‘iMessage With PQ3: The New State of the Art in Quantum-Secure Messaging at Scale’ ★
Historically, messaging platforms have used classical public key
cryptography, such as RSA, Elliptic Curve signatures, and
Diffie-Hellman key exchange, to establish secure end-to-end
encrypted connections between devices. All these algorithms are
based on difficult mathematical problems that have long been
considered too computationally intensive for computers to solve,
even when accounting for Moore’s law. However, the rise of quantum
computing threatens to change the equation. A sufficiently
powerful quantum computer could solve these classical mathematical
problems in fundamentally different ways, and therefore — in
theory — do so fast enough to threaten the security of end-to-end
Although quantum computers with this capability don’t exist yet,
extremely well-resourced attackers can already prepare for their
possible arrival by taking advantage of the steep decrease in
modern data storage costs. The premise is simple: such attackers
can collect large amounts of today’s encrypted data and file it
all away for future reference. Even though they can’t decrypt any
of this data today, they can retain it until they acquire a
quantum computer that can decrypt it in the future, an attack
scenario known as Harvest Now, Decrypt Later.
To mitigate risks from future quantum computers, the cryptographic
community has been working on post-quantum cryptography (PQC): new
public key algorithms that provide the building blocks for
quantum-secure protocols but don’t require a quantum computer to
run — that is, protocols that can run on the classical,
non-quantum computers we’re all using today, but that will remain
secure from known threats posed by future quantum computers.
A remarkably cogent layman’s overview of some remarkably advanced cryptography. Slots right in with two recent themes here at DF:
iMessage is inarguably an advanced, wholly independent messaging platform. It speaks only to the ease-of-use of Apple’s Messages app — the only iMessage client — that so many people mistakenly think iMessage is merely SMS with different-colored text bubbles and higher-quality image and video attachments.
Apple has good reasons not to allow unauthorized third-party clients like Beeper.
Neatest of all is that Apple is rolling out this upgrade to iMessage encryption in the next round of OS updates (iOS/iPadOS 17.4, MacOS 14.4, and WatchOS 10.4 — VisionOS isn’t mentioned in the post) automatically. iMessage users don’t need to do anything other than update their software, and their communications will use the new PQ3 encryption.
One hole in iMessage’s security story is old devices — those that can’t be upgraded to the latest OS. It’s great that Apple devices tend to be useful for years after they’re no longer capable of running the current OS, but that means that iMessage communication is only as secure as the oldest device in the chat. I’m pretty sure the only reason Beeper was able to work at all was exploiting loopholes that existed for supporting older devices.
Another hole remains iCloud backups, which, by default, continue to include iMessage message history using keys that Apple controls — which in turn means keys that Apple can, and does, use to turn over data to law enforcement when issued a warrant. Only using Advanced Data Protection are Messages backups encrypted using only keys stored only on your personal devices. But even amongst Daring Fireball readers — which I think is fair to describe as a savvy audience — only a minority have Advanced Data Protection enabled.
And even if you have Advanced Data Protection enabled, there’s no way for you to know whether the people you communicate with using iMessage have it enabled.
Nvidia Is Crushing It ★
Asa Fitch, reporting for the WSJ:
Chief Executive Jensen Huang described AI as hitting “the tipping
point” and indicated demand for the computing power that underlies
AI remained astronomical. “Demand is surging worldwide across
companies, industries and nations,” he said.
That demand showed up in the company’s results Wednesday. Sales
more than tripled in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter from a
year earlier and are projected to do so again in the current
period. Earnings surged more than eightfold. The results exceeded
Shares in the company rose 9% in off-hours trading.
That’s a big move for a company with a roughly $2 trillion cap.
In addition to ChatGPT, a number of other popular AI products have
started to hit the market in recent months, including digital
assistants for coding and business from Microsoft. Nvidia has
transformed itself in the space of three years from a company
focused on chips that help videogames run faster to the red-hot
center of the AI boom.
Sometimes a company is in the right place at the right time for a pivot/industry shift. Apple was doing great in the 2000s, with the iPod and the Mac (especially after the switch from PowerPC to Intel) — and then the iPhone happened. Nvidia was (and remains) undeniably the leader in high-end gaming video cards, but now, truly suddenly, their gaming business is dwarfed by their data center AI hardware business.
Do great work and great things tend to happen. Or in the words of Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Are Apple’s FineWoven iPhone Cases Shoddy? ★
Joanna Stern, in her weekly newsletter:
There it is, everyone. My iPhone 15 Pro Max’s FineWoven case after
five months of use. The edges are peeling, the fabric is scratched
up like an old CD and it’s browning like a rotten banana. I’ve
been waiting for the CDC to show up at my house to declare it a
Some of you will say: “JOANNA! How gross are you?” Others — those
who bought this case for $59 when it came out in September — will
likely say: “Yep. Same issues here.”
Apple made a big eco-friendly deal about the FineWoven case when
it was announced alongside the iPhone 15 models in the fall.
Replacing the company’s leather cases, Apple said this FineWoven
material was “an elegant and durable new textile” and that it was
made from 68% “post-consumer recycled content.” Admirable. Except
nothing has been fine about the FineWoven case.
The accompanying photo is, in a word, gross. Personally, I like the feel of a new FineWoven case, and used one happily while on a trip to Orlando back in the fall (I like the additional grip of a case — any case — when I’m (a) sweaty and (b) using the camera a lot) but I’ve gone caseless almost the entire time I’ve owned my iPhone 15 Pro. I’ve generally gone caseless with all my iPhones, but even more so with the iPhone 15 Pro because I find the titanium so pleasantly grippy compared to the polished stainless steel of the iPhones X through 14.
But it really does seem, five months in, that FineWoven is a failure, durability-wise, compared to Apple’s previous leather cases. And I am repulsed by Apple’s FineWoven Apple Watch straps — I wish I’d bought a spare leather Magnetic Link strap while they sold them. Setting aside durability, I just find the FineWoven Magnetic Link straps to be cheap-feeling, but they cost $100.
If you own and have regularly used a FineWoven case, I’m running a poll regarding durability/satisfaction on Mastodon, Threads, and Twitter/X.
‘AirPods Extreme’ Was Considered as a Name for AirPods Pro ★
Joe Rossignol, with a fun little post at MacRumors:
In the months leading up to Apple announcing the AirPods Pro in
October 2019, the company considered changing the name of the
wireless headphones to AirPods Extreme, according to internal
information obtained by MacRumors.
The name AirPods Extreme was floated by at least one member of
Apple’s leadership team, but the company ultimately decided to
move forward with AirPods Pro branding after many employees
objected to the change, we have learned.
Apple’s matrix of product-name suffix adjectives — Pro, Max, Ultra, Extreme — usually makes sense, but occasionally doesn’t. “AirPods Pro” is clearly the right name for this product, though. Calling these small earbuds “Extreme” would make no sense side-by-side with AirPods Max. To me, at least, “AirPods Extreme” would be the name for over-the-ear headphones even better than AirPods Max.
Yahoo Lays Off the Leaders of Engadget ★
Mia Sato, reporting for The Verge:
Engadget, which is operated by Yahoo, will lay off 10 employees, according to people with knowledge of the situation who say staff were “blindsided” by the decision. In addition to cutting staff, the editorial team will split into two sections: “news and features” and “reviews and buying advice.” The news teams will focus on traffic growth, while the reviews teams will report to commerce leaders.
As part of the layoffs, editor-in-chief Dana Wollman is out, according to posts on X, as is managing editor Terrence O’Brien. People with knowledge of the situation say that there are no plans to replace Wollman.
“[The changes] will allow us to streamline our work, increase our velocity, and ultimately deliver the best content to our readers,” Sarah Priestley, who is listed as Engadget’s general manager on its masthead, wrote in a memo shared by Max Tani at Semafor.
That memo contains this gem of a sentence (boldface emphasis from original):
I am reaching out today to share that we’re making changes to our organization, which will allow us to streamline our work, increase our velocity and ultimately deliver the best content to our readers.
The sort of executive who calls what their own publication creates “content” is exactly the sort of asshole who thinks talented editors and writers can be laid off while increasing “velocity” and the quality of the work. I predict the next time Engadget is in the news will be when they’re caught in a Sports-Illustrated-esque AI-generated content (there, content is apt) fiasco.
A great brand and publication laid to waste. That’s the Yahoo way.
Apple Sports and Lock Screen Live Activities ★
Yesterday, in my piece on the new Apple Sports app, I wrote:
Live activities for your lock screen are available, but Sports
doesn’t — yet — offer any Home Screen widgets.
A bunch of readers emailed to ask how to get Live Activities from Sports. Turns out, it’s not the new Sports app that provides them, it’s the existing TV app (which has offered them since last year in iOS 16). So if you want to follow a particular game from your lock screen, from the card in Sports for that game, you tap “Open in Apple TV”, and there you can tap “Follow Live”.
That’s a bit convoluted, really. But it wasn’t clear to me at all yesterday that you couldn’t initiate a Live Activity directly in Sports, because at the time I was writing, there weren’t any live sporting events.
(Also: I wondered yesterday why Journal is built-into iOS 17 but Sports is only available from the App Store. The obvious answer is that for the time being, Sports is only available in the US, Canada, and the UK.)
Apple Sports Is Eddy Cue’s Baby ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
It turns out that those scores, fed from Apple to the TV app and
the Apple TV and a few select other places, are from a data
source that Eddy Cue also cares about a lot. He’s been pushing it
to be as close to real time as is technologically possible, right
down to watching his phone and comparing it to the scoreboard at
a Warriors game. And now that data source is driving Apple’s
latest app, a free iPhone app called Apple Sports, which is
“I just want to get the damn score of the game,” Cue says. “And
it’s really hard to do, because it seems like it’s nobody’s core
[feature].” In a sports data world increasingly driven by
fantasy and betting, Apple’s not trying to build an adjunct to
some other app business model. [...]
“We said, ‘We’re going to make the best scores app that you could
possibly make,’” Cue said.
I love the idea of Cue personally field-testing the app while in development courtside at Warriors games. “I just want to get the damn score of the game” and “We’re going to make the best scores app that you could possibly make” are downright Jobsian in their clarity, and in the fact that they’re driven simply by the notion of making a good, fun, simple, fast app that is highly focused in scope.
Remember the story about Jobs and iDVD? I feel like Apple Sports is a lot like that:
Likewise, when Jobs was shown a cluttered set of proposed
navigation screens for iDVD, which allowed users to burn video
onto a disk, he jumped up and drew a simple rectangle on a
whiteboard. “Here’s the new application,” he said. “It’s got
one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click
the button that says ‘Burn.’ That’s it. That’s what we’re going
Wednesday, 21 February 2024
“We created Apple Sports to give sports fans what they want — an
app that delivers incredibly fast access to scores and stats,”
said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services. “Apple
Sports is available for free in the App Store, and makes it easy
for users to stay up to date with their favorite teams and
Apple Sports is indeed incredibly fast to load and update. Nearly instantaneous. You might think, “So what, it’s just loading scores and stats, of course it’s fast”, but the truth is ad tech, combined with poor programming, has made most sports apps slow to load. Most apps, period, really. Just being very fast to load ought not be a hugely differentiating factor in 2024, but it is. (ESPN’s app, for example, is incredibly slow to show anything useful after launching.)
Apple isn’t listing several major sports leagues — including MLB, WNBA, and the king of all leagues, the NFL — but that’s simply because they’re not in season. They’re only listing leagues currently playing. MLB, WNBA, and NFL will be included once they start playing.
Apple is including betting odds in game listings by default, with data from DraftKings. If you don’t want to see gambling odds, you need to turn them off in Settings → Sports. I like DraftKings, and have an account there, but I generally find that their odds are outliers and fluctuate more from the consensus odds. FanDuel and BetMGM are both more in line with the consensus, at least for the NFL. (I have no idea if either FanDuel or BetMGM offer odds as an API service for an app like Sports, though.) Anyway, I’m just glad the odds are there.
Live activities for your lock screen are available, but Sports doesn’t — yet — offer any Home Screen widgets.
Just like Apple’s new Journal app, Sports is iPhone-only. There’s no compatible version for Mac, Vision, TV, or Watch. The difference from Journal is that Journal is built-into iOS 17 (17.2 and later), but Sports is a download from the App Store — not built into the OS (yet?) — and can be installed on an iPad. But on iPad, it just runs in an iPhone layout. Does Apple think this Sports app is only relevant on iPhone (and perhaps, eventually, Apple Watch), or is this just the platform they targeted first and it’ll be available as a proper iPad and Vision app eventually? (I’m thinking it might never be a Mac app. Once Sports offers Home Screen widgets, you’ll be able to get those widgets on your Mac desktop via the feature that lets you put iPhone app widgets on your Mac.)
I generally have a good sense of why Apple does things the way it does, but it’s not clear to me at all why Journal, say, is now built into iOS 17 but Sports is only available from the App Store. I sort of think Sports will be included by default in iOS 18, but maybe I’m missing something here.
Sports syncs your favorite teams (and leagues?) between the Apple TV and Apple News apps, so if you’ve already set favorite teams in either of those apps, Sports already knows them. Sports also integrates with the TV for “watch now” — not just for sports that Apple itself broadcasts (like MLS soccer and Friday Night Baseball), but for any live sporting events available through any available streaming apps. That’s a killer feature. (ESPN, unsurprisingly, only has “where to watch” links for games broadcast on ESPN or ABC.)
The app this most sherlocks for me is Sports Alerts. I’ve been a big fan of Sports Alerts for years, and they’ve been great about adopting new features like Lock Screen Live Activities very quickly. But Apple Sports looks far better and offers far more clarity; Sports Alerts looks like what it is: a cross-platform app with an Android look-alike companion. A truly iOS-native live sports scores/stats app ought to be able to blow anything cross-platform out of the water, and Apple Sports seems to be that. Yahoo Sports has been sitting in my App Library, mostly unused, for years — I’ll probably delete it now.
The design language of Apple Sports is new. I wouldn’t say Sports looks much like Journal, but they’re similar insofar as they both are using a new, very simple, very focused UI design language. Sports is closest aesthetically, perhaps, to Apple Weather. But Sports shares with Journal a sort of fundamental “Here’s a scrollable feed of events, and there’s a menu at the top right of the list” gestalt. Sports’s simple layout and design is such that you don’t need to drill down or hunt for what you want. You get three main utterly self-explanatory tabs at the top — Yesterday, Today, Upcoming — and within each tab is a list of sporting events. Tap any event to open a card for that event with all the details, and from that card view, you can either swipe side-to-side to switch between different different events, or swipe down to dismiss the card and go back to the main list. It’s so simple and intuitive that it doesn’t seem designed at all, but that’s the sort of design that takes the most work and most iteration.
One question I’ve already seen asked is why make this a standalone app? Why not build it into the TV app or News app? The answer is speed, focus, and simplicity. There’s a natural tendency in our industry — especially from big companies — to keep adding more and more features to existing apps and services. A big part of what made the iPhone so revolutionary was that the iPhone reset the thinking on that. The iPhone way of thinking is to have more apps that are smaller and more focused, not fewer apps that are bigger and more monolithic. Apple Sports exemplifies why it’s a better idea to design smaller, more focused apps.
It’s very rare for a new iPhone app, immediately upon debut, to land a spot on my first iPhone Home Screen. But Journal did, and so now has Sports. ★
Friday, 16 February 2024
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
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
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
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
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
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
That’s quite the second career for Reardon. If I recall correctly, Internet Explorer was fairly popular at one time.
Thursday, 15 February 2024
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
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
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. ★
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 ★
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
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
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
- 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!