing contrast so items are properly visible
  • Making buttons like the button to view your subscriptions native UI, and then loading the relevant portions of the website accordingly
  • You get your full recommendations, subscriptions and whatnot, just as you would on the normal YouTube site or app

It was a lot of work tweaking the CSS to get the YouTube website to something that felt comfortable and at home on visionOS, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Does it feel like a perfectly native visionOS app? Well no, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than the website, and to be fair Google apps normally do their own thing rather than use iOS system UI, so not sure we’ll ever fully see that. :)

What a brilliant way to approach the problem of creating a third-party YouTube client. Rather than using APIs to create a YouTube client from the ground up — which likely wouldn’t work, practically speaking, because Google’s API limits are so restrictive, because Google doesn’t want developers making alternative YouTube client apps — Selig instead has created a dedicated web browser just for youtube.com that uses CSS and WebKit extension jiggery-pokery to completely restyle the YouTube web interface to look like a native VisionOS app.

I’ve been using Juno for the last week — in fact, I sent Selig some bugs I encountered on-device that didn’t manifest in the VisionOS Xcode simulator — and I’ve already gotten more than $5 of entertainment value from it. Using Juno is just so much better than visiting youtube.com in Safari on Vision Pro. It’s not just prettier (though it is very pretty) — it’s far more usable, because the tap targets are generally bigger and more spread apart.

It’s my favorite and most-used third-party VisionOS app so far. $5 one-time purchase. Cheap!

Yours Truly on ‘Big Technology’ 

Alex Kantrowitz:

John Gruber is the author of Daring Fireball. He joins Big Technology Podcast for a mega episode on the state of Apple. We cover: 1) The company’s vibe amid revenue declines 2) The impact of its services business 3) Its position in China 4) How AI might change the user interface of computing 5) Can Apple keep up with the changes if we move beyond the screen 6) Gruber’s reaction to the Vision Pro 7) The stakes of Apple’s Vision Pro bet 8) Apple conflict with Meta and who is getting the best of it 9) Is Apple too attached to its App Store fees 10) Who might succeed Tim Cook?

This is the longest episode in Big Technology Podcast history. But also a masterclass from Gruber on the state of a company he’s covered for two decades. Enjoy!

I have simply come to accept that my mere presence on a podcast makes it longer. But I really enjoyed this, and think you will too.

ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Announce Super-Sports Streaming Bundle 

ESPN:

ESPN, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery have reached an understanding on principal terms to form a new Joint Venture (JV) to build an innovative new platform to house a compelling streaming sports service. The platform brings together the companies’ portfolios of sports networks, certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services and sports rights – including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports. The formation of the pay service is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties. The offering, scheduled to launch in the fall of 2024, would be made available directly to consumers via a new app. Subscribers would also have the ability to bundle the product, including with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max. […]

By subscribing to this focused, all-in-one premier sports service, fans would have access to the linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV, as well as ESPN+.

“Hulu, but this time we’re desperate.”

I get the appeal. The idea is that they want to bring to streaming what cable TV was to the over-the-air era - “If you pay for this one bundle, you can watch all sports.” That’s what cable TV still is today. If there’s a big game in college or pro sports, I know I can watch it on some channel somewhere in my cable TV lineup. With cable TV, there’s never a question of whether I can watch a game. The only question is which channel.

Missing from this new partnership, though: NBC Universal. You know, the network of channels owned by … America’s biggest cable TV company, Kabletown. You can’t call it “all sports” without the Olympics or Sunday Night Football.

WorkOS 

My thanks to WorkOS for sponsoring last week at DF. WorkOS is a modern identity and user management platform that enables B2B SaaS companies to accelerate enterprise adoption. Free up to 1 million MAUs, WorkOS brings a modular approach to B2B Auth with enterprise-ready features like SSO, SCIM, and User Management.

The APIs are flexible and easy to use, designed to provide an effortless experience from your first user all the way through your largest enterprise customer.

Today, hundreds of high-growth scale-ups are already powered by WorkOS, including ones you probably know, like Vercel, Webflow, and Loom.

Raymond Wong Figured Out How to Detach the Vision Pro Battery Pack Cable 

Using a paper clip or SIM-card-tray pin, you can detach the cable from the Vision Pro battery pack. Turns out it looks like a wider Lightning plug. Fat Lightning = Fightning?

Tom Dowdy ‘Signed’ the SimpleText Newspaper Document Icon 

I must have seen this icon thousands of times, and while the word “EXTRA!” was obvious, I always assumed the newspaper’s name was greeked out gibberish. Turns out it’s “dowdy” upside down. (Via this splendid thread on Mastodon.)

Break Out Your Tiny Violins: Zuckerberg Thinks Apple’s DMA Compliance Plans Are ‘Onerous’ 

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has added his voice to those criticizing Apple’s compliance with the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulation, which forces Apple to open up its App Store and allow developers to use their own payment systems, among other things. During Meta’s Q4 earnings call this afternoon, Zuckerberg responded to an investor question asking for Meta’s thoughts on the DMA by saying Apple’s new rules were “so onerous” that he would be surprised if any developer adopted them. [...]

“I don’t think that the Apple thing is going to have any difference for us because I think that the way that they’ve implemented it, I would be very surprised if any developer chose to go into the alternative app stores that they have,” Zuckerberg told investors. “They’ve made it so onerous, and I think, so at odds with the intent of what the EU regulation was that I think it’s just going to be very difficult for anyone — including ourselves — to really seriously entertain what they’re doing there.”

Left unsaid is what Zuckerberg thinks the intent of the DMA is. I, for one, do not think it was “Make Meta very happy.” Keep in mind that Apple has broken no laws, and the DMA is, ostensibly, not a penalty targeting Apple specifically.

Also keep in mind that Meta charges a 47.5 percent commission for digital content sales in Horizon Worlds, its “metaverse” platform for its VR headsets.

Mark Zuckerberg, Testifying Before a Senate Hearing, Stands Up, Turns Around, and Apologizes to the Families of Victims of Online Child Sexual Exploitation 

Zuckerberg is very smart, but somehow he let himself get played by Senator Josh Hawley, a cowardly dingbat demagogue here.

Meta Quarterly Results 

Meta:

“We had a good quarter as our community and business continue to grow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Meta founder and CEO. “We’ve made a lot of progress on our vision for advancing AI and the metaverse.”

$40.1 billion in revenue, $14 billion in profit. That’s a good business. In comparison, Apple reported $120 billion in revenue and $34 billion in profit. It’s worth keeping in mind that Apple’s numbers for the October–December quarter are skewed by holiday sales, but as a ballpark estimate, Meta is roughly one-third an Apple — and their current market caps (Meta: $1T, Apple: $3T) reflect that.

Colin Cowherd on the ‘Weird, Lonely, Insecure Men’ Who Are Upset Regarding Taylor Swift’s NFL Fandom 

I’ve never been a fan of Cowherd’s sports takes, but it turns out I love his take on this Taylor Swift thing. Well worth a few minutes of your time.


Simple Tricks and Nonsense

Upon launching Apple’s Encounter Dinosaurs app for Vision Pro — an immersive 3D experience — you see a butterfly a few feet in front of you. As it flutters about the space in front of you, if you reach out your hand, the butterfly will land on your extended finger. When I first experienced this demo back in June at WWDC, reps from Apple said — half boasting, half warning (both halves well-warranted) — that when the butterfly lands on your finger, some people actually feel it. They feel a physical tickle on their finger. I didn’t feel that, but some of my colleagues in the media who got the same demo did. They perceived a physical sensation from what is, ultimately, an optical illusion.

When an illusion is realistic enough, your brain accepts it as real, even though it’s not — and even though you know it’s not.

One generally underappreciated aspect of the iPhone is the accuracy of its finger-tracking for touch. From the beginning — the original iPhone on the day it launched — when you slide your finger on an iPhone to scroll, the scrolling tracks your finger movement exactly as though you were sliding a piece of paper. The delight began right from “Slide to Unlock”, because the knob you slid to unlock the iPhone tracked your finger precisely. It didn’t feel like you were issuing an indirect shortcut gesture; it felt (and to this day, of course, still feels) like you were directly manipulating whatever it was you were sliding or scrolling on screen. The bouncing when you scroll to the end of a view. The stretching when you pull down from the top of a view. It felt (and feels) real, to some degree.1

The experience of manipulating the user interface in VisionOS conveys something like this too. It’s not direct manipulation, though. You don’t reach out and grab a window bar to move the window. You just look at the bar under the window, pinch your finger and thumb, and move your hand to move the window. It is as easy to pull a window toward you, or push it away, as it is to move it side to side. The same is true for resizing windows from the grabber that appears when you look at any corner, and it’s also true for using two hands — both making the finger-thumb pinch — to zoom the content (like, say, a photo) within a window. There’s no lag and there is tremendous precision. You can arrange, position, stack, and resize windows exactly the way you want them.

One comparison would be to a maestro conducting an orchestra. But that doesn’t convey the sense of precision in VisionOS — the sense of fine control through indirect manipulation. What it feels like is using the Force.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, gesturing to use the Force in the “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene in “Star Wars”.

One of the first times we see any character use the Force in Star Wars2 is when Obi-Wan Kenobi uses the Jedi mind trick to convince the droid-hunting stormtroopers on the outskirts of Mos Eisley that R2-D2 and C-3PO are not, in fact, the droids they’re looking for. He even pinches his finger and thumb together while gesturing with his hand. It couldn’t be more apt an image.4

In the very scene preceding Kenobi’s mind trick, we see Darth Vader using the Force to choke his vainglorious colleague Admiral Motti, with ... a pinching gesture: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Darth Vader chokes Admiral Motti in the “I find your lack of faith disturbing” scene in “Star Wars”.

Kenobi, conjuring an audio distraction to escape the attention of two stormtroopers:

Obi-Wan Kenobi, using his hand to create an audio distraction to escape the attention of two stormtroopers near the Death Star’s tractor beam control panel.

George Lucas didn’t conceive of telekinesis, but his portrayal of it made it seem real, and defined how my and subsequent generations imagined they would invoke such an ability if they could. And now, in a sense — as hokey as this sounds — I feel like I can. Pulling virtual application windows through each other. Pushing them back against the wall. Expanding them. Shrinking them. Moving one outside my living room through a real glass window. Activating buttons and flipping switches just by looking at them, and gesturing.

And, like the butterfly from Encounter Dinosaurs that some people can feel landing on their outstretched finger, I swear to you, I can almost feel the telekinetic connection with UI elements in VisionOS. It’s a hint, a whiff, of tension — between not just my hands and the virtual elements I’m manipulating, but between my mind and those elements. Just the vaguest sensation of tension emanating from my forehead, like a taut thread of ultrafine string connecting my mind to the window I’m moving, or button I’m pressing, or photo I’m stretching.

With Vision Pro, the gestures are necessary, because the device can’t actually read your mind. (At least not in this first-generation version.) In Star Wars, the gestures exist not because they’re required to perform mystical feats of mentalism, but to make those actions cinematic. It is utterly natural to express ourselves via our hands, and to read meaning from the hand gestures of those we see.5 As good a job as the original film does conveying this, the most evocative shot exemplifying the use of a pinching gesture to convey telekinetic Force ability comes from 2016’s Rogue One, when Vader — who, whatever his flaws, never loses his sense of humor — offers Orson Krennic, father of the Death Star, this helpful advice: “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, director.”

Darth Vader in “Rogue One”, pinching his finger and thumb to choke a colleague to teach him a friendly lesson.

Setting aside potential trademark complaints from their friends at Disney, this is what Apple should have saved the term “Force Touch” for. 


  1. Android phones still don’t have this effect. It’s not because they don’t have high-enough frame rates or low-enough latency for touch input. It’s just that the math is off for putting everything together to create the illusion of direct manipulation. The physics aren’t quite right. It’s no longer about hardware specs (although that was a factor working against Android in the early years). It’s about craftsmanship. ↩︎

  2. You want to get Star Wars nerdy? I’ll get Star Wars nerdy. I’ve thought about this stuff since I was in kindergarten. The first Force-capable character we see in Star Wars is Vader, leading the assault team that boards and commandeers Princess Leia’s ship, the Tantive IV. But it’s unclear whether he uses the Force even once in that entire scene. The one maybe is when he lifts a rebel officer off his feet by his neck, chokes him to death, then throws the body against a wall. In hindsight, it’s reasonable to suspect that Vader augments his physical strength with the Force while committing that murder, but as presented, the implication is only that he’s a physical beast.

    When first we meet Kenobi on Tatooine, after Luke has been knocked unconscious by Tusken Raiders (a.k.a. Sand People), Kenobi scares them off by mimicking the roar of a krayt dragon. I’ve always presumed that was the Force, but that’s never made clear, either in the film or the screenplay. Kenobi then gently touches Luke’s forehead, perhaps using the Force to wake him from his concussed slumber. But again, it’s unclear if Kenobi uses the Force there, or if he’s simply checking Luke’s vitals and Luke just happens to wake. The screenplay simply states, “Ben puts his hand on Luke’s forehead and he begins to come around.”

    Later in the film, in the above-pictured scene on the Death Star where Kenobi disables the tractor beam, he finds himself in need of a distraction to escape the attention of two stormtroopers. The screenplay reads:3

    Ben moves around the tractor beam, watching the stormtroopers as they turn their backs to him. Ben gestures with his hand toward them, as the troops think they hear something in the other hallway. With the help of the Force, Ben deftly slips past the troopers and into the main hallway.

    Again with the hand gesture — and confirmation that the Force can be used to create sounds. ↩︎︎

  3. Speaking of deft, the revelation of the existence of the Force is wonderfully paced and executed in Star Wars. There’s no mention of “the Force”, nor do we see it in action (simulated krayt dragon roar aside), until over 30 minutes into the movie. The first half hour is spent establishing things like, “Wow, there are realistic-looking, cool-sounding space ships and laser guns and robots!

    Then comes the scene in Kenobi’s bachelor pad, where he tells — but doesn’t show — Luke about the Force, about the Jedi order, about their destruction at the hands of the Empire, and he gives him his (supposedly-dead) father’s lightsaber, which Luke, gadget hound that he is, of course immediately ignites and starts waving around. That scene is immediately followed by the one on the Death Star where we see Vader use the Force to choke Admiral Motti. Two short scenes later comes Obi-Wan’s “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” mind trick. We’re told about the Force, see Vader wield it, then Kenobi. And boom: an already-mind-blowing movie has expanded from science fiction to fantasy. And in the midst of that sequence, we learn of a weapon that makes those laser guns no longer seem like the coolest things we’ve ever seen — or heard.

    That the Force is used so sparingly throughout Star Wars is an immense part of the film’s gritty, grounded reality, and thus its charm. Amazing technology is everywhere, but much of it is grimy and old. The Force is almost never seen. Compare and contrast with many of the subsequent films, where the Force is used willy-nilly, like bubble gum in a baseball dugout, contributing to those films’ plasticky, video-game-like artificiality. ↩︎︎

  4. My sincere thanks to Todd Vaziri, who knows a bit about pixel-peeping details, for stepping through both Star Wars and Rogue One to identify the very best frame to capture for each of the Force gestures illustrating this column. ↩︎︎

  5. We Philadelphians excel at communicating deep thoughts via our hands. ↩︎︎


Vision Pro Developer Strap Now Available for $300 

The product page for the Developer Strap requires you to be logged into a U.S. Apple Developer account, but it’s linked from the public VisionOS developer resources page:

The Developer Strap is an optional accessory that provides a USB-C connection between Apple Vision Pro and Mac and is helpful for accelerating the development of graphics-intensive apps and games. The Developer Strap provides the same audio experience as the in-box Right Audio Strap, so developers can keep the Developer Strap attached for both development and testing.

Unclear whether the USB-C port on the Developer Strap allows you to connect peripherals like external storage devices. I suspect not. But MacRumors’s Aaron Perris uncovered evidence that this strap can be used for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes.

Apple Q1 2024 Results 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2024 first quarter ended December 30, 2023. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $119.6 billion, up 2 percent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.18, up 16 percent year over year.

“Today Apple is reporting revenue growth for the December quarter fueled by iPhone sales, and an all-time revenue record in Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We are pleased to announce that our installed base of active devices has now surpassed 2.2 billion, reaching an all-time high across all products and geographic segments. And as customers begin to experience the incredible Apple Vision Pro tomorrow, we are committed as ever to the pursuit of groundbreaking innovation — in line with our values and on behalf of our customers.”

Year-over-year revenue changes for the holiday quarter, from their financial statement (PDF): iPhone is up, Mac flat, iPad down (no new hardware all year!), wearables down a little, and services continue to grow steadily.

Jason Snell has his usual collection of excellent charts, and his transcript of the analysts call.

PCalc, Fantastical, and Over 598 Other Native VisionOS Apps, Are Available in the App Store For Launch Day 

Apple Newsroom:

With the NBA app on Apple Vision Pro, basketball fans can stream up to five broadcasts live or on demand with Multiview, keep an eye on real-time player and team stats, and effortlessly glance at other games and scores. MLB immerses users in a ballpark with a view from home plate and stats from each pitch. Red Bull TV displays 3D maps of races paired with high-quality video and immersive environments. And soccer fans can access MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app, home of Major League Soccer. With compatible apps from top cable services — including Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity, Cox Contour, Sling TV, and Verizon Fios — and sports broadcasters — including ESPN, CBS, Paramount+, NBC, NBC Sports, Peacock, FOX Sports, and the UFC — Vision Pro users always have the best seat in the house.

Alongside Disney+, top entertainment apps have taken advantage of the unique capabilities of Apple Vision Pro to offer all-new ways for viewers to view their favorite movies, shows, and more. IMAX delivers an awe-inspiring viewing experience for 2D and 3D content, featuring popular documentaries such as Deep Sky in IMAX’s expanded aspect ratio.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max features hit movies and series, fresh originals, family favorites, breaking news, and live sports, with select titles available in 4K and Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos. “With the Max app for Apple Vision Pro, fans can transform their space using the Iron Throne Room environment for an immersive experience that brings viewers into the iconic Red Keep,” said Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO of HBO and Max Content. “The intricate Targaryen-era adornments will make fans feel like they’re watching the programming available on Max in Westeros during the height of their reign.”

For all the (justifiable!) attention paid to Netflix and YouTube’s decisions to completely eschew the platform at launch, the truth is there are a lot of native VisionOS apps at launch, and zillions of compatible iPad apps. And a great calculator app and a great calendar app.

(Apple has no built-in Calculator app in VisionOS, and the built-in Calendar app is the iPad app in compatibility mode, making PCalc and Fantastical the only native apps of their respective kinds in the App Store at launch.)

Two Additional Observations Regarding Apple’s Core Technology Fee 

From Apple’s support page for the new Core Technology Fee announced last week:

Nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities who are approved for a fee waiver are exempt from the Core Technology Fee, subject to the Apple Developer Program’s existing rules. Developers of alternative app marketplaces will pay the Core Technology Fee for every first annual install of their app marketplace, including installs that occur before one million.

One problem I see with the Core Technology Fee is that it doesn’t seem compatible with the concept of completely free-of-charge apps from developers who aren’t registered non-profits, educational institutions, or governments. What we used to call freeware back in the day. Like what about NetNewsWire? That’s a totally free and open source app, but it’s not from a non-profit, school, or government. I feel like developers of freeware should be able to apply for an exemption. Perhaps even only for open source freeware?

The second sentence quoted above is something I didn’t notice until my friend Manton Reece pointed it out over the weekend. Marketplace store apps don’t get 1 million free installs — they start paying the CTF after the first download.

Day One 

My thanks to Day One for sponsoring last week at DF. Everyone knows Day One is the best journaling app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. A wonderful interface, and secure, private, trustworthy sync.

Last week Day One launched their new Shared Journals feature, providing a collaborative space for reflection and connection. Start today and enjoy a special offer exclusive to DF readers.

Netflix Games Continue to Gain Traction, Led in Part by ‘Grand Theft Auto’ Titles 

Sarah Perez, reporting a few weeks ago for TechCrunch:

Just over two years ago, Netflix announced it would enter a new business: gaming. Amid a mobile gaming market dominated by free-to-play and ad-supported business models, Netflix’s plan was to make its games free without ads or in-app purchases. The gambit may now be starting to pay off. In 2023, Netflix Games downloads increased by over 180% year-over-year, according to estimates from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. In total, the games have been downloaded 81.2 million times worldwide across the App Store and Google Play in 2023, with the fourth quarter accounting for around 53% of those downloads.

Apple’s updated new policies regarding game streaming (and “mini-games” — but GTA titles sure aren’t mini) might help Netflix in this regard.

Jury Orders Trump to Pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 Million for Years of Defamation 

The New York Times:

On Friday, Roberta A. Kaplan, a lawyer for Ms. Carroll, asked the jury in a crisp and methodical summation to award her client at least $24 million to help Ms. Carroll repair her reputation and to compensate her for the emotional harm Mr. Trump had inflicted with his attacks.

Ms. Kaplan also asked the jury to award substantial punitive damages to deter Mr. Trump from continuing to attack Ms. Carroll. Ms. Kaplan did not specify an amount, but she noted that Mr. Trump, in an excerpt from a video deposition played for the jury, estimated that his brand alone was worth “maybe $10 billion” and that he placed the value of various of his real estate properties at $14 billion.

“Donald Trump is worth billions of dollars,” Ms. Kaplan told the jury.

“The law says you can consider Donald Trump’s wealth as well as his malicious and spiteful continuing conduct in making that assessment,” Ms. Kaplan said, adding, “Now is the time to make him pay for it, and now is the time to make him pay dearly.”

It must have been delicious using Trump’s own absurd lies about his wealth against him.

The Talk Show: ‘An Asterisk on the Bento Box’ 

Marco Arment returns to the show. Topics include the Apple-Masimo patent dispute over Apple Watch blood oxygen sensors, the new External Payment Links entitlement for the App Store, and more.

Sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Use code talkshow for 10% off your first order.
  • Trade Coffee: Let’s Coffee Better. Get a free bag of fresh coffee with any Trade subscription.
‘Insanely Great: The Apple Mac at 40’ Panel Discussion 

The Computer History Museum:

On the 40th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh’s launch, CHM celebrates one of the most iconic and impactful products ever created. Members of the original hardware, software, design, and marketing/PR teams including Bill Atkinson, Steve Capps, Andy Cunningham, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, Susan Kare, Dan’l Lewin, and Mike Murray, as well as insiders and experts Chris Espinosa, Guy Kawasaki, Steven Levy, and David Pogue, share stories and discuss the impact of the Mac.

Streaming live as I type this sentence, 7pm Pacific / 10pm Eastern.

Steven Levy: ‘Apple Shares the Secret of Why the 40-Year-Old Mac Still Rules’ 

Steven Levy has a great piece at Wired commemorating the Mac’s 40th anniversary, including interviews with a slew of Apple executives:

For the past few years, the form factors of Macintoshes have been fairly stable. Could a Mac in the future look totally different, as when the iMac morphed from a basketball to a lamp?

“There’s definitely the possibility for a revolution in the future,” says Molly Anderson, a leader in industrial design at Apple. “When we start a new project, we don’t start by thinking of the constraints of how popular our existing products are. We’re always focused on trying to design the best tool for the job.” Joswiak adds that it has taken courage to keep changing the Mac to keep it on the forefront — always, of course, in a deliberate fashion. “The road to tech hell is paved by people who do things because they can, not because they should,” he says.

Jony Ive told me once that one of Apple’s guiding principles was never to make changes for the sake of change alone. If an idea doesn’t make the product better, they don’t do it. If that means some products only change radically in form factor once or twice a decade, so be it. Good design should stand the test of time.

Levy also includes an excerpt from a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone on the original launch:

If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a “prompt,” consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background, little pictures called “icons” appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents — book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you’d move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You’d tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.

This seems simple, but most personal computers (including the IBM PC) can’t do this.

“When you show Mac to an absolute novice,” says Chris Espinosa, the twenty-two-year-old head of publications for the Mac team, “he assumes that’s the way all computers work. That’s our highest achievement. We’ve made almost every computer that’s ever been made look completely absurd.”

Espinosa might be the only person at Apple who can say “40th anniversary? That’s nothing.”

‘Show Me More Macs’: Every Macintosh Ever Made 

Jonathan Zufi:

To celebrate this milestone, mac40th.com showcases every Macintosh desktop and portable Apple has ever made with hundreds of the photos taken as part of the work creating the coffee table book ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation (3rd edition now available up to date as of the end of 2023). The site also includes photos taken by Kevin Taylor, Forest McMullin and others (including video) that I’ve collected over the past 14 years.

The site is easy to use: you’ll see a continuous stream of random Macs - just keep clicking ‘Show me more Macs’ and that’s what you’ll get. If you’re a hard core Mac fan, this site should keep you busy for a very long time.

Beautiful.

Harry McCracken on the Original Macintosh 

Harry McCracken, writing at Fast Company:

The most celebrated part of that original Mac was its software interface, which brimmed with new ideas, despite the lazy conventional wisdom that it merely imitated work done at Xerox’s PARC lab. But at the moment, I’m most fascinated by its industrial design. That petite all-in-one beige case, created by Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama, was unlike anything anyone had seen until then — at least outside of a kitchen. [...]

But if all the first Mac inspires is nostalgia, we’ve lost sight of how daring it was. Unlike Apple’s first blockbuster PC, the Apple II, it had a built-in display but no integrated keyboard. It also sacrificed most of the Apple II’s defining features, such as its dazzling color graphics and expansion slots.

In retrospect, it’s among the gutsiest gambits Apple ever made. Imagine the company introducing a new smartphone that has virtually nothing in common with the iPhone. You can’t — or at least it strains my imagination.

That’s what kept me from getting the Mac until I owned one. The Apple II defined what I thought of as a computer, and because the Mac didn’t resemble the Apple II in any way — it didn’t even have a compatibility mode to run Apple II software — it seemed like something else to me. An appliance of some sort, not a computer.

Turns out it was the best concept for a computer anyone has ever devised.

Jason Snell: ‘The Mac Turns 40’ 

Jason Snell, writing for The Verge:

Twenty years ago, on the Mac’s 20th anniversary, I asked Steve Jobs if the Mac would still be relevant to Apple in the age of the iPod. He scoffed at the prospect of the Mac not being important: “of course” it would be.

Yet, 10 years later, Apple’s revenue was increasingly dominated by the iPhone, and the recent success of the new iPad had provided another banner product for the company. When I interviewed Apple exec Phil Schiller for the Mac’s 30th anniversary, I found myself asking him about the Mac’s relevance, too. He also scoffed: “Our view is, the Mac keeps going forever,” he said.

Today marks 40 years since Jobs unveiled the original Macintosh at an event in Cupertino, and it once again feels right to ask what’s next for the Mac.

The subhead on Snell’s piece at The Verge nails it:

Apple’s longest-running product is an increasingly small part of the company’s business. And yet, it’s never been more successful.

Over at Six Colors, Snell has more from an interview with Greg Joswiak, and, separately, a deep dive looking back at the major eras of the Mac’s history, dividing them by processor architecture. From that piece:

The IBM PC and the emerging DOS PC clone standard weren’t the only enemies here. Plenty of other platforms existed in the early days, including the one that generated most of Apple’s revenue, the Apple II.

History tends to flatten everything into simple narratives, so you might expect that the moment the Mac was introduced, Apple began pivoting away from the Apple II. That did not happen. Apple didn’t discontinue the last Apple II model until nearly a decade into the Mac’s existence. After the Mac was introduced, Apple kept introducing new Apple II models: The compact IIc three months later and the 16-bit IIGS more than two years later.

The Mac was a curiosity for me, growing up in the 1980s — intriguing, but it was the Apple II platform that had my attention (and heart) at the time. Then, when I finally got my first Mac in 1991 (a Macintosh LC with 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard disk), I got it. It was like turning on a light in a dark room. I finally understood.

Jon Stewart Is Returning to ‘The Daily Show’ 

Angela Yang and Diana Dasrath, reporting for NBC News:

Longtime viewers of “The Daily Show” will soon see a familiar face back in the hosting chair. Jon Stewart, who hosted the show from 1996 to 2015, will return to the program, NBC News has confirmed. [...]

Stewart will host Monday nights through the 2024 election, and then will continue on as executive producer for every episode until the end of this year and the next, according to a news release from Comedy Central. On days Stewart is not hosting, “The Daily Show” will continue to rely on a team of rotating correspondents.

The best TV news I’ve heard in a long while. The problem with The Problem With Jon Stewart on Apple TV+ was that the show was boring. The Daily Show with Stewart hosting was never boring.

Spotify Reveals Its Plans for the Post-DMA Era of Sideloading in the E.U. 

Spotify:

For years, even in our own app, Apple had these rules where we couldn’t tell you about offers, how much something costs, or even where or how to buy it. We know, pretty nuts. The DMA means that we’ll finally be able to share details about deals, promotions, and better-value payment options in the EU. And an easier experience for you means good things for artists, authors, and creators looking to build their audiences of listeners, concert-goers, and audiobook-loving fans. What’s more? All of this can now come without the burden of a mandatory ~30% tax imposed by Apple, which is prohibited under the DMA.

Spotify’s assumptions about how sideloading is going to work on iOS are clearly at odds with the description of Apple’s plans from The Wall Street Journal today. The Journal did not state what percentage commission or fees Apple plans to collect, but it sounds like Spotify thinks they’re going to offer an iOS app through which they won’t pay Apple anything at all for in-app transactions. Their blog post has a series of before-and-after screenshots, and the “after” screenshots show a purchasing flow that doesn’t involve any of the warnings or scaresheets Apple has required for the “reader” app entitlement, Dutch dating apps, or the new External Purchase Links entitlement.

Spotify even plans to run their own app store, with multiple apps. (It seems unclear if the Spotify app store for iOS would host games and apps from other developers, or only a suite of apps from Spotify itself.)

Spotify more or less assumes they’ll be free from all Apple restrictions and commissions, and feels free to lambast Apple’s policies as “pretty nuts” and “ridiculous”:

It should be this easy for every single Spotify customer everywhere. But if you live outside certain markets, you will continue to encounter frustrating roadblocks because of Apple’s ridiculous rules.

We don’t know Apple’s plans yet, but will soon. But it sure sounds like Apple and Spotify have completely different and utterly incompatible interpretations of what the DMA requires. Seems like one side or the other is in for a big surprise.

The Wall Street Journal on Apple’s Plans for iOS Sideloading in the E.U. 

Aaron Tilley, Salvador Rodriguez, Sam Schechner, and Kim Mackrael, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

Meta Platforms, Spotify and other companies are preparing new download options for customers in anticipation of the new rules. Meta is considering a system that would allow people to download apps directly from Facebook ads. Spotify plans to offer users the ability to download some of its iPhone apps directly from its website, according to the company. Microsoft has weighed a launch of its own third-party app store for games in the past. [...]

Apple’s approach to the EU law will help ensure the company maintains close oversight of apps downloaded outside the App Store, a process known as sideloading. The company will give itself the ability to review each app downloaded outside of its App Store. Apple also plans to collect fees from developers that offer downloads outside of the App Store, said people familiar with the company’s plans. The company hasn’t yet announced its plans and they could change.

The restrictions and fees could renew tensions with app developers, some of whom had expected the new law to allow them to deliver their apps to users free of Apple’s restrictions or what they see as a high commission. The new European law “is a regulation with teeth, with the possibility to apply fines and with a possibility for the commission to have powers of investigation,” said Olivia Regnier, a senior director of European policy at Spotify.

The Journal story is light on details, but it sounds like Apple is planning for a system largely like last week’s External Purchase Link entitlement, where developers will still be on the hook to pay Apple 27/12 percent commissions. How will this review process work for apps that aren’t distributed through the App Store?

I’ve considered it very odd from the start that the DMA is not clear at all about this. And here we are on the cusp of it going into effect, and we still seemingly have no idea whether the European Commission and Apple see eye to eye on what the DMA demands for compliance.

Clearly, the most strident critics of Apple’s App Store policies believe that the DMA requires opening iOS to something akin to how the Mac works: where the App Store is one method of software distribution, but users are free to simply download apps directly from developers’ websites, so long as those apps are signed. According to the Journal, Apple is planning to announce something not like that at all.

I have a feeling that fireworks are going to fly when Apple announces their compliance plans, but I don’t know. Maybe Apple has shared their plans in detail with the EC and the EC is fine with it. But if that’s the case, I don’t see how the DMA “has teeth” when it comes to sideloading.

Signal Will Cost $50 Million Per Year to Run 

Meredith Whittaker and Joshua Lund, writing for the Signal blog back in November:

Instead of monetizing surveillance, we’re supported by donations, including a generous initial loan from Brian Acton. Our goal is to move as close as possible to becoming fully supported by small donors, relying on a large number of modest contributions from people who care about Signal. We believe this is the safest form of funding in terms of sustainability: ensuring that we remain accountable to the people who use Signal, avoiding any single point of funding failure, and rejecting the widespread practice of monetizing surveillance.

But our nonprofit structure doesn’t mean it costs less for Signal to produce a globally distributed communications app. Signal is a nonprofit, but we’re playing in a lane dominated by multi-billion-dollar corporations that have defined the norms and established the tech ecosystem, and whose business models directly contravene our privacy mission. So in order to provide a genuinely useful alternative, Signal spends tens of millions of dollars every year. We estimate that by 2025, Signal will require approximately $50 million dollars a year to operate — and this is very lean compared to other popular messaging apps that don’t respect your privacy.

Signal funds itself through voluntary donations. Most of its competitors are funded through advertising. But iMessage is funded through device sales. If it costs $50 million per year to operate Signal, I’d guess it costs Apple more than that to run iMessage.

I know the Beeper thing is last month’s news, but the fact that iMessage costs a lot of money to operate is generally overlooked by those who think Apple should be forced to “open it up”, whatever that might mean.

Upgrade: 40th Anniversary of the Macintosh 

Myke Hurley hosting, with panelists Jason Snell, John Siracusa, Shelly Brisbin, Stephen Hackett, Dan Moren, and yours truly. Great topic list:

  • First Mac owned
  • Favorite/best Mac
  • Favorite/best Mac software ever
  • Favorite/best Mac accessory or hardware
  • Hall of Shame: worst accessory, Mac, or moment

There’s even a video version.