‘Give Those Glasses to the Bailiff’ 

The Simpsons really has predicted so much. Maybe Apple should pivot Project Titan into a monorail project.

E.U. Regulators Gonna Regulate 

Hartley Charlton:

The provisional agreement on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) was reached earlier this week by EU governments, with 43 votes in favor, one against, and one abstention, showing a broad consensus from European lawmakers to aggressively regulate big tech companies. [...]

The latest provisional agreement sets out plans to establish a “High-Level Group” of central European digital regulators to coordinate national regulators across EU member states and requires “gatekeepers” to create an independent “compliance function.” The new group must include compliance officers to monitor their company’s compliance with EU legislation using sufficient authority, resources, and access to management, and be headed by an “independent senior manager with distinct responsibility for the compliance function.” The rule would effectively require companies like Apple to set up a department internal dedicated to meeting pro-competition regulations.

That sounds like a lot of fun, and something that won’t bog down progress at all.

In addition, new rules specifically targeted to address companies like Apple that have “a dual role” with control over both hardware and software look to allow any developer to gain access to any existing hardware feature, such as “near-field communication technology, secure elements and processors, authentication mechanisms, and the software used to control those technologies.”

This is bananas. All third party developers get control over the secure enclave and the software that controls it? Would be good to give them such control over the camera, microphone, and location data, too.

This is profoundly anti-consumer. Consumers aren’t asking for any of this shit. Actual people love their phones more than their computers — whether Macs or PCs — not despite the fact that their phones are tightly controlled consoles, but because they are tightly controlled consoles. These regulators don’t see it that way, because they’re idiots. They think they can legislate their way to a world where the iPhone (and Android, which is also console-like) remains far safer and more reliable than PCs while mandating that all the protections that have made them far safer and more reliable than PCs be removed. It’s absurd.

Worth noting: “Europe” accounts for nearly 25 percent of Apple’s revenue. That includes 23 countries that aren’t in the E.U. — most notably, of course, the U.K. — but the E.U. is too big for Apple to just tell them to pound sand. I would imagine though, if this comes to fruition, E.U. citizens are going to wind up buying iPhones that operate very differently from those sold everywhere else in the world, and they will suffer for it.

The Decline in COVID Reporting at The New York Times Continues 

This is one doozy of a correction in a New York Times report yesterday on updated CDC guidance for COVID booster shots for kids aged 5–11:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the numbers of children aged 5 to 11 with multisystem inflammatory syndrome. About 4,000 have been diagnosed, not died, with the syndrome.

The report, once again, is from Apoorva Mandavilli, who just a few months ago reported that 900,000 children in the U.S. had been hospitalized with COVID, when the actual number was 63,000. By replacing Donald McNeil with Mandavilli as their lead COVID science reporter, the Times has gone from Pulitzer-Prize-winning science-backed reporting to embarrassing uninformed ninnyism.

At this point, when I see Mandavilli’s byline, I immediately start reading with my eyes rolled.

From the Department of ‘Fuck Around and Find Out’ 

Gijong Lee, reporting for Korean news site TheElec:

BOE is yet to receive approval from Apple to manufacture OLED panels for the upcoming iPhone 14 smartphones series, TheElec has learned. The company was caught having changed the circuit width of the thin film transistors on the OLED panels it made for iPhone 13 earlier this year, people familiar with the matter said.

This was done without Apple’s approval in a likely bid to increase the yield rate, they said. BOE could not receive any orders from Cupertino for OLED panels on the iPhone 14 series because of this, they added.

The Chinese display panel [maker] sent a C-level executive and employees to Apple’s headquarters following the incident to explain why they changed the circuit width of the transistors.

If there’s any truth to this, I’d venture to say BOE might never supply for Apple again. (Via MacDailyNews.)

The Information: ‘The Inside Story of Why Apple Bet Big on a Mixed-Reality Headset’ 

From the first of a two-part report for The Information by Wayne Ma (paywalled, alas):

Rockwell, Meier and Rothkopf soon encountered pushback from Ive’s team. The three men had initially wanted to build a VR headset, but Ive’s group had concerns about the technology, said three people who worked on the project. They believed VR alienated users from other people by cutting them off from the outside world, made users look unfashionable and lacked practical uses. Apple’s industrial designers were unconvinced that consumers would be willing to wear headsets for long periods of time, two of the people said.

Count me on the design team’s side. Near the end of Ma’s report is this sentence: “Rockwell’s team also wanted users to be able to wear the headset for as much as eight hours a day.” Perhaps I simply lack imagination, but I can’t see myself wearing something like that for eight hours a day. (I imagine someone a few decades ago saying the same thing about sitting in front of a computer monitor for eight hours a day, which I’ve done for my entire adult life, so as ever, I’m keeping an open mind.)

The men came up with a solution to address the concerns of Ive’s team. For example, they proposed adding cameras to the front of the headset so that people wearing the device could see their surroundings, said the three people. But the feature that ultimately sold the industrial designers on the project was a concept for an outward-facing screen on the headset. The screen could display video images of the eyes and facial expressions of the person wearing the headset to other people in the room.

These features addressed the industrial design group’s worries about VR-induced alienation — they allowed other people in a room to interact and collaborate with a person wearing a headset in a way not possible with other VR gear. For years, the existence of such a display, internally code-named T429, was known only to a small circle of people even within Rockwell’s group.

Again, perhaps I lack imagination, but this outward display, showing the headset wearer’s eyes, sounds bizarre to me. Scratch that, it sounds nightmarishly ghoulish. I’m thinking something like this, but live, like this horror show Facebook actually bragged about. Apple’s not going to ship something ghoulish or goofy, of course. So if something matching Ma’s description ships, it’ll be nothing like what his description has made me imagine. Weird!

Update: Apt comic from Robert Black’s The Sharp End.

Markdoc 

I’ve long heard from friends that Stripe’s developer documentation is not just excellent, but perhaps the best developer documentation in the world. They do all sorts of neat things to help developers, like putting your API key into snippets you copy from the website. Clever. It’s also just a great looking website with good navigation.

Markdoc is Stripe’s own content authoring system, implementing a rich superset of Markdown, and released this week as an open source project. It looks wonderful. I love their syntax extensions — very true to the spirit of Markdown. They use curly braces for their extensions; I’m not sure I ever made this clear, publicly, but I avoided using curly braces in Markdown itself — even though they are very tempting characters — to unofficially reserve them for implementation-specific extensions. Markdoc’s extensive use of curly braces for its syntax is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about.

The Markdoc site itself is, of course, splendidly documented and fun to play with. You can try it out right in their example dingus on the homepage.

Warms my heart to see Markdown continuing to grow like this.

Gurman: ‘Apple Shows XR Headset to Board in Sign It’s Reached Advanced Stage’ 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. executives previewed its upcoming mixed-reality headset to the company’s board last week, indicating that development of the device has reached an advanced stage, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The company’s board, made up of eight independent directors and Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, convenes at least four times a year. A version of the device was demonstrated to the directors during the latest gathering, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private.

Not a surprise given how widely it’s been reported — largely by Gurman — that Apple had originally planned to release its first headset this fall, and still might announce it this year. But goddamn I’d love to know who leaked this demo to Gurman.

Research Paper on the Potential for iPhone Malware That Runs in Low Power Mode 

Bruce Schneier:

The research is fascinating, but the attack isn’t really feasible. It requires a jailbroken phone, which is hard to pull off in an adversarial setting.

Apple Responds to ‘Final Cut Pro in TV and Film’ Open Letter 

Apple, responding to last month’s open letter from industry professionals concerned about Final Cut Pro’s also-ran status in Hollywood production:

While we believe we have plans in place to help address your important feature requests, we also recognize the need to build on those efforts and work alongside you to help support your film and TV projects and keep you posted on important updates.

That Apple responded at all is the story. Sounds like Apple does want to address the group’s concerns.

Update: A pal just sent me this clip from 10 years ago on Conan O’Brien’s show, in which the show’s editing team sings the praises of the (then) all-new editing interface in Final Cut Pro X. Can’t believe I never saw this before.

Update 2: Welp, turns out I was right not to believe I hadn’t seen it before.

Apple Previews Upcoming Accessibility Features 

Apple, kicking off Global Accessibility Awareness Day:

Using advancements across hardware, software, and machine learning, people who are blind or low vision can use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with Door Detection; users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring; and the Deaf and hard of hearing community can follow Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple is also expanding support for its industry-leading screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.

Amazing features, one and all. And Apple has been delivering on these accessibility feature previews — we should expect to see all of these in action by this week next year. (A lot of them seem like they’d be useful with AR glasses, too.)

Google Messages RCS Being Abused for Spam in India 

Ben Schoon, reporting for 9to5Google:

Brought to our attention by Ishan Argwal on Twitter, RCS ads in Google Messages appear to be coming from “Verified Business” accounts. Google first announced that functionality back in 2020, for the purposes of allowing customers to talk to businesses. Advertising was surely part of the functionality, but it’s clearly being abused in India. Android Police says these ads have been going out for almost a year now, citing examples of ads sent by Kotak Mahindra Bank, Bajaj Finserv, Buddy Loan, and PolicyBazaar. From what we can tell from user reports, it appears the frequency of these ads has been picking up over the past few months especially.

These ads are not harmless, either, with many of the examples we’ve seen being for personal loans, a category that tends to be full of predatory practices. One user reports that they were sent one of these ads on a phone that didn’t even have an active SIM card in it.

Currently, it seems as though this practice is primarily happening in the Indian market, at least in this quantity.

Yet another success story in Google’s storied history of messaging services.

According to Android Police, the only solution to this spam is to disable RCS. Anyone arguing that Apple should add RCS support to iOS should have their head examined.

‘Watching You’ — New Privacy Ad From DuckDuckGo 

Pairs well with Apple’s new spot. Fun too, to see the “Get It On Google Play” banner on the closing screen.

‘Data Auction’ — New Privacy Ad From Apple 

Nice sequel to last year’s “Tracked”.

In a mere 90 seconds, while telling an actual story, it manages to work in a slew of iOS privacy features, including App Tracking Transparency, Mail Privacy Protection, Safari’s tracker detection, and the fact that your Contacts database requires your permission for an app to access. (Also worth noting, although it doesn’t come up in the ad: when you share a contact to someone else, the shared contact does not contain your Notes field. Update: And even just to access the Contacts database, period, developers need a special entitlement.)

The only major recent privacy feature not featured in the ad is one of my favorites: iCloud Private Relay. The decision not to promote iCloud Private Relay in the ad could well be explained by the fact that it’s still labeled “beta” in both iOS and MacOS. I’ve been using it ever since it became available with very few problems.

Molly White, Interviewed by Harvard Business Review: ‘Cautionary Tales From Cryptoland’ 

One more on the “cryptocurrency is mostly about scams” front — a concise interview with Web3 Is Going Just Great creator Molly White, by Harvard Business Review editor Thomas Stackpole:

Stackpole: One of the most surprising (to me, anyway) arguments you make is that Web3 could be a disaster for privacy and create major issues around harassment. Why? And does it feel like the companies “buying into” Web3 are aware of this?

White: Blockchains are immutable, which means once data is recorded, it can’t be removed. [...] Many blockchains also have a very public record of transactions: Anyone can see that a person made a transaction and the details of that transaction. Privacy is theoretically provided through pseudonymity — wallets are identified by a string of characters that aren’t inherently tied to a person. But because you’ll likely use one wallet for most of your transactions, keeping one’s wallet address private can be both challenging and a lot of work and is likely to only become more challenging if this future vision of crypto ubiquity is realized. If a person’s wallet address is known and they are using a popular chain like Ethereum to transact, anyone [else] can see all transactions they’ve made.

Imagine if you went on a first date, and when you paid them back for your half of the meal, they could now see every other transaction you’d ever made — not just the public transactions on some app you used to transfer the cash but any transactions: the split checks with all of your previous dates, that monthly transfer to your therapist, the debts you’re paying off (or not), the charities to which you’re donating (or not), the amount you’re putting in a retirement account (or not). What if they could see the location of the corner store by your apartment where you so frequently go to grab a pint of ice cream at 10 PM?

Web3 is my favorite new blog in years. Everything about it is just perfect.

Matt Levine on ‘Yield Farming’ 

Speaking of cryptocurrencies as Ponzi schemes (powered by energy-intensive computing), here’s Matt Levine, in a podcast interview with FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, responding to Bankman-Fried’s description of “yield farming”:

I think of myself as like a fairly cynical person. And that was so much more cynical than how I would’ve described farming. You’re just like, well, I’m in the Ponzi business and it’s pretty good.

Nicholas Weaver: ‘Cryptocurrency Should “Die in a Fire”’ 

Current Affairs:

Despite being hyped in expensive Super Bowl ads, cryptocurrency is now having a difficult moment. As the New York Times reports, “the crypto world went into a full meltdown this week in a sell-off that graphically illustrated the risks of the experimental and unregulated digital currencies.” One of cryptocurrency’s most vocal skeptics is Nicholas Weaver, senior staff researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and lecturer in the computer science department at UC Berkeley. Weaver has studied cryptocurrencies for years. Speaking with Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson, Prof. Weaver explains why he views the much-hyped technology with such antipathy. He argues that cryptocurrency is useless and destructive, and should “die in a fire.”

I can’t say I learned anything particularly novel from this interview, but Weaver’s cogent arguments and descriptions of how cryptocurrency works gave me confidence that I wasn’t missing anything. There just isn’t any there there other than burning an unconscionable amount of electricity.

Weaver:

So the stock market and the bond market are a positive-sum game. There are more winners than losers. Cryptocurrency starts with zero-sum. So it starts with a world where there can be no more winning than losing. We have systems like this. It’s called the horse track. It’s called the casino. Cryptocurrency investing is really provably gambling in an economic sense. And then there’s designs where those power bills have to get paid somewhere. So instead of zero-sum, it becomes deeply negative-sum.

Effectively, then, the economic analogies are gambling and a Ponzi scheme. Because the profits that are given to the early investors are literally taken from the later investors. This is why I call the space overall, a “self-assembled” Ponzi scheme. There’s been no intent to make a Ponzi scheme. But due to its nature, that is the only thing it can be.

Weaver also makes a strong case that ransomware is only feasible as an industry because of cryptocurrency.

Last-Minute Sponsorship Opening at DF 

DF’s weekly sponsorships have been selling briskly this year, and are currently sold out until August. But: this very week’s spot just opened up.

There’s only one sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. That’s not new — that’s the way the ads on DF have always been. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.

So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor. And if you’re ready to grab this week’s opening, let’s go — should be another good week.

Kolide 

My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Kolide believes that the supposedly “average person” is the key to unlocking a new class of security detection, compliance, and threat remediation. So do the hundreds of organizations that send important security notifications to employees from Kolide’s Slack app.

Kolide knows that organizations can dramatically lower the actual risks they will likely face with a structured, message-based approach. More importantly, they’ll be able to engage end-users to fix nuanced problems that can’t be automated.

Try Kolide for 14 days free; no credit card required.

The Talk Show: ‘After Steve’ 

Special guest Tripp Mickle joins the show to talk about his new book, After Steve, reporting on the last decade at Apple.

Sponsored by:

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Elon Musk on Twitter: ‘Twitter Deal Temporarily on Hold Pending Details Supporting Calculation That Spam/Fake Accounts Do Indeed Represent Less Than 5 Percent of Users’ 

CNBC:

Elon Musk announced Friday that his Twitter deal is on hold until he receives more information about how many fake accounts there are on the social media platform.

In a follow-up tweet around two hours later, Musk added that he was “still committed to the acquisition.” Twitter’s stock plummeted 18% in premarket trading following the initial announcement, but trimmed some losses after the second tweet.

Have you ever been at an amusement park that was nearly empty, such that you can go on the best roller coaster, get off, and go right back on again without a wait? And after a couple of rides you’re like, “OK that’s enough.”

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal Fires Company’s Heads of Product and Revenue 

Kayvon Beykpour, who’d been head of product at Twitter since 2018:

Interrupting my paternity leave to share some final @twitter-related news: I’m leaving the company after over 7 years.

The truth is that this isn’t how and when I imagined leaving Twitter, and this wasn’t my decision. Parag asked me to leave after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.

While I’m disappointed, I take solace in a few things: I am INSANELY proud of what our collective team achieved over the last few years, and my own contribution to this journey. [...] I’m proud that we changed the perception around Twitter’s pace of innovation, and proud that we shifted the culture internally to make bigger bets, move faster, and eliminate sacred cows.

Beykpour arrived at Twitter after their acquisition of Periscope, a product that, in hindsight, has proven to have been ahead of its time. I bet we hear from Beykpour again.

As reported by TechCrunch, the other executive canned by Agrawal was revenue product lead Bruce Falck, who wasted no time updating his Twitter bio.

Why would Agrawal make these moves now, while Twitter’s future — including Agrawal’s, to be clear — is completely up in the air? Idea 1: Agrawal has reason to believe the Musk acquisition is going to fall through, so he’s managing the company as he sees fit. Idea 2: Agrawal thinks the deal is going through and is trying to keep his job as CEO by doing what he thinks (or knows) Musk wants done.

Google I/O 2022 Keynote in 18 Minutes 

Also from The Verge, an excellent 18-minute cut of the Google I/O keynote. It’s kind of funny watching them go from things definitely shipping in a few months (Pixel 7 phones) to something they plan to ship in “2023” (a Pixel tablet, which looks a lot like an iPad but has the front-facing camera on the long side) to something with no timeline of actually shipping (AR glasses that show live translations of what people are saying to you in languages you don’t understand, like subtitles for the real world).

Never a good sign when your most interesting demo is the most nebulous.

Google Teases Upcoming Pixel Watch at I/O 

Victoria Song, reporting for The Verge:

Given that the Pixel Watch is the worst-kept wearable secret of 2022, there wasn’t anything too surprising in terms of design. As suspected, the Pixel Watch has a circular, domed design and features a “tactile” crown and side button. It’s made of recycled stainless steel and has swappable proprietary bands.

No pricing announced other than that it will be a “premium-priced product”, or word about multiple sizes (a big deal, still, for people with smaller wrists). It looks, to some degree (I’d say a large degree), like the design spec was “an Apple Watch but circular”. The dome-shaped edge-to-edge crystal looks nice. I’m curious if it’s sapphire or glass.

The rubber strap they’re showing in photos looks a lot like Apple’s default sport strap, too, with the Marc Newson/Ikepod-style tuck-the-extra-part-under design that Apple Watch has made iconic. But, oddly, Google’s straps have two slots. The slot after the sizing pin is where you tuck the excess strap. I don’t know what purpose the slot before the pin serves.

According to Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, this Fitbit integration will go beyond customizing watch faces and be “imbued throughout” the Pixel Watch experience. Users will be able to sync their data with a Fitbit account, meaning they’ll be able to view it within the Fitbit app and on the web. The watch will use all of Fitbit’s latest algorithms for health and fitness.

As for data privacy, Osterloh said in a briefing that Fitbit and Google data will stay private and separate due to promises it made to regulators during the Fitbit acquisition, meaning that any health data collected on the Pixel Watch will remain under Fitbit’s purview, separate from Google.

Promises made, promises kept, I suppose, but requiring entirely separate accounts for fitness (Fitbit) and everything else (Google) seems like an annoyance, not a feature.

Disney+ Hits 138 Million Subscribers 

Alex Weprin, reporting for The Hollywood Reporter:

Disney once again beat Wall Street expectations last quarter in streaming, adding 7.9 million Disney+ subscribers, and suggesting that the company may be positioned to take a lead in what has become a cutthroat race to the top in streaming.

While Wall Street expectations for Disney+ were varied, a midpoint expectation was 4.5 million to 5 million adds.

I’d classify this as “not surprising at all but interesting”. This is exactly what you’d expect from Disney — they weren’t first to streaming, but once they went in, they went in hard and they’re going to where their customers are, not demanding that their customers come to them.


A Touching Goodbye for iPod

Apple, today, announcing that the last remaining iPod model — the iPod Touch — is now discontinued and available only while supplies last:

“Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Today, the spirit of iPod lives on. We’ve integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV. And Apple Music delivers industry-leading sound quality with support for spatial audio — there’s no better way to enjoy, discover, and experience music.”

This is a nice goodbye to a beloved product. It’s been under-remarked-upon how good the Apple Newsroom site has been. Back in the Jobs era, Apple would post things to the “Hot News” page of apple.com and when it was no longer hot or news, it would just disappear. Newsroom posts feel permanent. Apple’s post today contains a nice gallery of the best and most beloved iPod models: the 2001 original, the 2004 Mini, the 2006 Nano (which really propelled the lineup into what we then thought was the stratosphere of popularity), the 2007 Touch, the 2012 seventh generation Nano, and the Shuffle.1

I suspect most people reading this news will experience two thoughts, simultaneously:

That’s a shame, I loved the iPod.

Wait, they were still selling the iPod Touch?

The 7th-generation iPod Touch went on sale in May 2019; the previous model arrived in 2015. In the latter years of the iPhone era, the iPod Touch wasn’t exactly updated on a regular schedule. The final models from 2019 had the A10 chip that originally debuted with the iPhone 7 in 2016, and started at just $200 for the 32 GB base models. ($300 for 128 GB, $400 for 256 GB.)

Not only did the iPod Touch never make it to the Face ID era of iOS device design, it never even gained Touch ID. It is, today, a bit of a retro device.

But in its time, the iPod Touch was extraordinary. It debuted as a surprise in early September 2007, just 10 weeks after the original iPhone went on sale. It was, basically, spec-for-spec an iPhone without the phone. Alongside the debut of the iPod Touch, Apple cut the prices of the original iPhone — which had only been on sale for a little over two months — by $200. An 8 GB iPhone cost $400, and an 8 GB iPod Touch cost $300. But the iPhone still required a two-year contract with AT&T — with the iPod Touch, you paid $300 (or $400 for 16 GB) and owned it free and clear.

Turns out, 15 years ago, making an iPhone without the phone meant you could make something remarkably thinner. The original iPhone was 11.6mm thick and weighed 135g. The original iPod Touch was just 8mm thick and weighed 120g. The difference in thickness was particularly remarkable. It was like a vision of the iPhone’s future. This year’s A15-based 3rd-generation iPhone SE is 7.3mm thick and weighs 144g — much closer in size and weight to the original iPod Touch than to the thicker original iPhone.

I have two distinctive memories about the iPod Touch and its impressive, forward-looking industrial design. The first was in September 2012, at the event where Apple announced the iPhone 5, and, alongside it, the 4th generation iPod Touch. After the keynote, the media were invited to Apple’s usual hands-on area. I was hanging around with M.G. Siegler that day — Siegler was then covering Apple for TechCrunch — and we were among the first to enter the hands-on area. The table (tables?) with the iPhone 5 models on display were quickly mobbed. M.G. and I left for the table with the new iPod Touch models, which was far less crowded. This was the year when Apple added a small pop-out loop to which you could attach a wrist strap. We both had the same impression: we couldn’t wait to get our hands on iPhone 5 review units, but, the 4th-generation iPod Touch was thinner and sleeker. It still felt like the future of the iPhone, even alongside the sleekest new iPhone to date.

The follow-up memory was, I think, from WWDC 2013. Maybe 2014. I was on the third floor of Moscone West, before the morning keynote. Apple had put out some pastries, coffee, and juice for the media and “special guests” who’d been invited to the keynote. I was standing around, waiting for the doors to open for the keynote hall, looking for friends to say hello to. Mingling, as it were. I happened to walk by a man holding what struck me as an iPhone I’d never seen before. It was a jolt. It was, to re-use that same adjective, sleeker, in some fun color. Blue, maybe? My first thought was that he must be an Apple employee using an as-yet-unreleased iPhone prototype, inexplicable though that would be to do anywhere, let alone in a lobby filled with Apple-centric media. Yet he wasn’t being secretive or furtive about it at all. A brief moment later I came to my senses and recognized it for what it actually was: an iPod Touch.

To me, that moment exemplifies the heyday of the iPod Touch. More than just an iPhone without the phone, it was a preview of the iPhone’s future. Much like, in some sense, the original iPod was, too. 


  1. The iPod Shuffle with buttons. Not the one without any buttons, which was a fascinating experiment in minimalism but clearly a mistake in hindsight. ↩︎


Apple’s Director of Machine Learning Is Leaving the Company, Citing Return-to-Office Policy as Biggest Reason 

Speaking of Zoe Schiffer, she tweeted a scoop:

Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, is leaving the company due to its return to work policy. In a note to staff, he said “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.” He was likely the company’s most cited ML expert.

The New York Post, following Schiffer’s tweet, added this:

Several Apple employees confirmed Goodfellow’s departure on corporate gossip site Blind. One Apple employee quoted Goodfellow as saying, “I’m leaving for many reasons … but Apple’s return to office policy is the biggest single reason.”

Goodfellow joined Apple from Google in April 2019.

Jony Ive Guest Edits The Financial Times’s ‘How to Spend It’ Magazine 

The Financial Times:

There are few people who have not been touched by Jony Ive’s designs, but the man behind them remains a quiet, lesser-known character, preferring mostly to let his work speak for itself. Under the aegis of the LoveFrom team in San Francisco, this second guest-edit issue of HTSI looks at makers and creators. A rare opportunity to share Jony’s passions, interests and the personalities he finds inspiring, the magazine’s focus is on the craft of the hand. The project started with a simple cover concept: Jony asked that we shoot his father’s hands.

Jony Ive, in his introductory letter:

Perhaps our hands have become less necessary in a digital world, but in a pandemic of loneliness and isolation, the nuance and power of direct touch and connection seems more critical than ever.

Our hands have assumed an iconic and cultural importance. They are represented and understood as symbols of making, skill and industry, as symbols of solidarity, power and resolve. We can hold hands. We can punch.

And of course, our hands both enable our writing, our painting, our building and in turn tell unique stories of how we use them. They enable us and they describe us.

Third Apple Store Launches Union Drive 

Aaron Gregg and Reed Albergotti, reporting last week for The Washington Post:

A group of Apple employees in Maryland launched a union drive Tuesday, becoming the third store to make a run at organizing the world’s most valuable company. Organizers at the Towson Mall store near Baltimore say they have been drumming up support for nearly a year in coordination with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, two employees and a union organizer said. They say they have signatures from more than 65 percent of employees who are likely to be eligible, giving them a “supermajority” that would be difficult for the company to overcome. [...]

The organizers notified Apple chief executive Tim Cook of their intention to organize as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees ― AppleCore for short ― in a letter dated Tuesday, a copy of which was reviewed by The Post.

Here’s their letter to Tim Cook.

Curious to see how this retail unionization push goes for Apple. So far, it doesn’t seem like Apple is obstructing unionization efforts. We shall see though — according to Zoe Schiffer at The Verge, Apple has hired a law firm that specializes in helping companies fight unionization efforts.

Using an iPhone as a Single-Purpose Webcam 

Speaking of Simon Støvring, he wrote a good post back in August about using an old iPhone as a single-purpose webcam with Camo:

Once the Camo app is launched on the iPhone it will keep the iPhone awake, even if the camera is not in use or the video feed has been paused from the Mac app. I like to manually lock the iPhone when I’m not using the webcam. This will prevent the Camo Mac app from having a connection to the iPhone app and use the camera. That’s the equivalent of using one of those webcam covers.

I will only be using the iPhone 6 Plus as a webcam and I will have it permanently mounted to my monitor, so to make it easier to launch the Camo app on the iPhone after the phone have been locked, I put the iPhone into Single App Mode using Apple Configurator and disabled the passcode on the phone. When in Single App Mode (sometimes also referred to as “kiosk mode”), the iPhone will only be able to launch a single app and the app will automatically be launched when the phone is unlocked.

Single App Mode can be enabled using Apple Configurator by plugging your phone into the Mac and selecting Actions → Advanced → Start Single App Mode.... That will make the iPhone supervised meaning that its features can be restricted from elsewhere by installing profiles. After supervision has been enabled, you will be prompted to select the app to be used in Single App Mode.

Via Jason Snell.

Runestone: New Text and Code Editor for iOS by Simon Støvring 

Alex Guyot, writing for MacStories:

Runestone is the latest app from Simon Støvring, the developer behind Scriptable, Jayson, and Data Jar. Støvring’s apps tend to be focused on developer or automation use cases, filling holes in the iOS and iPadOS ecosystem to aid power users. Runestone mostly falls into the same category, although it also has some wider potential appeal for general purpose writing.

The new app functions as an excellent plain text editor for anyone who needs to write on their iPhone or iPad. It’s simple and thoughtfully designed, and includes a variety of excellent themes to improve your writing experience. Runestone’s marquee feature, however, is its syntax highlighting. For Markdown writers, the app will use simple color schemes (which can be altered to your liking using the theme settings) and subtle style changes to highlight your links, bold and italic words, footnotes, and more. The result is a very simple, essentially plain-text approach which still makes it easy to see your markup at a glance.

I’ve been beta-testing Runestone for a few months, and it’s excellent. Fast and intuitive, Runestone looks and works great on both iPhone and iPad. Because it integrates with the system document browser, you can easily use Runestone to open not just files stored locally on your device and in iCloud, but through any app that provides a standard document browser. Dropbox works great, as does the excellent Secure ShellFish for reading and writing files over SSH.

Runestone is free to download and use. For a one-time $10 purchase, “Premium” unlocks a bunch of customization options and one of the best Easter eggs I’ve seen in years.

The Talk Show: ‘Like Neo Dodging Bullets’ 

Zach Gage joins the show to talk about game design and creativity, including his new game Knotwords.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Apple’s New Developer Center: Tantau 14? 

I’m sure we’ll find out for sure next month at WWDC 2022, but one small mystery is the location of Apple’s new Developer Center at Apple Park. Based on a few tips, I think it’s in the building currently named “Tantau 14”, next to the Visitor Center, which makes a lot of sense.

Update: More on this building from Parker Ortolani, including photos.

Kolide 

My thanks to Kolide for once again sponsoring last week at DF. Kolide is a SaaS app that sends employees important, timely, and relevant security recommendations concerning their Mac, Windows, and Linux devices, right inside Slack.

Kolide is perfect for organizations that want to move beyond a traditional lock-down model and move to one where employees are educated about security and device management while fixing nuanced problems. For example, Kolide can:

  • Instruct developers to set passphrases on the unencrypted SSH keys littered throughout their devices.
  • Find plain-text two-factor backup codes and teach end-users how to store them securely.
  • Convince employees to uninstall privacy-invasive browser extensions that sell their browser history to marketing companies.

You can try Kolide on an unlimited number of devices with all its features for free and without a credit card for 14 days.

Camo 1.6 Adds Support for Safari, FaceTime, and QuickTime 

Aidan Fitzpatrick, writing for the Reincubate blog:

Today we’re thrilled to launch a long-awaited feature in Camo: full compatibility with Safari, FaceTime, QuickTime, and more. As well as adding support for all of Apple’s apps on modern versions of macOS, this update also enables all third-party apps that previously relied on Camo’s integrations to work natively. Discord, Slack, WhatsApp, and others now run great with Camo without modification.

With the release of Camo Studio 1.6 and macOS 12.3, Camo is the first virtual camera to be natively compatible with all apps in the Mac ecosystem. [...]

This change comes as a consequence of two years of conversation with Apple on how we can make the most of the incredible cameras in their devices. This wasn’t the feature we originally intended to ship as part of Camo 1.6, but once we heard the good news from Apple we rearranged our launch schedule to make this happen. Thank you, team Apple!

Fantastic news. Camo is terrific software. Using a spare iPhone as a webcam is a great way to put an older device to good use, and delivers image quality that far surpasses most dedicated webcams — including the one built into the Studio Display. The biggest knock against Camo, until now, was that “virtual webcams” didn’t work with Apple’s own apps.

Now what we need is a good mount for using an iPhone with Camo on the Studio Display. Here’s a clever one James Thomson jury-rigged with Lego bricks.

Steven Frank on Playdate 

From the Playdate Twitter account:

When Playdate shipped, Panic co-founder Steven wrote a little about what it meant to him. And in the spirit of doing things differently, posted it to a Gopher (!) site.

If you’re up for it, find it here: gopher://stevenf.com:70/0/journal/2022/04/18/first-playdates-shipping.txt

I took a guess that curl could handle a gopher URL, and I was right. From Frank’s piece:

  • It’s OK to take risks with design. In a world of metal and glass slabs, a console that vaguely resembles a slice of Velveeta (R) can’t help but catch your eye. I know everything is kind of depressing recently, but color is OK, shapes are OK, and joyfulness can be a feature.

  • Limitations like monochrome displays and a minimum of buttons and controls are not only rocket fuel for developer creativity, but also broaden Playdate’s appeal to people who may find modern games intimidating or out of reach due to their complexity. Which is not to say that all Playdate games need to be simplistic, but rather that variety is good.

So happy to see Playdates shipping. I’m even happier to see that they’re building such an enthusiastic and clever developer community.

How Mechanical Watches Work 

Perhaps, as a watch person, I’m biased, but I found this illustrated essay by Bartosz Ciechanowski to be astonishingly fun and informative. Even the parts I already knew I enjoyed relearning.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft Commit to Expanded Support for FIDO Standard 

Apple Newsroom:

In a joint effort to make the web more secure and usable for all, Apple, Google, and Microsoft today announced plans to expand support for a common passwordless sign-in standard created by the FIDO Alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium. The new capability will allow websites and apps to offer consistent, secure, and easy passwordless sign-ins to consumers across devices and platforms.

Password-only authentication is one of the biggest security problems on the web, and managing so many passwords is cumbersome for consumers, which often leads consumers to reuse the same ones across services. This practice can lead to costly account takeovers, data breaches, and even stolen identities. While password managers and legacy forms of two-factor authentication offer incremental improvements, there has been industry-wide collaboration to create sign-in technology that is more convenient and more secure.

There are few areas in the intersection of things Apple, Google, and Microsoft can agree upon, but moving beyond passwords, clearly, is one of them.

Cameo Layoffs 

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Protocol:

Cameo, the celebrity video greetings startup, laid off 87 of staffers Wednesday, a move that CEO Steven Galanis described as “right-sizing.” The layoffs also affected some of Cameo’s most senior executives, Protocol has learned. Leadership departures included Cameo CTO Rob Post, top marketing executive Emily Boschwitz, CPO Nundu Janakiram and Chief People Officer Melanie Steinbach, according to a source close to the company.

How does Cameo even have 87 employees?


Noted Interaction Design and Security Expert Margrethe Vestager Redesigns the iPhone’s NFC Support

From the European Commission, “Remarks by Executive Vice-President Vestager on the Statement of Objections Sent to Apple Over Practices Regarding Apple Pay”:

Today, the Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Apple. We are concerned that Apple may have illegally distorted competition in the market for mobile wallets on Apple devices.

Apple took a vibrant, perfectly balanced market where NFC payments were used by almost no one and turned it into a market where Apple Pay is accepted at most brick and mortar retailers and millions of iPhone users enjoy using it, with whatever credit and debit cards they choose. Let’s get back to a balanced market, right?

Apple restricted access to key inputs that are necessary to develop and run mobile payment apps, so-called ‘mobile wallets’.

Apple Wallet is more than an app; it’s a feature built into the OS. The core of the E.C.’s complaint is that they think Apple should be legally required to allow third party developers to add features to the OS.

NFC technology was developed by third parties, is standardised and available in almost all payment terminals in Europe. There are other technologies, such as those based on QR code, that can be used for mobile payments. But NFC technology is the most widespread in the EU, and allows for the safest and most seamless experience.

This passage, as well as much of the rest of the E.C.’s “statement of objections”, seeks to dismiss the hard work Apple has done to make Apple Pay successful. Yes, NFC is an industry standard, and Apple Pay is, in part, built on top of that. But before Apple Pay, NFC was hardly used, even though Android had supported it since 2011. When Apple Pay launched in late 2014, its support for the existing NFC infrastructure was so good, it worked with many credit card terminals that had no explicit support for “Apple Pay” specifically. The Rite Aid pharmacy chain went so far as to disable its NFC terminals, blocking even Google Wallet, which they officially supported, just to keep people from using Apple Pay — not for any sort of security or anti-fraud reasons, but because Rite Aid was part of the consortium behind the then-still-in-the-works CurrentC. CurrentC seems to be the sort of thing the E.C. is seeking to prop up — user-hostile but mid-sized-company-friendly.

Apple Pay was so easy to use people were using it at retailers who weren’t even Apple Pay partners. That’s not a credit to NFC, which had been in place for years. That’s a credit to Apple.

Apple has built a closed ecosystem around its devices and its operating system, iOS. And Apple controls the gates to this ecosystem, setting the rules of the game for anyone who wants to reach consumers using Apple devices. But other app developers depend on the access to this ecosystem to develop innovative mobile wallets.

Translation: Apple designs, implements, and controls iOS. Amazing scoop from the E.C.’s crack investigation team.

The potential for innovation in this space is enormous. But this innovation has been prevented by Apple refusing others to access NFC on its devices. As a result, various features of mobile wallets, such as financial complementary services, are simply not available. Because Apple is not challenged, it has little incentives to innovate itself.

And this is important. Because this market is growing fast. Today, Apple Pay, is by far the largest NFC based mobile wallet on the market.

The E.C. complaint wavers between claiming Apple Pay dominates NFC payments on iPhones and dominates the entire industry. The latter was true as recently as October 2017, when Apple Pay accounted for 90 percent of all contactless transactions globally, where it was available. As I noted at the time, that’s a remarkable achievement for a platform that by all accounts is a distant second to Android in global market share.

Here’s a study from last year that claims in the U.S., Google Pay has 3 percent share, Samsung Pay 5 percent, and Apple Pay 92 percent. You know, your classic three-way neck-and-neck horse race.

As for innovation, just two months ago Apple introduced Tap to Pay on iPhone, which Apple describes thus (italic emphasis added):

Apple today announced plans to introduce Tap to Pay on iPhone. The new capability will empower millions of merchants across the US, from small businesses to large retailers, to use their iPhone to seamlessly and securely accept Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets through a simple tap to their iPhone — no additional hardware or payment terminal needed. Tap to Pay on iPhone will be available for payment platforms and app developers to integrate into their iOS apps and offer as a payment option to their business customers. Stripe will be the first payment platform to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone to their business customers, including the Shopify Point of Sale app this spring. Additional payment platforms and apps will follow later this year.

It’s the NFC payment terminals in retailers that are built to only accept credit and debit cards. With a system Apple has designed entirely on its own — the new Tap to Pay on iPhone system — they’re including support for other wallets from the get-go. I honestly don’t understand where the E.C. sees anticompetitive behavior with Apple Pay. What I see is market share dominance stemming from the hard work of designing better integration into iOS and iPhones and educating users about the feature. How else could the iPhone’s share of NFC payments so far exceed the iPhone’s share of mobile phone sales? I’m not saying Samsung and Google suck at this, per se, but Jennifer Bailey’s team at Apple is really good, and perhaps just as importantly, really diligent about this sort of thing.

Back to Vestager’s comments:

Apple claims that for security reasons it cannot provide access to NFC for payments. According to Apple, security risks would increase if access were to be granted to third parties. We take security very seriously. Our investigation to date did not reveal any evidence that would point to such a higher security risk. On the contrary, evidence on our file indicates that Apple’s conduct cannot be justified by security concerns.

This dismissiveness on the part of the E.C. is infuriatingly facile. Could and should there be APIs that allow iOS apps to make use of NFC, securely? I think yes. I also think it’s quite likely that Apple is working on them. All sorts of features that were once only the purview of Apple in iOS are now open to third-party developers, like system-wide alternative keyboards, setting third-party apps to serve as default handlers for web browsing and email, and more. But there are always going to be features that are rightfully part of the system itself. And to a large extent, I think Apple Pay is one of them.

Consider the details of how NFC support might work for third-party “wallet” apps on iOS. I would imagine it work something like this:

  1. Unlock your iPhone.
  2. Open the third-party app you want to use.
  3. Tap a button in the app to go into NFC search mode.
  4. Hold the iPhone near the NFC terminal.
  5. Re-authenticate with Face ID to confirm.

Would that satisfy the E.C.? It should, but I don’t know that it will, because that’s not as streamlined as paying with Apple Pay:

  1. Double-click the hardware side button on the iPhone (no need for the iPhone to be unlocked).
  2. Authenticate with Face ID/Touch ID.
  3. Hold iPhone to NFC terminal.

Or consider the ultimate in convenience: riding transit with Apple Pay express mode:

  1. Just hold your locked iPhone near the reader. No buttons to click, no authentication necessary.

Express mode works with things like car keys, hotel rooms, and student IDs, too. This feature is so deeply integrated with the system that it can even work when the iPhone is in power reserve mode when the battery is nearly depleted.

I don’t see how the security implications of any of these features — payments, car keys, getting into hotel and dorm rooms — are not obvious.

Should third-party wallet apps be allowed to take over the double-click-of-the-side-button feature? Should they be able to take over the volume buttons and mute switch too? Those buttons have been, and should remain, Apple’s purview. (Apple does allow camera apps to use the volume buttons as shutter buttons, like the system Camera app does, but, for example, you can’t make a game that uses the volume buttons as game controls, or an app that uses the mute switch to toggle between, say, light and dark modes.)

I mean, it’s all just ones and zeroes. Apple could allow users to add third-party wallet apps and grant them permission to be invoked simply by double-pressing the side button. But what happens then? Do you get an extra step where the user has to choose which wallet to use, Apple Wallet or a third-party one? Or does the third-party one replace Apple Wallet? What happens when you add a second third-party wallet app? It would get confusing very quickly.

Is it limiting that Apple Wallet is the only wallet on iOS? Yes. Is it simpler and easier to understand that way? Yes. Is that why Apple Pay dominates the contactless payment market worldwide, despite Android having supported NFC payments years before iOS did and having far larger market share in handset sales? I say yes, undoubtedly.

Is the E.C.’s argument that any third-party app should be able to wake up and respond to an NFC tap? As it stands, Apple can truthfully claim that using NFC with an iPhone is guaranteed to be secure and trustworthy. How could they claim that if they allowed third-party apps to take over that role? If that’s not what the E.C. is asking for, then the E.C. should describe, explicitly, what it is they are asking for.

Whose third-party wallet app is being stomped upon by iOS today? Who’s the aggrieved party here? To me it’s clear that the wallet itself belongs as part of the system. It’s the elements inside the wallet that should be open to third-party apps, which is exactly how Apple Wallet works. That NFC card readers in retail point-of-sale terminals only work with credit and debit cards isn’t Apple’s fault or responsibility, and Apple Pay integrates with any and all credit and debit cards that choose to support Apple Wallet. The E.C. complaint would make more sense if Apple Card was the only card Apple Wallet supported, but it’s not.

What, exactly, should Apple have done differently that would have appeased the E.C.? I genuinely can’t come up with an answer for this. 


Claim Chowder: ‘Why Apple Pay Won’t Work’ 

From a report by Matt Krantz for USA Today in October 2014:

Apple Pay contains a variety of major shortcomings that will likely limit its ability to be the dominant form of payment in the future, according to a UBS note released to clients this week by analyst Steven Milunovich, quoting payments expert Richard Crone at Crone Consulting. The problems with Apple Pay stem from technical shortcomings of the system relative to other alternatives and the large fees Apple plans to charge, which banks will be eager to escape, the report says.

Seven years later and the EC is objecting to Apple Pay’s dominance, so I think it’s time to cash this claim chowder in.

Here’s another one of excellent vintage — Matthew Mombrea, writing for IT World, “Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay in the End”:

What it boils down to is the fact that one technology is designed for the users (Apple) and the other is designed for the merchants (CurrentC). Normally I’d say that the product with the most user appeal will win but the power and size behind the CurrentC group is too big to ignore.

Good call.

37signals Is Back 

Jason Fried:

Calling our company Basecamp just doesn’t make a lot of sense when we make more than just Basecamp. We’re headed back to a different time — one where we invented more, created more, and carved new marks into tired markets. And with that, we need a new name.

Or, rather, an old one.

So let’s make it official. Today, May 3, 2022, we’re changing our minds and renaming our company again. This time, back to 37signals, our original name. We’ve always been that company, we just weren’t ourselves for a while. Now is new again.

And to christen the renaming of our company back to 37signals, we’ve relaunched a modern 37signals.com in the spirit of the original. We’ve always tried to lead with ideas, take principled stands, and remain allergic to conformity and corporate sterility. The new 37signals points our way, today.

Speaking of good names, “37signals” is a good name. Glad to see it back.

How the Internet Saved the Home of Blogging Pioneer Noah Grey 

Slashdot (only feels appropriate to link to Slashdot for this one):

At the end of the year 2000, Noah Grey created the free and open-source blogging software Greymatter (now maintained by a community of users). Wil Wheaton’s new book describes it as “the original, primordial blogging platform. Blogs look like they do... because Noah Grey did it first.”

Three days ago Noah Grey created a GoFundMe campaign headlined “I am losing my home in four days.”

If you’re looking for a feel-good story — and who isn’t today? — this is it. Grey Matter was incredibly influential (not to mention cleverly named). The GoFundMe campaign is still going, too, if you’d like to pitch in.


More Rumors on Apple Obtaining the Rights to NFL Sunday Ticket

Matt Tamanini, writing for The Streamable:

According to one industry insider, Apple might have already secured the most sought-after rights package in all of broadcasting and is just waiting for the most opportune time to announce it. In a Q&A article for Puck News, the entertainment news outlet’s founding partner Matthew Belloni said that while his sources are telling him that Apple is in the driver’s seat to secure the NFL Sunday Ticket rights beginning in the fall of 2023, others are saying that the deal is already done.

“One source told me this weekend that the deal is actually done,” Belloni wrote, “and is being kept quiet at Apple’s request, which I haven’t confirmed and don’t know for a fact; Apple isn’t commenting.”

If this is in fact true, it would line up with how Apple likes to dole out information. Despite reports abounding for months, Apple CEO Tim Cook chose to hold the announcement of Major League Baseball coming to Apple TV+ for one of their previously scheduled keynote presentations.

I know nothing about these negotiations between Apple and the NFL, but I do think it’s true that if Apple has already secured these rights, they’d prefer to keep the deal under wraps until a time of their own choosing to announce them. But it doesn’t seem feasible to keep the deal under wraps until the NFL’s 2023 seasons starts next year. Even if Apple and the NFL keep their mouths shut, the media industry is gossipy as hell, and word would likely leak from other parties, like Amazon and Disney. Let alone DirecTV, which is going to have to tell their longtime subscribers eventually.

NFL Sunday Ticket, as currently offered from DirecTV, is by anyone’s standards expensive:

The streamer’s baseball package only includes two games per week, while the NFL package would allow fans to watch all out-of-market games. Currently on DIRECTV, the Sunday Ticket’s To Go plan costs $73.49 per month during the season or $293.96 for the season while their Max Plan — which also includes NFL RedZone and DIRECTV’s Fantasy Zone — runs $99 per month and $395.99 for the season.

If Apple wanted to make one of those options available to all subscribers, it would undoubtedly require an increase in their monthly subscription fee, or the more likely option is that they would keep the monthly fee at the low $4.99 level and make Sunday Ticket available for an add-on price. The question then becomes, how much does the streamer charge for the a la carte option?

I don’t know about the “undoubtedly” there. It seems unlikely, I agree, that Apple would pay $2 billion per year for Sunday Ticket rights and then just include those games as part of the standard TV+ subscription, for all users. I think it’s even less likely that Apple would raise the prices for all TV+ users, whether they’re interested in NFL football or not. (TV+ is a worldwide service, for one thing, and in some countries, “football” is a different sport.) But it doesn’t seem impossible to me that Apple would just include Sunday Ticket for all TV+ subscribers, without raising the price. The question is, why does Apple want to stream NFL games? To make money directly from those games, or to get as many people as possible to try TV+ and eventually subscribe?

Some quick back-of-the-envelope math. At $5/month an Apple TV+ subscriber pays Apple $60/year. $2 billion divided by $60 comes to about 33 million — that’s how many new TV+ subscribers Apple would need to add, based on Sunday Ticket alone, to break even on the deal. (For the sake of argument, let’s just say that family plan and Apple One bundle subscribers are paying about $5/month for TV+ content too, as part of their subscription tiers. It also seems possible that the rights for Sunday Ticket might sell for more like $2.5 billion. Half a billion dollars here, half a billion dollars there — it adds up.)

According to the NFL, regular season games last year averaged 17 million total viewers. It’s worth noting, though, that average viewership is driven primary by in-market games, not out-of-market games. Most NFL fans watch one game on Sundays: their local team, via local TV. The games broadcast on your local TV channels are geo-excluded from Sunday Ticket — to watch them, you need to either watch on traditional TV or via a streaming service that includes your local TV channels. “All the Sunday afternoon games except for your favorite team” is not a selling point for most NFL fans.

The top-rated national broadcast, NBC’s Sunday Night Football, averaged 18.5 million viewers per week last year. But Sunday Ticket doesn’t include the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night national games, which the NFL sells the rights to separately. I’m just including Sunday Night Football’s viewership for context.

So can Apple feasibly get 30+ million new TV+ subscribers just by offering access to NFL Sunday Ticket with a standard TV+ subscription? That doesn’t seem possible. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t do it anyway, just to drive TV+ subscriptions by some number of millions of additional subscribers, and by raising awareness of TV+ in general.

If Apple does get the rights to Sunday Ticket, and they do choose to charge subscribers a premium for access to it, I think there’s a good chance that they’ll charge substantially less than DirecTV’s rates — that Apple will still try to make it more of a mass-market play for regular NFL fans, not just for superfans and gambling junkies.

I am reminded of Fox obtaining the broadcast rights for NFL games back in 1993. A few years ago The Ringer put together a good oral history of that deal. Fox spent a then-record $1.6 billion for the rights to the NFC games that had theretofore been broadcast on CBS, and they hired away all of CBS’s broadcasting talent, including John Madden. The point wasn’t just to put the best NFL games on Fox, the point was to put Fox itself on the map, to establish Fox as a peer to the big three traditional networks.

To me, that should be the point of Apple securing the rights to Sunday Ticket. Not just to get NFL games on Apple TV+, but to further cement TV+ as a top-shelf streaming service.