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Today is the final day of the Epic Games vs. Apple antitrust trial, and it looks like the judge overseeing the case wanted to lean into Apple’s chief executive a little bit.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers wrapped things up today as the trial came to a close, opting to ask Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, some questions directly. Interestingly, while the trial has offered up plenty of evidence for both sides of the argument, the judge’s questions seemed to be on point for a very . . . Epic Games-side argument.
Specifically, it’s the way the questions are worded. For instance, the judge asked Cook, “You said you want to give users control, so what’s the problem with allowing users to have a cheaper option for content?” Cook responded by saying that the company wants to make sure that users have control over their data, while if they are looking for an alternative to the App Store and the digital storefront’s policies, they can always switch over to Android devices.
The judge did not seem all that fond that response from Cook, though. She went on to ask Cook what the issue really is when it comes to offering customers the ability to buy cheaper V-Bucks — the digital currently that Epic Games offers within Fortnite for buying in-game content. The judge suggested either in-app or allowing Epic Games to provide an obvious link to outside of the game itself.
Cook broke it down to the bare minimum, saying that if Apple did that then the company would be giving up its monetization. The chief executive pointed out to the judge that Apple has fees associated with the App Store, essentially to keep things running. That includes developing APIs for developers to use, processing fees, and a variety of other developer tools as well.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers just kept piling on:
It’s almost as if they’re subsidizing everyone else.
That’s the judge drawing a line between apps that don’t offer in-app content, to those that do. So, in the judge’s eyes, those apps that do have in-app purchases (or an outright cost) are subsidizing other apps that don’t. She added:
You don’t charge Wells Fargo, right? But you’re charging gamers to subsidize Wells Fargo.
Cook said that having free apps in the App Store boosts traffic in the digital storefront, which can lead those same customers to discovering other apps that aren’t free, in one way or another. But Judge Gonzalez-Rogers did not appear to be having it, saying that Apple’s moves with the App Store, especially as it relates to charging some developers and not others, is a “choice.”
Cook admitted that, yes, there are other options the company could take to charge for access in the App Store, or just in general. However, the chief executive also said that he believes Apple has already made the best one, and that’s why they’re doing it how they are now.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers conceded that Apple does do work to get people to those games available in the App Store. However, if customers stick with those games, and opt to spend money within them, then it’s the developers of those apps keeping them. Not Apple. The judge said that Apple is simply profiting off that relationship between the customer and the developer.
I view it differently. We’re creating the entire amount of commerce on the store and we do that by getting the largest audience there. We do that with a lot of free apps, those bring a lot to the table.
Things got even more interesting when the judge brought up Apple’s decision to drop App Store fees for certain developers, don’t to 15% from the standard 30 percent. The judge told Cook that she believes Apple made this change not because of the coronavirus pandemic (which Apple cited at the time as one reason for the new rules), but rather because of the pending litigation against Apple.
For his part, Cook said that the decision was indeed because of COVID-19, but, also, he had the lawsuit in the back of his mind, too. From there, Judge Gonzalez-Rogers said that Google’s decision to drop fees within the Play Store was more about competetion, while Apple’s wasn’t.
At the tail-end of the questioning, the judge brought up potentially dissatisfied developers:
Cook said he wasn’t aware of the survey, but said that a lot of apps are denied from the App Store on a weekly basis (which is accurate), and that can cause friction between developers and Apple.
Based on how the trial ended, especially with how the judge overseeing the trial leaned into Apple’s chief executive, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how this turns out.
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Apple’s restructure to accommodate the departure of Jony Ive led to some concern that Apple wasn’t giving design quite as high a profile in the past – amid claims and counter-claims about the run-up to it.
But this shouldn’t be cause for concern; quite the opposite …Apple’s restructure already makes sense
As my colleague Bradley Chambers observed, it already makes a lot of sense to have design report to operations.
Whenever people question design and COO, I want to point them to the MacBook keyboard issues.
Because Jony Ive had such power at Apple, he was able to push through a design that was beautifully slim but which couldn’t be manufactured with the required level of reliability. Hence the report today about Apple abandoning the butterfly design. Having operations able to push back against design decisions which look good in the lab but won’t scale to mass production is an extremely important change.
As Steve Jobs himself said:
Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.But the restructure goes further than this
One key point that I missed in [my first take on Ive’s departure] is that having design chiefs Evans Hankey (Industrial Design) and Alan Dye (Human Interface Design) report directly to COO Jeff Williams does make sense organizationally. What I had missed is that coincident with the announcement of Ive’s departure, Apple promoted Sabih Khan to senior vice president of operations. Apple hasn’t had an SVP of operations since Jeff Williams held the title, back when Tim Cook was COO under Steve Jobs. Back then Williams ran operations while Cook ran the company and Jobs devoted his remaining time to new products.
Williams still holds the title COO, but titles don’t mean much at Apple. Rank matters, of course, and SVP is an elite level at Apple — there are only 13 executives at that level, and one of them is still Jony Ive. But the literal titles don’t necessary describe what executives do. Eddy Cue’s title — senior vice president of internet software and services — comes to mind. I don’t know where one would begin crafting a succinct title that accurately describes Cue’s domain, but that’s not it. That just doesn’t matter at Apple.
This means Sabih Kahn is running operations now. Jeff Williams’s title hasn’t changed, but he’s effectively now running product development. He’s led the Apple Watch product team from its inception; now I think he’s overseeing product for everything. Cook and Williams did run operations while holding the COO title, but what “COO” really means at Apple is “second in command”. Tim Cook didn’t move design under operations; he promoted Williams to a new position, effectively “chief product officer”, and as such it makes sense that Hankey and Dye would report to him.
Either way, Apple’s restructure means we now have someone with immense operations experience making the final call on design decisions, and that’s got to be good news when it comes to product reliability.There’s a reason Williams keeps his COO title
As for title, there’s likely a very good reason Williams remains COO on paper, whatever his real responsibilities. That title does indeed say ‘second in command,’ but more specifically it means ‘CEO designate.’ At some point, Williams is going to replace Cook.
That raises the question of when Cook will go, and what he will do. The ‘what’ is, I think, clear. Cook said back in 2024 that he plans to give away all his wealth, and to take a thoughtful approach to the way that money is used.
He plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew […] Cook says that he has already begun donating money quietly, but that he plans to take time to develop a systematic approach to philanthropy rather than simply writing checks.
The most obvious way to do that would be by establishing a foundation, and then running it himself. To do exactly what Bill Gates did, leaving his role as Chairman of Microsoft to establish the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cook doesn’t have the same sums of money to play with, of course, but he’s still the kind of man who would want to take an extremely active role in ensuring that the money is spent in a way that achieves the biggest impact in the areas which matter most to him.
Cook also frequently speaks out on social issues, and has taken a certain amount of flack for doing so. There are those who feel that he should be focusing less on activism and more on his role at Apple, and I can see a time where he decides that the activism is more important to him. Right now, his role as Apple CEO amplifies his voice, but there will come a time when he feels his profile is high enough to maintain media interest without the job title.
When that will be is harder to predict. Cook clearly cares immensely about Apple, but that doesn’t mean he will necessarily want to continue running the company indefinitely. If he feels Williams represents a safe pair of hands – something already demonstrated by this restructure – then that makes it possible for him to hand over the reigns with a clean conscience sooner rather than later.
Apple can’t afford another major upheaval in its senior leadership anytime in the immediate future, but two years down the line? I could see that.
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Just before the new iPhones launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Design chief Jony Ive, and Software head Craig Federighi have sat down with Bloomberg Businessweek for a wide-ranging interview. The interview does not reveal any breakthrough new information, but this seems to be the first time that Apple’s leadership has sat down for a joint interview…
(note: get a year of Businessweek for $4.50 at 9to5toys)
The trio, which was in charge of Apple’s major iOS revamp, discuss designing iOS 7, collaboration, the new iPhones, and competition from Google’s Android operating system. First things first, Cook discussed the recent claims that “Apple is doomed:”
None of this rattles Tim Cook. Oh, he’s heard it, of course, but his soft-spoken, deliberate manner in interviews is not cover for how, say, Apple’s share price affects his mood. “I don’t feel euphoric on the up, and I don’t slit my wrists when it goes down,” he says. “I have ridden the roller coaster too many times for that.” When asked about the rise of low-cost manufacturers, he’s equally even-tempered. “It happens in every market I’ve seen,” he says. “It happens in all consumer electronics, from cameras to PCs to tablets to phones to—in the old world—VCRs and DVDs. I can’t think of a single consumer electronics market it doesn’t happen in.”
The Apple CEO also discussed the pricing of the iPhone 5c, saying that Apple never intended to make a low-cost iPhone. The iPhone 5c is simply last year’s iPhone 5 in colors – at $100 off on-contract.
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Ive and Federighi both discussed their (sometimes unhealthy?) love for Apple in context of their collaboration. The duo noted that, while their work together became noticed with iOS 7, their offices are actually close in proximity. The two shared some details on the thinking behind the iPhone 5s Touch ID fingerprint scanner and iOS 7:
What makes that collaboration work is the two men’s shared focus on usability and simplicity. Sit down with top executives from, say, Samsung’s mobile division, and you’ll probably hear a great deal about how much the company listens to the market and can move to address global needs with astonishing alacrity. Ive and Federighi will spend 10 minutes talking about how hard they worked to perfect iOS 7’s blurred-background effect. “I think, very often, you can’t call out by attribute or name areas of value,” says Ive regarding what people look for when using a product. “But I do think that we sense when somebody has cared. And one thing that is incontrovertible is how much we’ve cared.”
The line against Apple is that its pace of innovation is off, but Ive and Federighi dismiss that. The two are keen to point out not just new features, but also the deep layers of integration that went into each one. Of the 5S’s fingerprint scanner, Ive says, “there are so many problems that had to be solved to enable one big idea.” Without mentioning competitors (Samsung), it’s clear the two executives think some of what passes for innovation is illusory at best. “We didn’t start opportunistically with 10 bits of technology that we could try to find a use for to add to our features list,” Ive says.
Cook also discussed Android:
In Cook’s view, the incompatibilities between various Android versions make each an entirely different species. The Android operating systems are “not the latest ones by the time people buy,” he says. A recent survey of smartphones sold by AT&T showed 25 Android handsets; six did not have the latest operating system. “And so by the time they exit, they’re using an operating system that’s three or four years old. That would be like me right now having in my pocket iOS 3. I can’t imagine it.”
The entire interview is worth a read over at Bloomberg. We have an exclusive deal on a 1 year subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine for just $20 today. It is available for up to 3 years and comes with digital access as well. Head over to 9to5Toys for all the details.
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Linux on the desktop has seen some significant successes over the years, from improvements with hardware detection to user adoption. Yet despite these successes, the single sticking point I find myself arguing with people over the most is the idea that existing methods of software installation are ideal.
Installing software with most distributions is pretty brain-dead simple. With command line options and a variety of GUI solutions to make the process even easier, I genuinely don’t think there’s a problem with the ease of software installation.
There is however, the issue of software discovery.
Dude, where’s my software?
For moderately experienced Linux enthusiasts, most software is a stone’s throw away. But even the more experienced desktop Linux users have been known to discover a new application from the most inconvenient sources.
Often these discoveries take place long after the user has given up locating such an application when they needed it most. Where this becomes truly problematic is when the application was available from the software repositories used with the user’s own distro all along. Yet the app went totally unheard of because the user didn’t know which category it was featured in!
This is hardly an isolated incident, mind you. I can count at least seven individuals who I know personally who have been in this situation. Is it office, business or communication related? Also, how is the performance rated? So many questions – often going unanswered.
Well, at one time there was a solution to this problem on the Linux platform. Most people within the Linux community scorned the solution at the time, due to strong opinions of the Linux distro this utility was bundled with. Regardless, the utility itself has yet to be matched.
Enter Linspire’s CNR software installation utility
Sadly thanks to the evolution of the company that created the utility, CNR of today is not nearly as compelling as it once was. Now it’s merely another application that must first be installed, then used to install software. It uses basically the same methods employed already by a number of popular Debian-based distros.
Perhaps the final nail in CNR’s evolutionary coffin is the missing software aisles that were big with the original CNR utility built into the Linspire 5.0 release. At that time, not only could a user keep track of which software is in their preferred list, they were free to share this list with others.
Sadly since the move over to the new CNR utility, I have yet to see evidence of this function.
Clearly there was something quite user friendly here. Seems to me that the idea was right at one time, now it simply needs to evolve with the times.
From CNR to a Web based App Store
A headache I used find myself frustrated with was a lack of applications designed to fit certain needs with specific levels of functionality.
Sure, more often than not there was something GTK- or QT-based out there that would give me the basics of what I was looking for. However in rare instances, I found myself needing software with a more razor-focus to handle specific tasks.
Then Adobe AIR came out for Linux. Almost immediately I found myself running a multitude of applications on my PC that were unavailable previously. It took some searching, but there are some fantastic AIR apps out there that are worth a look.
For various web site endeavors, I found myself using an app known as Market Samurai. I also run specific apps for Twitter and Facebook.
Productivity apps I fell in love with include “Klok” and Present.ly’s own AIR application. In each instance, the natively available Linux software did not hold a candle to what was offered for Adobe AIR. Not even close! Adobe AIR really opened new doors for me.
Next Page: Why not have some kind of Linux friendly App Store?
Apple is today responding to increasing antitrust pressure with an App Store PR blitz. This includes a complete revamp of its main App Store page, a new page promoting the benefits of the App Store to developers, new messaging, and a new program for developers of streaming video apps.
The response begins on Apple’s homepage, with a large banner at the top pointing visitors to the new App Store page. The headline message is ‘The apps you love from a place you can trust’ …
The new page again stresses the consumer benefits of a curated app store.
For over a decade, the App Store has proved to be a safe and trusted place to discover and download apps. But the App Store is more than just a storefront — it’s an innovative destination focused on bringing you amazing experiences. And a big part of those experiences is ensuring that the apps we offer are held to the highest standards for privacy, security, and content. Because we offer nearly two million apps — and we want you to feel good about using every single one of them.
The new page for developers is headed ‘Together we turn apps into opportunities.’
Apple is committed to helping developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world. That’s why the App Store helps you from start to finish — to build, test, market, and distribute your products and grow your business. Our marketplace is secure, trusted, and accessible — connecting you to over 1.5 billion devices in 175 regions. The App Store and you. Together every step of the way.
This again stresses the privacy and security message.
Over a decade of trust and success. In 12 years, the App Store has grown from 500 apps to 1.8 million — all reviewed to comply with our rigorous standards for privacy, security, and content. All along the way, we’ve provided developers with the cutting‑edge tools and end‑to‑end support they need. So they can keep making the apps that change how people work, play, meet, learn, travel, and live their lives.
The pages contain some new facts and figures, the most notable of which is that more than a million apps have been rejected for objectionable content, with more than 150,000 apps rejected last year alone for failing to adhere to Apple’s privacy requirements.
One of the antitrust accusations leveled against Apple is that it doesn’t live up to its claim to treat all developers equally. There is evidence of Apple offering special deals for large developers whose apps the company wants to have on its platform.
We learned in July that Amazon Prime Video pays half the usual App Store commission, in a special deal agreed between Jeff Bezos and Eddy Cue.
Apple is also accused of creating arbitrary rules to allow it to appease companies like Netflix. It claims that it has since 2024 offered a program open to all video streaming apps, but has for the first time formalized and promoted this in the form of a new webpage for the Apple Video Partner Program.
This program is designed for apps that deliver premium subscription video entertainment services. Participating apps are required to integrate with a number of Apple technologies, such as Universal Search, Siri, AirPlay, and single sign-on or zero sign-on, to ensure a seamless experience for customers.
As a result of this integration, these apps are featured on the Apple TV app and throughout tvOS, and their content is discoverable through Universal Search and Siri.
As a program member, you earn 85% of sales from customers who sign up using Apple’s in-app purchase system. You may also allow customers who subscribe using your payment method outside of the app to use that payment method for additional video transactions within the app. You must enable in-app purchase to enjoy these economic benefits.
Apple’s response comes as a number of big developers banded together to form a coalition intended to coordinate antitrust battles over the App Store.
I argued back in July that Apple’s antitrust woes aren’t going anywhere, and it needs to address them head-on. The company seems to be getting halfway there with the PR blitz offering better messaging, together with a more formal and consistent approach to its exceptions, but it still seems determined to resist any move likely to reduce its income from developers.
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Epic Games app store is solving the right problem the wrong way
Epic Games is making rounds in headlines lately and not just because of games it publishes. It ended 2023 with some great news for gamers but bad news for Apple and Google. Actually, it’s bad news just for Google really. While it did not give out specifics, it reiterated what the game developer had already alluded to before. Its Epic Game Store isn’t going to stop at challenging the status quo in the PC gaming market. It’ll be taking its developer-centric cause to mobile but while its intentions are noble, it might do more harm than good in the long run.
Some may doubt the sincerity of Epic Games’ intentions but, at least publicly, its goals are definitely for the benefit of game developers and, in the final analysis, gamers. Its biggest contention is that game distributors, be it Steam, Google, or Apple, take too high a cut from sales of games or even in-app purchases. The 70/30 split results in smaller profits for game developers, especially smaller studios and individuals, which, in turn, produces less motivation to develop quality games and keep them updated with new content and bug fixes.
With its own Epic Games Store, the publisher is taking a very small cut, only 12%, just enough to cover the costs of operating the store and making a tiny profit. That 12% also covers the usual fee when using the Unreal Game engine so, whether you’re using UE or not, it offers equal opportunity for all game developers. It is reportedly already making waves in the PC gaming market to the point that Steam has also adjusted its revenue scheme lest it lose its favorable position.
On mobile, however, things can get a little bit messy. There are two main ways smartphone users can get their games, depending on their mobile platform. But while iOS has the iTunes App Store and only the iTunes App Store, Android has the Google Play Store and “everything else”. Epic Games has already snubbed Google’s store for the mobile version of its most lucrative cash cow yet, Fortnite.
But the story isn’t that simple either. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has made it no secret that he is pushing for a more open mobile app ecosystem the way it is on PCs. Or at least was. By that, he meant curbing the practical monopolies of Google’s and Apple’s app stores. Again a noble cause but Epic’s answer might create more problems down the road.
Android’s openness is both its strength and its liability. The myriad ways one can install apps on it opens the door to potential security exploits, something Fortnite itself experienced first hand just after it launched Fortnite outside of Google Play Store. Now, it’s arguable that Google’s system is hardly perfect, given how many malicious apps are able to get past its automated bouncer. But it at least offers some semblance of security whereas the Epic Games Store might not. At least not yet.
And then there’s Apple. All of Epic’s rhetoric falls flat in the face of the iTunes App Store. There is no way that it’ll be able to officially offer an alternative store for iOS games and it was perfectly OK with the status quo on Apple’s App Store. Why wouldn’t it, especially after it made millions in IAPs in just the first month of Fortnite on iPhones. And that’s with the regular 70/30 cut. The Wall Street Journal theorizes that if Google changes its system, Apple will be forced to follow suit. That’s almost unlikely unless the entire industry decides on fairer revenue sharing. So Epic is really just gunning for Google because, ironically, its open ecosystem makes it an easier target.
That’s not to say Epic Games is wrong. The whole episode with Fortnite, followed by the Epic Games Store, has brought to light one of the dirty secrets of the gaming industry. And there is definitely a need for a more open mobile app ecosystem. But that openness should also take into account security and it should be fair for any and all. As it stands, Epic Games simple app store plans may benefit game developers in the short term but, in the long term, it might benefit no one but Epic and, well, Apple.
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