Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships ★
August is sold out on the DF weekly sponsorship schedule, but September is mostly open. (October too, if you’re planning ahead.)
One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.
So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor.
OWC Memory Upgrades for 27-Inch iMacs ★
I noted this morning regarding the updated 27-inch iMac that the high end RAM configurations are pricey — $1,000 for 64 GB and $2,600 for 128 GB. You can get the same DDR4 memory upgrades from OWC for $300 and $600, respectively, and the new 27-inch iMac still has user-accessible RAM, so it doesn’t take particularly expert skill to install.
Craig Mod’s ‘Kissa by Kissa’ ★
Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One) is a book about
walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient
Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and
mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten.
Looks gorgeous — wonderful typography and photography, expertly printed and bound. A genuine artifact.
Also, that bastard Mod went so far as to build and release as open source what he’s calling Craigstarter, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding tool for Shopify. Just bought my copy and the whole process was smooth.
The Demo to End All Demos ★
“One small step for a man, and one giant leap for wireless networking.”
Fantastic backstory on this stunt on ATP last March (28:00).
Phil Schiller Takes Title of ‘Apple Fellow’ ★
Apple today announced that Phil Schiller will become an Apple
Fellow, continuing a storied career that began at Apple in 1987.
In this role, which reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Schiller will
continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events. Greg (Joz)
Joswiak, a longtime leader within the Product Marketing
organization, will join the executive team as senior vice
president of Worldwide Marketing. […]
“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many
products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim,
and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I
was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned
changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will
have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in
the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal
projects I care deeply about.”
Schiller hasn’t just been at Apple a long time — he’s held the position atop product marketing for, well, as long as I can remember. Product development, advertising, packaging, messaging, comms, keynotes — you name it, if it was public-facing, Schiller has been in the middle of it.
Best way I can put it is that Schiller is the most Apple-y of all Apple executives.
Jason Snell’s ‘20 Macs for 2020’ Project ★
Speaking of Jason Snell:
With this year marking the turn of decades (in some particularly
disastrous ways, as it turns out), I decided to construct a list
of the 20 most notable Macs in history. Over the next 20 weeks,
I’ll post essays, podcasts, and videos about each of them,
counting down to number one.
Now, note my choice of words there: notable. I’m not saying these
are my favorite Macs — a bunch of them I only knew in passing and
never used myself. I’m not saying these are the best Macs ever — a difficult thing to measure, since (with a few obvious
exceptions) the best Macs made are the most recent ones, otherwise
we’d all still be using G3 iMacs.
My ranking system is, to be blunt, arbitrary. I tried to make a
list of notable Macs that I felt reflected Mac history over the
last 36 years. I wanted to choose Macs that were popular,
revolutionary, weird, or had an interesting story to tell. If I
have learned anything from Joe Posnanski’s brilliant Baseball 100
project, one of the most popular things about this series
will be arguments about my terrible rankings and my unforgivable
I was not just happy but downright delighted to speak with Jason about a few of these Macs. And, yes, I’m outraged over at least one omission.
Is Today the Last Hurrah for Intel-Based iMacs? ★
Jason Snell on today’s 27-inch iMac update:
As for the future, is this the last Intel Mac we’ll see? There’s
no way to tell, though reading between the lines, it wouldn’t be
surprising if there were some more Intel-based Mac releases as
Apple progresses through its two-year-long processor transition.
But I’d wager good money that the next time we see an iMac update,
there won’t be an Intel processor at its heart. And perhaps it
will look appreciably different, too.
Seems like a good bet to me that today’s update is the last round of Intel-based iMacs. What else might get an Intel speed bump before Apple Silicon-based Macs start debuting at the end of the year? Maybe the Mac Mini? Speed bumps for the Mac Pro and iMac Pro?
NYT: ‘When COVID Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.’ ★
Isabel Kershner and Pam Belluck, reporting for The New York Times:
Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a
devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire
student body back in late May.
Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school,
which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single
school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the
students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods,
ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.
Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the
country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were
Israel’s advice for other countries?
“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli
Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and
chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council
on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”
That’s Israel’s experience reopening schools after getting infections under control. Here in the U.S. COVID new infections remain out of control already, with nearly all schools closed for summer.
Apple Updates 27-Inch iMac ★
Apple today announced a major update to its 27-inch iMac. By far
the most powerful and capable iMac ever, it features faster Intel
processors up to 10 cores, double the memory capacity,
next-generation AMD graphics, superfast SSDs across the line with
four times the storage capacity, a new nano-texture glass option
for an even more stunning Retina 5K display, a 1080p FaceTime HD
camera, higher fidelity speakers, and studio-quality mics.
A summary of what’s new:
- New Intel CPUs and AMD graphic cards
- SSDs across the line, including options for 4 TB and 8 TB
- Nano-texture display finish, like the Pro Display XDR ($500)
- RAM options up to 128 GB (base configuration is still 8 GB; the high-end 64 and 128 GB options cost $1,000 and $2,600, respectively)
- 1080p FaceTime camera with better low-light performance, and a “studio quality” microphone array like the current MacBook Pros
The 21-inch iMac has not been updated, although the base model configurations now have SSDs instead of Fusion Drives. There remains a 1 TB Fusion Drive build-to-order configuration for the 21-inch iMac, which I believe is now the last spinning hard disk Apple sells.
The iMac Pro has not been updated either, although the $5,000 base model is now the 10-core Xeon W configuration, and the old 8-core base model is gone.
I Call Bullshit on Apple Being Interested in Acquiring TikTok ★
Dan Primack, on Twitter:
As we report in Axios Pro Rata today, Apple has expressed serious
interest in buying TikTok.
That’s not what Primack reported! Primack reported that sources outside Apple claim Apple expressed interest in TikTok, not that Apple actually has expressed interest. The claim that Apple actually has expressed interest exists only in this tweet. The difference is significant if the sources in question were full of shit, which I think they were.
Doesn’t seem like Axios Pro Rata has web permalinks, but the post reads as follows, and has already been walked back with a pretty clear statement from Apple:
That’s because Microsoft isn’t the only party kicking TikTok’s
tires, as Trump also said yesterday.
Multiple sources tell me that Apple has expressed interest, albeit
no sources inside of Apple, and that at least one other strategic
has expressed interest. Yes, it would be an unusual deal for
Apple, given that TikTok is a cross-platform app, and a bigger
political headache than Tim Cook may want (both here and in
China). But if anyone has the cash on hand…
[Update: An Apple spokesperson tells Axios that there are no
discussions about buying TikTok and the company isn’t
Here’s an Axios article published an hour ago with the same content as the newsletter, but with Apple’s blanket denial simply standing next to Primack’s unnamed sources (multiple!) claiming that they are. Either Primack’s sources lied to him and he ran it, or Apple is lying.
“Albeit” is doing a lot of work in the phrase “albeit no sources inside of Apple”. Who would know outside of Apple? TikTok, presumably, and … the Trump administration? Primack couldn’t possibly have taken the word of anyone in the Trump administration at face value, right? So my best guess is that TikTok sources are making this up to drive the asking price higher.
It is extremely conspicuous that Apple flatly denied any interest. They will no-comment almost anything.
Nathan J. Robinson: ‘The Truth Is Paywalled but the Lies Are Free’ ★
Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson:
Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs
money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license
photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people
for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You
don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper
gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble
about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine
and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.
But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New
Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s,
the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London
Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the
Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want
“Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The
Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other
COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National
Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus — they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on
neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons
contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump
administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness — well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run
straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t
be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access
a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit
is completely free.
Major American Companies With a Consumer Internet Presence in China ★
Liza Lin, Jing Yang, and Eva Xiao, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:
President Trump’s remark over the weekend that he was weighing an
outright ban of TikTok in the U.S. sparked nationalist sentiments
in China, where the Global Times, a Communist Party tabloid,
derided the situation as “the hunting and looting of TikTok by the
U.S. government in conjunction with U.S. high-tech companies.”
On Chinese social media, users likewise expressed outrage. Many on
the Twitter -like Weibo platform accused the Trump administration
of pandering to voters by stemming the rise of TikTok — and by
On Douyin, Bytedance’s domestic analogue to TikTok, where videos
commenting on a possible U.S. ban circulated widely, one popular
comment suggested Huawei be allowed to buy Apple Inc.’s China
“Be allowed to buy” is some euphemism for a forced sale. But if China decides to retaliate — and why wouldn’t they? — what company might they target other than Apple? Facebook and Google are already banned in China. Amazon has AWS, which has a fair-sized presence there, but AWS is sort of the anti-TikTok in terms of being consumer-facing. Microsoft would be the obvious tit-for-tat target. But does Microsoft have a neatly bundled consumer presence in China?
If I were the dictator of China, and I was angry about the Trump administration forcing a proud Chinese company like ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok, and I was looking for a way to show that China cannot be pushed around by the U.S., I’d look at iCloud and the App Store, and humiliating the biggest company in the world.
But AAPL shares are trading at an all-time high so I’m sure all is good and Apple has nothing to worry about with a rapidly escalating trade war with China and a cornered-rat deranged narcissist steering the U.S.
The Talk Show: ‘Algorithms, How Do They Work?’ ★
Nilay Patel returns to the show to discuss this week’s House antitrust hearing featuring testimony from Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg.
- Linode: Instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. New accounts get a $20 credit with code talkshow20.
- Mint Mobile: Cut your wireless bill to $15 a month and get your new plan shipped to your door free.
- Stitch Fix: A personal styling company that makes getting the clothes you love effortless. Save 25% when you keep everything in your Fix.
HBO Drops Sick Trailer for Season 3 of ‘Succession’ ★
Wait, sorry, this is the reality show one, not the fictional one:
Once considered a potential successor to Rupert Murdoch, Mr.
Murdoch on Friday resigned from the board of the newspaper
publisher News Corp, severing his last corporate tie to his
father’s global media empire.
“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial
content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other
strategic decisions,” Mr. Murdoch, 47, wrote in his resignation
letter, which News Corp disclosed in a filing shortly after the
close of business on Friday.
Three People Have Been Charged for Twitter’s Hack, Including 17-Year-Old in Florida ★
Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:
Early on July 31st, the FBI, IRS, US Secret Service, and Florida
law enforcement placed a 17-year-old in Tampa, Florida, under
arrest. He’s accused of being the “mastermind” behind the
biggest security and privacy breach in Twitter’s history, one
that took over the accounts of President Barack Obama,
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon
Musk, Kanye West, Apple, and more to perpetrate a huge bitcoin
scam on July 15th.
But apparently, he wasn’t alone: shortly after the Tampa arrest
was revealed and after we published this story, two more
individuals were formally charged by the US Department of Justice:
22-year-old Nima Fazeli in Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard
in the UK. They go by the hacker aliases “Rolex” and “Chaewon,”
respectively, according to the DOJ.
According to federal agents, Sheppard had used a personal driver’s
license to verify himself with the Binance and Coinbase
cryptocurrency exchanges, and his accounts were found to have sent
and received some of the scammed bitcoin. Fazeli also used a
driver’s license to verify with Coinbase, where accounts
controlled by “Rolex” allegedly received payments in exchange for
stolen Twitter usernames.
It appears Twitter wasn’t the victim of anything vaguely approaching an expert caper. These kids are such dingbats they used Bitcoin accounts opened in their own names. This profoundly disturbing and dangerous hack was pulled off by unsophisticated pranksters.
Makes me wonder what actual expert hackers are getting away with on Twitter.
‘Microsoft Said to Be in Talks to Buy TikTok, as Trump Weighs Curtailing App’ ★
Mike Isaac, Ana Swanson, and Alan Rappeport, reporting for The New York Times:
TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app that has been under scrutiny
from the Trump administration, is in talks to sell itself to
Microsoft and other companies as President Trump prepares to force
TikTok to divorce itself from its parent company, ByteDance, said
people with knowledge of the discussions.
Mr. Trump, who said on Friday that he was considering “banning
TikTok,” is expected to require ByteDance to sever ties with the
popular app, according to a person familiar with the
administration’s plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
White House officials have said TikTok may pose a national
security threat because of its Chinese ownership.
Yes but what does the government of the Cayman Islands have to say?
Twitter Permanently Bans White Supremacist David Duke ★
Duke’s account “has been permanently suspended for Twitter Rules on hateful conduct,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. Twitter’s policy, revised in March, prohibits posts that promote violence or threats of violence against people based on their religion, race or ethnic origin.
It wasn’t immediately clear what specific post or posts by Duke led to the account’s ban. The verified account for Duke, the founder and former Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was blank Thursday, replaced with a message that the account had been “permanently suspended.”
Imagine going back in time 30 years and explaining to someone that in the future, there are privately-owned computer networks for socializing and sharing your thoughts, observations, and opinions, and that David Duke got kicked off the one that is most popular in news media circles.
“Ha, probably happened the first day,” your circa 1990 friend might say.
“No, actually, it took more than 10 years.”
“What? Does David Duke repent in the future? Does he disavow white supremacy?”
“No he doesn’t change at all.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Wait until you find out who the president is. Sleep tight.”
Twitter Releases a Few More Details on Security Incident That Resulted in High Profile Account Hijackings ★
The social engineering that occurred on July 15, 2020, targeted a
small number of employees through a phone spear phishing attack.
A successful attack required the attackers to obtain access to
both our internal network as well as specific employee
credentials that granted them access to our internal support
tools. Not all of the employees that were initially targeted had
permissions to use account management tools, but the attackers
used their credentials to access our internal systems and gain
information about our processes. This knowledge then enabled them
to target additional employees who did have access to our account
support tools. Using the credentials of employees with access to
these tools, the attackers targeted 130 Twitter accounts,
ultimately Tweeting from 45, accessing the DM inbox of 36, and
downloading the Twitter Data of 7.
I don’t find the level of detail here satisfying at all. I don’t expect Twitter to reveal the exact details of what happened, but this just isn’t enough. My guess is that they’re saying that the attackers targeted low-level employees via the phone, tricked them into revealing details, and used those details to (here’s where the guessing starts) impersonate them on Twitter’s internal Slack. Then, impersonating them on Slack, they tricked other employees into giving them access to these incredibly sensitive account management tools?
What seems clear is that internally, Twitter was inexcusably sloppy with sharing access to incredibly sensitive account management tools.
Federalist Society Co-Founder Steven Calabresi: ‘Tweet Is Fascistic and Is Itself Grounds for the President’s Immediate Impeachment’ ★
Steven Calabresi, in a New York Times op-ed:
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980,
including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a
law review article protesting what I believe was an
unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an
op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet
seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had
taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that
President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic
and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment
again by the House of Representatives and his removal from
office by the Senate.
Describing the Federalist Society as conservative and influential is like describing the ocean as large and salty. I truly never thought I’d be able to say I’m in complete agreement with Steven Calabresi, but here we are.
Apple Announces 4:1 Stock Split ★
Todd Haselton, CNBC:
Apple on Thursday announced in its fiscal third-quarter earnings
that the Board of Directors has approved a four-for-one stock
split. Since Apple stock currently trades above $380, it means
investors should expect to again have a chance to buy a share of
Apple for around $100, depending on where the stock trades at the
end of August.
Matt Deatherage notes:
We’ve periodically reminded that Apple’s lowest stock price was 23
Dec 1997, when it closed at a currently-adjusted price of $0.40
After 31 Aug 2020 and the 4:1 split, the new adjusted record low
price on that date will be $0.10/share.
TEN CENTS PER SHARE.
“Beleaguered” no more.
New iPhones Won’t Ship Until October ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
On Apple’s quarterly call with analysts Thursday, Apple CFO Luca
Maestri made it official — the new iPhones won’t ship until
October this year.
It’s unusual for Apple to say anything about future hardware, but they do like to set accurate expectations, and if they said nothing many would expect new iPhones in September.
Apple Q3 2020 Results ★
Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2020 third
quarter ended June 27, 2020. The Company posted quarterly revenue
of $59.7 billion, an increase of 11 percent from the year-ago
quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.58, up 18
percent. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the
A record third quarter — in the midst of a pandemic. Truly hard to believe even knowing that work-from-home has surely led to new hardware purchases.
Thursday, 30 July 2020
The president of the United States, on, of course, Twitter (random capitalization and frenetic punctuation sic):
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is
good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in
history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the
Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???
Matt Shuham, reporting for TPM, explains the illegality of this notion:
In 1845, Congress decided that Election Day would be the first
Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If Trump wants to
change that, he has to convince Congress — a likely impossible
task. And the January Inauguration Day was enshrined in the 20th
Amendment to the Constitution in 1933.
This is the biggest litmus test for maintaining democracy we’re
going to get. No pretending you haven’t seen his tweet, no
insisting he’s kidding, no waffling. If you enable the thought of
delaying elections because of rumors and whims, you’re enabling
the end of democracy.
In short, it is enormously consequential that the president of the United States would float such an idea — a true and genuine threat to American democracy. But: the system is holding up. Hours after the fact, no Republican has backed Trump’s contemptible spitball, and rather than hide or duck, many have stepped forward to flatly reject it, including the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate:
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an
election, and we should go forward,” said Representative Kevin
McCarthy, the House minority leader.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, dismissed Mr.
Trump’s suggestion in an interview with WNKY television in Bowling
Green, Ky. “Never in the history of the country, through wars,
depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally
scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again
this Nov. 3,” Mr. McConnell said.
This tweet is the low point in this whole years-long nightmare of a presidency, and yet simultaneously the reaction to the tweet is the high point. Democracy is the singular most important concept in our society, culture, and Constitution. Everything else, no matter how important, is secondary, insofar as our system of dealing with those issues depends upon democracy through open and fair elections. Civil rights (racial, gender, LGBT), gun rights, judicial nominations, tax rates, military actions, health care, education. Anything and everything enumerated in the Bill of Rights. All of these issues are, no matter what any of us individually feel or think about them, secondary to the conduction of free and fair elections. With this tweet Trump is doing no less than testing the water for ending democracy. It is but a tweet, a word that feels inherently diminutive, but make no mistake, this is the most historically significant and potentially consequential statement Trump has ever made. Rather than walk away from it, he has since pinned this one atop the 54,000-tweet stack of abject aggrieved lunacy that is his Twitter history, and reiterated the notion again in a just-completed televised press conference.
It is what until four years ago we would rightly have considered a logical contradiction — a profoundly consequential inanity. A probing hammer tap testing for cracks on the keystone of democratic rule.
What must Trump do for his Republican enablers in Congress to abandon him? is the question the rest of us have been asking on a near-daily basis, often in desperation but always in utter exasperation, since before he was even elected. We now seemingly and hopefully have an answer. The line they won’t cross is ending American democracy. History, I firmly believe, will judge Trump’s Republican enablers harshly for not having drawn a line long ago, but this, ultimately, is the singular line that matters. We must now hold our collective breath that they stick to it.
For this, Trump ought be subjected simultaneously to universal contemptuous scorn and gleeful ridicule, more so than for any of his nearly uncountable contemptible and ridiculous statements and actions of the past. The oath of office to which he swore is to uphold the Constitution. Merely proposing postponing the election makes a mockery of it.
It is no coincidence that Trump floated this perverse notion mere moments ahead of official confirmation of the obvious: the United States economy has collapsed in historically horrific fashion, and as the economy goes, so go elections. Donald Trump cannot win an honest fair election held 96 days hence, and by law an honest fair election must be held in 96 days.
Donald Trump is, thus, desperate and alone.
I set the odds at 1-in-3 that he drops out of the election before the Republican convention at the end of August. To suggest the election be delayed is an explicit admission that he cannot face his now likely defeat. His deranged mind might plausibly conclude it better — more face-saving to him personally, his only genuine concern — to drop out now on the bullshit claim that the election is “rigged” against him, than lose in a humiliating blowout and cry “rigged” after.
Wednesday, 29 July 2020
Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg all provided written opening statements in advance of today’s hearing. The canonical versions are PDFs, but Politico has conveniently transcribed them on a web page.
Cook’s whole statement is cogent, and though Bezos’s is clearly the most personal of the four statements, I think Cook wrote this or at least was very involved in the writing of it. This is how he sounds and thinks. His entire statement is worth reading, but I’ll just quote the portions I have comments on.
Apple is a uniquely American company whose success is only
possible in this country. Motivated by the mission to put things
into the world that enrich people’s lives, and believing deeply
that the way we do that is by making the best not the most,
Apple has produced many revolutionary products, not least of which
is the iPhone.
This “making the best not the most” line is true, and captures what made Apple Apple, and what Apple should continue to focus on as its North Star in all of its varying endeavors. The question, now that Apple has parlayed this formula into becoming the largest (by market cap) and most profitable company in the world, is whether Tim Cook truly still leads the company based on this axiom, or if he’s just saying it because “we don’t have a majority market share of any product category, including phones” is a pretty strong starting position for an antitrust hearing. They don’t sell the most things but they do make the most money, so it’s not like “most” doesn’t apply to Apple.
I think the answer is a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. There’s a part of Cook that clearly wants to argue that Apple shouldn’t even be here.
We do this, in part, by making ourselves and our customers a
promise — a promise that we will only build things that make us
proud. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs used to put it a little
differently: we only make things that we would recommend to our
family and friends.
This rings fundamentally true but falls flattest in the areas where Apple is, or at least should be, getting the most antitrust scrutiny. Take for example the Netflix Rule — the “reader apps” exception that allows Netflix (to name the most conspicuous example) to offer an iOS app that does not use Apple’s in-app purchase system. To sign up for Netflix, a new customer has to do so at Netflix’s website. A lot of other apps — many from very large companies, like Microsoft and Google — take advantage of the same rule. The way the rule works:
Only certain categories of apps qualify. Apple calls them “reader apps” but most of them don’t involve reading.
These apps offer paid services, but accept payment only on their own respective websites, not through the apps, cutting Apple out of the financial transaction.
These iOS apps are free to download, but when launched, are allowed to show only a way to sign in, not sign up. Not only do Apple’s rules forbid these apps from offering sign up within the app (which, in my opinion, is fine), or offering a tappable link to sign up on the web, but the apps are even forbidden from simply explaining in written words what you need to do to sign up. Apps using this rule can’t even say “To create a new account, visit our website” — even if they don’t tell you the URL of the website.
I wrote about this regarding Netflix in particular last year, noting that Netflix does offer a telephone support number in the app. I called it, and a helpful customer service rep told me that to create a new account I needed to go to Netflix’s website and sign up there. They can’t just print those simple words in the app, but they can set up a phone number where they tell you what to do. As I wrote then:
Again, Apple can make the rules — it’s their platform. But it’s
just wrong that one of the rules is that apps aren’t allowed to
explain the rules to users. Apple should be earning its share of
in-app subscription revenue by competing on convenience, not
confusion and obfuscation.
It is prima facie wrong that one of the rules is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules.
Is Apple proud of this rule against explaining the rules, and do they enjoy explaining it to their friends and family?
Back to Cook’s opening statement:
The smartphone market is fiercely competitive, and companies like
Samsung, LG, Huawei and Google have built very successful
smartphone businesses offering different approaches.
Google does not have a successful smartphone business, if by smartphone business Cook means selling smartphones. Google certainly derives many benefits from being the company behind Android, the operating system, and the Google Play ecosystem that is effectively a user-facing OS on top of Android, but that’s nothing at all like Samsung, LG, or Huawei.
And Huawei is an odd company to mention in the context of the U.S. market, where their phones and telecom equipment are banned because of national security concerns. Worldwide, though, yeah, Huawei sells a lot of phones.
Apple does not have a dominant market share in any market where we
do business. That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any
No M-word, but the meaning is clear: Apple has no monopoly so why are they here? Mind you, I’m not saying I think Apple doesn’t belong here — I think they do — I’m saying that’s what Cook is implying. No monopoly, no antitrust. And it’s undeniably true that antitrust laws, as written, don’t address a company that has attained a dominant position with only minority market share.
We created the App Store in 2008 as a feature of the iPhone.
Launching with a little more than 500 apps, it was our ambitious
attempt to drastically expand the features and customizability of
every user’s device. We wanted to create a safe and trusted place
for users to discover apps — and a means of providing a secure
and supportive way for developers to develop, test and distribute
apps to iPhone users globally.
No mention here of Steve Jobs’s statement, announcing the App Store in 2008: “We don’t intend to make any money off the App Store. We’re basically giving all the money to the developers and the 30 percent that pays for running the store, that’ll be great.”
It would be interesting to ask Cook when Apple’s perspective on that changed.
Curation has always been one of the App Store’s chief features and
sources of value for our users. We held a quality department store
as a model: a place where customers can find a great variety of
options, but can feel confident that the selection is
high-quality, reliable and current.
The analogy to a “quality department store” holds as much water as a sieve. The App Store is analogous only to something like Amazon, an everything store, with apps ranging from premium products to abject junk.
When the App Store was created, the prevailing distribution
options available to software developers at the time did not
work well. Brick-and-mortar stores charged high fees and had
limited reach. Physical media like CDs had to be shipped and
were hard to update.
To omit the fact that there was — dating back to the mid-’90s, well over a decade before the iPhone App Store — a thriving market for software sold directly over a thing called “The Internet” is sophistry. Most Mac software is still sold and distributed this way today. If App Stores are so great why is most Mac software sold outside the Mac App Store?
Rob Pegoraro today wrote an entire piece for Forbes on just this point: “What Tim Cook Left Out of His Version of App Store History”. Highly recommended.
Brick-and-mortar software stores and middlemen distributors did charge exorbitant fees, and distributing software on physical media, no matter how it was sold, sucked. But talking about brick-and-mortar retail software sales in 2020 is like talking about when cars sucked because you had to crank their motors by hand to start them. Or even like talking about when our city streets were ankle deep in horseshit before cars existed.
Talking about brick-and-mortar software distribution without even mentioning direct downloads and sales over the web is flat-out dishonest, and clearly the most disappointing aspect of Cook’s prepared testimony.1 ★
Thursday, 23 July 2020
I’ll bet you have a short list of favorite authors and filmmakers. When you hear that one of them has a new book or movie coming out, you’re buying a ticket before you know the premise. Zach Gage is that type of game designer: Really Bad Chess, Ridiculous Fishing, Flipflop Solitaire and more. They’re great games, exquisitely crafted, with inordinately clever premises and conceits. And no matter how disparate the premises they all share Gage’s distinctive voice and aesthetic. There’s a distinct Gage-yness to a Zach Gage game, in the way that you know, say, a Stephen King novel or Martin Scorsese movie just by the feel of it.
It’s a combination of joy, craftsmanship, and originality. I say craftsmanship because they’re not just good games but they’re good apps. The interactions and feel and flow and simply design of the software as software are all great. If Zach Gage made a utility app instead of game it’d surely be exquisite, in the same way that, again, good novelists often write great non-fiction and good fiction filmmakers make good documentaries.
We don’t have enough auteurs like that in software. I don’t know why that is. But it’s pretty great that we have Zach Gage.
The premise behind Good Sudoku — Gage’s new game out today, made with developer Jack Schlesinger (free download, $4 one-time in-app purchase to unlock everything) — is sort of the inverse of Really Bad Chess. Really Bad Chess messes with standard chess by screwing with all the rules for how many pieces of which kind each side gets. Good Sudoku is just straight-up Sudoku. Where’s the novelty in that? Execution. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of Sudoku video games, and none of them are great (and most of them stink). Good Sudoku is Sudoku with great design, consideration, and craftsmanship. That’s it, and it turns out that’s idea enough.
See also: John Voorhees at MacStories, and Andrew Webster at The Verge. ★