Textpattern Turns 20 

Stef Dawson, on the Textpattern blog:

Twenty years ago, the landscape was very different. There was advertising, sure, but nowhere near the scale of today. And, perhaps to celebrate the fact that Dean Allen’s newly created CMS was so small, nimble, lightweight, yet powerful — or perhaps because its creator was an eccentric genius — the fanfare surrounding the official birth of Textpattern was this:

Public Gamma 1.10 is up. I’m going to bed.

(from Textism)

That was it; the extent of the marketing campaign. Nothing more. Nothing less. A factual statement and an indicator that the road to reach it from the numerous alpha and beta releases throughout 2001 until its naming in 2003 and public release in 2004 had been arduous, yet worth it.

I don’t hear about it much, but I’m so glad to see Textpattern is still going. And man do I still miss Dean Allen.

Lina Khan Has Been a Terrible FTC Chair 

Eric Seufert, in a thread on Threads:

I’ve been critical of the FTC’s strategy under Khan; in a recent podcast episode, I likened the FTC to the Washington Generals of technology antitrust. As conveyed in the Commission’s report by the FTC’s own staff, Khan seems to be engaged in an activist crusade moored to a very specific ideological worldview — “Big is de facto Bad” — that has resulted in a series of defeats.

The excesses of Big Tech should be constrained. But that has yet to be achieved with the cases brought by the FTC, many of which, to my mind, are predicated on a confused understanding of the way that consumers engage with and benefit from technology. I think this is especially true concerning the economics of digital advertising and the freemium economy more broadly.

Unless I’m missing something, under Khan’s leadership the FTC has accomplished nothing. It’s all for show. She ought to be one of the first appointees to be replaced if Biden wins another term. (Merrick Garland first, though. An ineffective but showboating FTC chair isn’t actively harming the country; Garland — obsequious to the beltway cult of Both Sidesism — has been an outright disaster for democracy itself.)

Netflix Will No Longer Accept Payments From App Store Billing for Legacy Accounts 

Luke Bouma, reporting for Cord Cutters News:

Are you one of the Netflix customers who still pay your Netflix bill through Apple? For years now, Netflix has not accepted new subscribers or rejoined members who want to use Apple to pay their bills. If you already had an active account, though, that paid through Apple you could continue to do so. Now, though, that seems to be coming to an end.

Today, Netflix started to inform customers that Apple will no longer be accepting Apple Pay through iTunes Subscriptions, for example.

Netflix stopped accepting new subscriptions from in-app purchases five years ago, but until now had allowed existing in-app subscriptions to keep going — and for many of those users, at lower prices than they currently offer.

Netflix and Apple used to be partners; now they’re rivals. Dropping support for the remaining legacy iTunes accounts isn’t nearly as big a deal as Netflix eschewing a native VisionOS app, but still, it’s a sign of how far apart the two companies are today. Apple TV didn’t have an App Store until the fourth-gen models (a.k.a. “Apple TV HD”) were introduced in 2015. But back in 2010, Apple included a Netflix “app” in the second-gen Apple TV, along with YouTube and Flickr. Those services were integrated right into the system software. That seems like forever ago.

Also, hats off to Cord Cutter News for their humility. Netflix’s stock was up 2 percent today. Surely that’s because this news came as “a relief to investors” — but Cord Cutter News took no credit for it.

Apple Is Canceling Electric Car Project 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is canceling a decadelong effort to build an electric car, according to people with knowledge of the matter, abandoning one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the company.

Apple made the disclosure internally Tuesday, surprising the nearly 2,000 employees working on the project, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the announcement wasn’t public. The decision was shared by Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and Kevin Lynch, a vice president in charge of the effort, according to the people.

The two executives told staffers that the project will begin winding down and that many employees on the car team — known as the Special Projects Group, or SPG — will be shifted to the artificial intelligence division under executive John Giannandrea. Those employees will focus on generative AI projects, an increasingly key priority for the company.

Kevin Lynch took over leadership of Project Titan back in September 2021, but remained in charge of Apple Watch, too. In hindsight that makes me wonder if Lynch’s mission wasn’t to ship a car, but more to assess what technologies the group had created could be used to create other products. Whatever progress Apple has made with “autonomy” ought to be applicable to robots, for example. Making intelligent robots feels more like something Apple should be doing than making cars.

The move came as a relief to investors, who sent Apple shares climbing Tuesday after Bloomberg reported the news. The stock was up about 1% at $182.63 by the close in New York.

Or, maybe, investors didn’t care at all, and popular stocks typically move up or down by a percentage point or so every single day. But Bloomberg is going to Bloomberg.

Sonar 

My thanks to Sonar for sponsoring last week at DF. Sonar is music to my ears: a brand-new totally Mac-assed app for GitHub and GitLab issues.

Sonar combines the lightweight UI of a to-do app with the power of enterprise-level issue tracking, all in a native app built by long-time Mac nerds. The interface is deceptively simple, and very intuitive. Fast and fluid too. Everything that’s great about native Mac apps is exemplified by Sonar. If you’ve ever thought, “Man, if only Apple made a native GitHub client...”, you should run, not walk, to download it.

Sonar saves all your changes directly to GitHub/GitLab using their official APIs, so your data remains secure on GitHub’s servers — not Sonar’s. Do you have team members not using Sonar? No problem. Changes you make in Sonar are 100% compatible with the web UI.

Sonar is free to try for 14 days — no subscriptions or purchases required. Sonar is my favorite new Mac app of the year. You should try it.

‘iMessage With PQ3: The New State of the Art in Quantum-Secure Messaging at Scale’ 

Apple:

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 encrypted communications.

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 analyst expectations.

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 biomedical concern.

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 debuting today.

“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 to make.”

Coming Soon: Apple Immersive Video Film With Highlights of MLS 2023 Playoffs 

Apple Newsroom, in a post announcing the kickoff of the MLS 2024 season:

Coming soon, all Apple Vision Pro users can experience the best of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs with the first-ever sports film captured in Apple Immersive Video. Viewers will feel every heart-pounding moment in 8K 3D with a 180-degree field of view and Spatial Audio that transports them to each match.

I speculated on the most recent episode of Dithering — which you should subscribe to! — that Apple’s immersive video sports coverage might not be for live events any time soon, but rather will be something akin to NFL Films and the heyday of HBO’s Inside the NFL. Which is to say, highlights presented in far better quality than what you see live. Sounds like that’s exactly what’s coming soon, at least.

Also, if you have a Vision Pro, go to the TV app and check out the “Experience Immersive” preview video. (Screenshot.) It’s a trailer with a slew of Apple Immersive Video clips that, mostly, aren’t yet available in full-length form. Swimming with sharks, flying over a city, all sorts of stuff. But most interesting to me are the two sports clips: a goal scored (sorry for the spoiler) in an MLS match, as seen from right behind and above the goal; and an error-scoring run in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, as seen from the ground-level dugout behind first base. (Missing in action is the NBA clip Apple previewed for us in the media at WWDC last June.)

These aren’t simulating “good seats” at the live events — they’re simulating impossible seats. You can’t actually sit in the dugout at Fenway. You can’t sit right behind the goal, 15 feet up in the air, at an MLS match. I’m just vibrating in anticipation of Apple making sports footage like this available regularly. Even if we’re years away from being able to watch live sports in Apple Immersive Video, even just highlights after the fact should be mind-blowing. Back in the day, Inside the NFL was reason enough to subscribe to HBO if you were an NFL fan.


Apple Sports

Apple Newsroom:

“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 leagues.”

Observations:

  • 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. 


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.

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.