Wednesday, July 22, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Another Apple-Funded App Store Study

Juli Clover (Slashdot, Hacker News):

As Apple CEO Tim Cook gears up to testify in an App Store antitrust hearing before the House Judiciary Committee next week, Apple has commissioned a study from Analysis Group [PDF] that’s designed to demonstrate how similar Apple’s App Store fees and practices are to those of other digital marketplaces like the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play app.

Not mentioned anywhere in the study: Stripe, PayPal, Paddle, FastSpring, etc. Apple would rather compare itself to brick-and-mortar stores and Ticketmaster than the various online software channels that have been available since the mid-1990s. And, of course, the main issue with the App Store is that it’s the only way users can install software on their devices. You can’t opt out of it because there is no sideloading. There are no alternative stores. The whole way this is framed is misleading.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

I just commissioned a study that confirmed that I am in fact the fairest king in all of the land.

Cabel Sasser:

They keep saying the App Store changed everything because before you had to sell your apps in CompUSA or whatever. Panic ONLY EXISTS because we could sell apps, direct to consumer, via download, since 1999. The App Store arrived in 2008. Drives me crazy that they ignore this era.

Michael Love:

Also true for Palm and Windows Mobile, though they keep insisting on comparing themselves to crappy carrier-run J2ME app stores.

Also, if you didn’t want to handle payments yourself, Mac shareware developers had Kagi from way back when - I used them to sell my little Mac shareware game Ergo in 1994, rate was 5% + $1.25 I believe.

Kyle Pflug:

It’s revealing that this spends no time on whether the “other marketplaces” are the exclusive way to get third party software on their home platform.

The Microsoft Store and Steam both have commission, but they also compete with each other (and direct download, and retail...).

Matt Garber:

The 30% cut is a distraction anyway, which Basecamp also pointed out weeks ago. The real anticompetitive parts are around ridiculous things like not even being allowed to use descriptive text to say “sign up for paid accounts on our website”.

Michael Love:

a) “Everybody else does it” is not a defense

b) Brick and mortar is a meaningless comparable

c) Many of these stores were following your lead

d) Most of them are non-exclusive (except consoles, but their business model is selling HW at cost + making money on games)

Previously:

Update (2020-07-23): John Gruber:

You know you’re in trouble when part of your argument is “Hey, at least we’re better than Ticketmaster.”

Peter N Lewis:

I’ve been doing this full time since 1994 - what made it easy was companies like Kagi and sources like Info-Mac, decades before the App Store.

Ron Avitzur:

Same here. Selling Graphing Calculator direct to customers online since 1998.

Brent Simmons (tweet):

But it’s worth remembering that money really does matter. […] To put it in concrete terms: the difference between 30% and something reasonable like 10% would probably have meant some of my friends would still have their jobs at Omni, and Omni would have more resources to devote to making, testing, and supporting their apps.

Update (2020-09-07): Joe Rossignol:

Apple today announced that the iOS app economy has created nearly 300,000 new jobs in the United States since April 2019, citing research shared by Dr. Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the non-profit Progressive Policy Institute.

30 Comments

Old Unix Geek

This and the security research device program:

We have always been at war with Eurasia. We have never been at war with Eastasia.

Mark Lilback

As to Michael Love's d item, Isn't Apple's business model the same as console makers? They sell HW and make their real money on services (app store) which is what the console companies do. If you don't like Xbox policies, buy a playstation. If you don't like Apple's, buy a samsung.

One of the reasons iOS is so great is that you can't sideload apps on to it. People would load crapware and Apple would be blamed for whatever mayhem it causes.

I agree that developer's should be able to push subscriptions on their website just as prominently as to the app store.

@Mark No, that’s not (yet?) where Apple makes their real money. And, as Gruber recently quoted, Steve Jobs said that Apple didn’t even intend to make money from the App Store. I disagree that iOS is “so great.” Many of the platform’s problems can be traced to the fact that the App Store is the exclusive gateway, and yet the store is still full of scams and crap. The store is not, primarily, what keeps the platform safe, and we can see from Android that the other way is not so dangerous.

It makes sense to me that Apple is relying on… disingenuous studies, but it’s still disappointing. I’m more disappointed by the Joz answer on Gruber’s podcast, though. (Why does Gruber interview him? Last year, his main contribution seemed to be “they’ll be very good (very expensive) wheels, John”, a.k.a. “ha-ha, we’re very rich, and about to get even richer”. This year, “if you pretend shareware was never a thing, then the App Store sure is a lot more convenient than going to Best Buy”. Craig has plenty of insights to share, but… honestly, why?)

One of the reasons iOS is so great is that you can’t sideload apps on to it. People would load crapware and Apple would be blamed for whatever mayhem it causes.

Is that really so?

Would the Mac be greater if you couldn’t sideload?

Just allow alternative stores in iOS 15 and find a way to sell it as a PR net win. It can still be blocked via MDM, it can still be associated with a scary (and somewhat justified) alert, just… make it possible.

Jobs was famous for his RDF, but I never really felt like he had contempt for customers like Cook's Apple does. It's really sad to see after supporting Apple for so long, witnessing how they got back on track from 1998 until... well, basically until Jobs died. Steve was no saint, and of course Apple has always had a few blunders here and there... but Cook, that guy just rubs me the wrong way (great on social issues, yes... but Apple has been a lot less exciting and more customer hostile since he took over). I honestly think that if Jobs were alive there's a big chance we'd have sideloading by now. Jobs made mistakes like everyone, but he also quickly reversed course when he realized he was wrong or that he did something that didn't benefit customers (such as originally not allowing apps on the iPhone). This new "lock down everything and push sub-par services onto every device and every customer" Apple sucks.

ScooterComputer

“Jobs was famous for his RDF, but I never really felt like he had contempt for customers like Cook's Apple does.” Hate to break it to some of you (others know this, of course), but your impressions of Steve Jobs are 100% false. Cook and team learned everything they’ve become from the man himself. And just as Steve was expert at creating a Reality Distortion Field to sell us stuff, he was expert at creating a reality distortion field to bubble around his own personal personality failings. If anything, giving him a benefit of a doubt, I think it possible he had a “change of heart” later in life, as the Isaacson book seems to indicate. But Jobs was a worldclass jerk pretty nearly up to his death. (And that’s using “nice” language.)

Now, I didn’t know the man personally, I never met him in person, but I did have dealings with his exec team and senior support personnel that reported directly to him. There is a good possibility I am the infamous “That guy’s an a-hole” guy. But I’m not an a-hole (honest), and my experience with post-Jobs Apple were as bad and contentious as any prior to his return, however with an extra flair of customer contempt each time that only worsened as time went on. Having been a person who both worked with and for Apple from the late ‘80s into the Jobs-return era, including having been invited to sit in a meeting with VP Ellen Hancock prior to the Jobs/NeXT acquisition, I can pretty confidently say I have a pretty good feel for Apple corporate culture over the years. Jobs was not the best part of Apple, culturally. In fact, I’d say, IMO, he was poisonous. Someday, maybe, that book will be written… only I fear the Culture of Fear might affect that happening; the fear mongers don’t think they did (are doing) anything wrong, and many of the victims are unknowingly traumatized into thinking the same, like Battered Spouse Syndrome or Helsinki Syndrome. But if anyone is confused about today’s leadership team’s lust for profit via customer contempt, aka greed, you’re looking through rose-colored glasses (Exhibit A: the current entry-model iMac 21-inch with 5,400rpm 2.5” hard drive, in 2020, targeted directly at Apple’s most price-vulnerable customers; for shame Tim Cook’s recent tweeting about Apple and income-disparity-impacted minorities!)… and Steve Jobs was absolutely component to that, with evidence showing his failings in that regard from how he did at Apple from the start, to his personal life, to how he treated employees on the Mac team, to Woz, on and on and on. This crew learned from the worst. And it is, and was, 100% contrary, IMHO, to The Apple Way we’d all took a bite of. It is all PR all the time now. Almost makes me feel, at times, more like a Lemming than a hammer-wielding revolutionary.

"but Cook, that guy just rubs me the wrong way (great on social issues..."

Cook tweets "social issues" pablum a few times a year. Big deal.

That's when he's not prostrating himself to Xi Jinping (ask the Uighurs about that guy) and the orange turnip who lives on Pennsylvania Ave.

(Yes, I get that Apple would be completely boarded up by now if he didn't kiss Xi's butt.)

I honestly think that if Jobs were alive there’s a big chance we’d have sideloading by now. Jobs made mistakes like everyone, but he also quickly reversed course when he realized he was wrong or that he did something that didn’t benefit customers

I can’t find it, but I could’ve sworn Steve argued at the time that allowing sideloading would risk “taking down AT&T’s network on the west coast”, or something along those lines.

Which, sure, he may have changed his mind on that at some point, but he did seem pretty stubborn about the idea that restricting available apps (first by only offering web apps, then through the App Store) was critical.

>One of the reasons iOS is so great is that
>you can't sideload apps on to it.

Great for whom? For Apple?

How does it make iOS great for me that I can't sideload apps? How does that make iOS in any way better for me?

>People would load crapware and Apple would
>be blamed for whatever mayhem it causes.

I've never seen an article about how terrible Google is for allowing sideloading on Android, or how terrible Apple is for allowing sideloading on Macs. That just isn't an actual thing that actually exists. People are only blaming Apple for garbage iOS apps now because all the scam and spyware apps are coming directly from Apple's own store.

But even if you were right, how is it my problem if sideloading gives Apple bad PR? The fact that something might be beneficial to Apple in no way also makes it beneficial to me. It's certainly true that not allowing sideloading provides some benefits to Apple, mainly a huge revenue source. But that only makes it beneficial to them, it doesn't make iOS great for me.

Maybe if Apple sold iPhones at a loss or at cost, like console manufacturers tend to do, I could see at least a slight benefit to myself, but they don't. Not allowing me to sideload apps only has disadvantages for me.

Maybe, just maybe, Apple don't give a shot what you/me think? Maybe they have an agenda, worked out and planned for YEARS in advance. I mean REALLY planned.
I believe they do not care in the way they would tell us they do.

Soren, I'm sure you're right. Jobs was definitely initially against 3rd party apps but (it seems) changed his mind when he realized how much potential could be unlocked on the iPhone. I also wonder if the "it'll bring down the network" was just smokescreen to buy Apple more time to finish adding support for 3rd party apps.

My argument isn't that Jobs was perfect, wasn't an asshole, etc. He definitely made mistakes and could be a total jerk, and Apple has always had their "WTF?" moments. But for me personally as an Apple user for 30+ years, something feels "off" about Apple under Cook's leadership. For the things I care about, and the reasons I have supported Apple for so long, it feels like Apple no longer caters to my needs. It feels like Apple doesn't really care about developers anymore, if feels like they don't care for tech users anymore, it feels like they don't care for science / research / education anymore.

Again, maybe it's just me. I had my gripes with Jobs-era Apple, for sure. But Cook's Apple has become a company that I support begrudgingly, only because I'm so invested in the Mac way of doing things for decades. It doesn't feel like the company that Thinks Different anymore, the company that had to fight for its existence by making products that were far beyond the competition.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll say it again: Why is seemingly NOBODY making the argument that Apple shouldn't be taking ANY percentage beyond the standard 2% payment processing fees to Visa etc? Even the folks who are arguing that the media is missing the main important points of the App Store argument, are themselves missing this critical point.

How can Apple argue that it's providing value worth 30% of someone's revenue, when free apps exist that pay zero commission? Especially since most of these free apps have millions of downloads (hosting / bandwidth $$ for Apple), weekly updates (app review $$ for Apple), and make money from the customers who download the apps (via advertising / personal info brokering), yet pay nothing?

Why is this argument left out?

And what about the fact that app review and hosting costs are a FIXED cost for Apple? So why should a developer who has a high quality $30 app give $10 of it to Apple? Apple's fixed App Store costs have ZERO relationship to the development costs that the developer needs to recoup via their app's purchase price. It's taking MORE from developers who have more to lose, because they took the time and risk to make a high quality app that people will value and pay for! It's a perverse reverse incentive to instead make garbage free apps.

Take these 3 developers. Assume their apps are the exact same file size, have exactly the same number of daily downloads, are of the same complexity, and each update at the same frequency so require the same amount of app review.

Developer 1 releases their app for free. Pays nothing to Apple.

Developer 2 charges 99 cents to download. Pays 30 cents to Apple.

Developer 3 charges $10 to download. Pays $3 to Apple.

Why the difference in fees? Nothing else is different!

It's maddening to see nearly everyone miss this obvious point. Don't argue for Apple taking "only" 10%. The correct argument is that they should take either 1) Nothing at all (ideal) or 2) A fixed cost from every app, whether "free" or paid (i.e. the annual developer fee).

But for me personally as an Apple user for 30+ years, something feels “off” about Apple under Cook’s leadership.

I think Apple under Cook is a lot less streamlined and singular. That comes with both upsides and downsides.

For example, Jobs would (until he started getting sicker) narrate basically the entire keynote. Under Cook, he does the intro and some of the transitions, but passes the mic to others. Not just senior VPs, but often managers much further down the chain. Part of it is worse: Jobs could tell you the entire story because he was really good at it: he understood what those products were about, why they existed, and why the ones Apple chose not to make didn’t. There was a much more coherent strategy to it. But part of it is better: we get much more diverse voices now. We get a much broader insight. But yes, sometimes, we just get results that maybe wouldn’t have made the cut under Jobs, and shouldn’t have under Cook.

(I think, for example, that the Apple Watch launch would’ve been much better a year or two later, with hardware that’s more potent, and software that has a much clearer idea of whom the watch is for. That doesn’t mean I don’t like my S0, but it’s simply the kind of thing where there stereotypical, idealized, put-on-a-pedestal Steve would have said ‘no’, whereas Tim said ‘yes’, perhaps feeling under pressure to deliver his first pots-Jobs hit.)

It’s also not clear to me Steve could’ve competently led a company as big as this. Maybe he wouldn’t have wanted to, regardless? Maybe he would’ve moved on to a different job? Or retired? Or would’ve impeded growth (which some may argue would’ve been good)?

@Mark
The fact we are comparing Apple to console makers is a problem. Consoles are notorious for being consumer hostile with their sealed box designs and forced ecosystem integration. The difference for Apple? They are a PC company and while they certainly transitioned into overpriced lifestyle accessories, Apple has the DNA of a true to purpose technology company. They can and should do better.

To clarify, I love sane defaults. A device should be easy to use out of the box, even for a novice, but let us have an expert mode to tweak our own devices so these devices can grow with us as our abilities mature. So by all means, let Apple have the iOS devices locked down tight by default, but there should be some mechanism to enable changing default applications or sideloading apps.

@Mark
The fact we are comparing Apple to console makers is a problem. Consoles are notorious for being consumer hostile with their sealed box designs and forced ecosystem integration. The difference for Apple? They are a PC company and while they certainly transitioned into overpriced lifestyle accessories, Apple has the DNA of a true to purpose technology company. They can and should do better.

To clarify, I love sane defaults. A device should be easy to use out of the box, even for a novice, but let us have an expert mode to tweak our own devices so these devices can grow with us as our abilities mature. So by all means, let Apple have the iOS devices locked down tight by default, but there should be some mechanism to enable changing default applications or sideloading apps.

@Sören
Was the network quip by Jobs/Apple related to sideloading or jailbreaking? They've said so many stupid comments related to iOS and the walled garden, honestly hard to keep track at this point.

The more I think about this iOS pricing, and the more I see people ignore the actual problem, the more frustrated the whole situation seems. It's totally bogus that the 3rd party apps that cost Apple the most (in hosting and review) are the ones that get a free ride. Frankly I'd like to see the app fees gone, and the developer fees raised to $100/year per APP to compensate. Then make it so each app only gets to update once a month max, devs get 2 free updates per year, and every additional update costs $50 to push into the App Store (covers review and hosting costs). I am tired of apps that update once or twice a week, it's completely unnecessary and wasteful of customer time and bandwidth -- and again, it's usually the freeloader apps like Uber and Spotify that send out never-ending updates.

>Was the network quip by Jobs/Apple related to sideloading or jailbreaking?

It was about an App Store in general, he said it back in 2007, before the App Store was announced.

“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”

Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20071011034905/http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/att-welcomes-programmers-for-all-phones-except-the-iphone/

The fact we are comparing Apple to console makers is a problem. Consoles are notorious for being consumer hostile with their sealed box designs and forced ecosystem integration. The difference for Apple? They are a PC company and while they certainly transitioned into overpriced lifestyle accessories, Apple has the DNA of a true to purpose technology company. They can and should do better.

Uhhh. That paragraph seems full of loosely defined market segments and pejorative.

What makes something a “PC”? Is it running arbitrary OSes? If so, many Windows 10 machines no longer qualify in their default setting. Is it running arbitrary apps in the OS? If so, Windows RT and the upcoming Windows 10 X don’t qualify. Is it upgradeability? Most “PCs” sold today, i.e. “Ultrabooks”, don’t have that in the way 1990s’ towers used to.

Second, what on earth is a “lifestyle accessory”? That seems a pejorative way of saying “someone finds this useful and/or enjoyable, but it’s not me”. The new “ha-ha, only gay people buy Macs”, really. And if a huge amount of people buy something, isn’t it by definition not “overpriced” but… “priced”?

Lastly, are consoles “consumer-hostile”? Consumers don’t seem to notice. Instead, they seem to be enjoying them.

You can make the case that iOS should be more flexible without insulting billions of people.

>What makes something a “PC”?

This is probably an interesting question, but in this particular case, I think the distinction is clear: consoles are toys that solely exist for your entertainment, while PCs (and phones) are much more deeply embedded in our personal lives and our work. Consoles truly are appliances. My Switch is my Super Mario Maker device, and not a lot more than that.

So I do agree that it is a problem when people start comparing Apple's devices to consoles in an attempt to excuse Apple's behavior. This is not a comparison that makes Apple look good.

>Lastly, are consoles “consumer-hostile”? Consumers don’t seem to notice.

Are you sure about that? Gamers seem plenty angry about how locked down consoles are, and about how the economics of console gaming work.

@Sören
You are suggesting calling out Apple and game console makers for consumer hostile behavior is insulting billions of people? I think something was lost in translation from finger tips to published words as my comments were directed towards calling out the companies themselves, not any users of such devices.

Please do not presume to know my personality by a random online quip. If I had to pick a label, I would suppose bisexual would be it, but I am not wedded to narrow identifiers of my own sexual identity. Surely if I wanted to insult the gay community (which I am likely a part of given LGBTQ+), I would never hide behind "code words" or other language of obfuscation. Yet again, I do not understand how my comments would be misconstrued to be seen as targeting any specific group of people instead of the consumer hostile companies I directed my ire against.

Lifestyle accessory is essential in the marketing of modern consumerism. This device will make you look/feel/be cooler/smarter/prettier, etc. Instead of saying something like, "Hey, we made this neat thing, it is best in class for calling, communicating, web use, etc.", it's more hazy with feelings and experiences being sold. To be fair, that might just be a quirk of my personality. Just tell me what your widget does, how much it costs, and any terms of service. Let me decide if the widget fits my lifestyle because these companies frankly have no idea how I truly live my life. I am merely suggesting Apple is leaning to far into that trap and forgetting they were always a better balance of the technical side and the human side of computing.

Yes, after 30 plus years of being a console gamer, I am part of the community that you think I was insulting and I can tell you I constantly chafe at walled garden lock-in on these platforms. To the point, where I have finally given up on the market. I still own two consoles, but they will likely be the last coming into my home unless something changes in the market place.

Again, I am simply speaking from personal experience using Apple products over 25 year period and game consoles for even larger.

@Lukas
Exactly, computer devices should open the doors for creative expression and intellectual growth. On the flip side, game consoles are appliances that let me have fun in a very locked down manner. Not a terrible thing by any means, but not the same category of device.

If Sören wanted to he could click through to my website and see one of the sections is all about reviewing video games, so I am "speaking" from a position of familiarity, not ignorance.

@Lukas
Ah, thanks! So you guys were definitely correct about the "third party apps taking down a network" argument coming from Apple, but the best part? Apple amusingly drawing from the same well after already being proven wrong the first time -- here's Apple making the same argument about jailbreaking two years later!
https://www.wired.com/2009/07/jailbreak/

Priceless. Apple being Apple I guess.

This is probably an interesting question, but in this particular case, I think the distinction is clear: consoles are toys that solely exist for your entertainment, while PCs (and phones) are much more deeply embedded in our personal lives and our work. Consoles truly are appliances. My Switch is my Super Mario Maker device, and not a lot more than that.

So iOS devices aren’t consoles nor appliances? Because some seem to be making the opposite argument.

So I do agree that it is a problem when people start comparing Apple’s devices to consoles in an attempt to excuse Apple’s behavior. This is not a comparison that makes Apple look good.

By and large, I want a damn thing that works, whether I use it to play Threes or to respond to e-mail. Rarely have I been interested in opening up an iPad to put more RAM inside. And before you say “that’s ridiculous”: why? Just fifteen years ago, that’s exactly what a tablet was: a notebook with the display even on its opposite side, or convertible to allow it to be on either side. If people want computers to be more customizable again, they sure as hell aren’t voting with their wallets.

Are you sure about that? Gamers seem plenty angry about how locked down consoles are, and about how the economics of console gaming work.

I think you’re letting a vocal minority distort statistical realities. I don’t think “I wish I could open this up” is in the minds of 90% of console gamers.

You are suggesting calling out Apple and game console makers for consumer hostile behavior is insulting billions of people?

No. Using sexist tropes like “lifestyle accessory” is.

Please do not presume to know my personality by a random online quip.

I’m not presuming anything. I am annoyed by what I quoted, because it’s such a frequent insult levied against Apple customers. Calling consoles “consumer-hostile” in the context of the question of whether Apple products are moving towards becoming more console-like suggests that people who buy such products anyway are mindless sheep. Then following up with calling some recent Apple products “lifestyle accessories” suggests that they’re also vain.

Lifestyle accessory is essential in the marketing of modern consumerism. This device will make you look/feel/be cooler/smarter/prettier, etc.

The Macintosh 128K will make you feel+be cooler+smarter. It won’t make you look prettier, I suppose.

I mean, you’re basically citing 1980s’ era advertising, only for Women™ rather than the manly™ version.

Yes, after 30 plus years of being a console gamer, I am part of the community that you think I was insulting and I can tell you I constantly chafe at walled garden lock-in on these platforms.

I really don’t follow. The answer to console gaming being too locked down exists, and has for decades; it’s called PC gaming.

>So iOS devices aren’t consoles nor appliances?
>Because some seem to be making the opposite argument.

I'm getting super confused by this discussion.

People are making the argument that it is bad that Apple is treating their devices like appliances. Other people are making the argument that consoles are appliances, and that it is therefore okay for Apple to treat their devices like appliances. I'm saying that this argument devalues Apple's devices, because they have a much more central position in people's lives than consoles.

>I want a damn thing that works

If that's what you want, what in the world made you decide to buy an Apple device?

That's precisely one of the issues I have with Apple's treatment of its devices as appliances: they're shitty appliances that don't work properly half the time, but because they're so locked down, there's nothing you can do to fix anything.

Right now, my work Mac doesn't open save dialog boxes. It just shows the spinning pizza wheel for a few minutes and then does nothing. There's no way to fix it, or figure out what the issue is. Apple's recommendation is to reinstall OS X and create a new user account. This is my work computer, so I can't do that. I also can't bring it to the IT department right now and get them to do it.

So now I just duplicate existing files in the Finder instead of creating and saving new ones.

I also want a damn thing that works. I wish Apple started making damn things that worked, instead of locking down everything.

> If people want computers to be more customizable
> again, they sure as hell aren’t voting with their
> wallets.

iPad sales aren't exactly exploding right now, but it's anyways a bit of an odd argument. I don't think anyone claimed that selling locked-down non-upgradeable half-broken hardware was bad for *Apple*. It's certainly good for Apple that people can't upgrade their stuff, and have to buy new stuff every two years. It's certainly good for Apple that they get 30% of every app sold on iOS.

However, I don't see how this is good for *me*.

> I think you’re letting a vocal minority distort
> statistical realities.

I'd love to see those statistics.

Somehow, I'm not convinced you'll find a lot of gamers that think it is awesome that every console has its own exclusive games, requiring them to buy three consoles every generation to access all the games they want to play. I also don't think you'll find a lot of gamers that think it's awesome that console games often cost significantly more than PC games, because the locked-down nature of the console marketplaces makes any kind of competition impossible. Or who find it awesome that they have to pay a subscription fee to the console manufacturer just to play games online.

I should also note that at this point, consoles are less locked-down than iPads. At least with consoles, you can usually increase or swap out your storage. I mean, even the Switch allows you to put in a standard SD card for additional storage space.

@Sören
First I'm anti gay,then once that is debunked, now I'm sexist? Is this going to be a class on ad hominem attacks? In all seriousness, again, I am not using code words. If I wanted to insult vast swathes of actual people, including self identify brand loyalists, I would make that point clearly. I can assure you. Since I have not attacked any specific group of people, but instead suggested marketing and policies of corporations are the problem, I am not sure where our disconnect lies. I have not targeted customers once in this discussion. Apple is clearly marketing itself as a lifestyle brand, hence the watches and headphones and similar. That's okay, but making their computing platforms into appliances seems to devalue the product, as Lukas has likewise mentioned many times.

Feel free to disagree, that is perfectly okay in my opinion, but please stop attributing hate speech to my comments. In all seriousness, the silly little website I run is weighted 3-1 women to men in contributors. Once again, your dog doesn't hunt, sorry.

As far as being apart of the Apple user community, while I no longer use Apple products now, I was a long time user circa 1991/1992 all the way through to 2015. Technically, one of my family members still has a MacBook, but it has run Linux for at least five years now, given the last supported version of Mac OS, 10.7 Lion, was an absolute disaster. The hardware is still kicking, the software support was lackluster. Linux and Windows both support Apple hardware better than Apple did, at least on this model, but with Macs becoming more locked down and proprietary, I would hazard a guess ARM based Macs will no longer be useful past the time Apple supports the hardware. Too bad, I liked many of the Macs I owned over the years.

As far as PC gaming, unfortunately, as a Mac and Linux user, there was not much there for me traditionally, but I used those platforms for gaming too. Sometimes just to run DOSBox and the plethora of old games available there. Sometimes native games. I do not do much with Windows at all. Most of my clients use it, my girlfriend uses it, my daughter uses it, so I support it, but I am not really in that world at all otherwise. Non Windows gaming is getting better! Which is swell, but I mostly just use emulators on my Linux box these days. Works well enough to give me access to a plethora of games that I have owned over the last 30 years, all without being required to keep around a dozen different consoles with a dozen different power supplies. I am ecstatic, even if Saturn emulation on my low end hardware is still iffy. Oh well…

People are making the argument that it is bad that Apple is treating their devices like appliances.

Yes, and I think that’s simplistic.

I’m saying that this argument devalues Apple’s devices, because they have a much more central position in people’s lives than consoles.

At this point, I probably spend about as much time on an iPhone as on a Mac, if not more (especially on non-work days). And I mostly use it as a quasi-console: doomscrolling Twitter, listening to podcasts, playing casual games, etc. Quite a central position in my life. So, uh, I dunno about that.

I want a damn thing that works

If that’s what you want, what in the world made you decide to buy an Apple device?

lol?

That’s precisely one of the issues I have with Apple’s treatment of its devices as appliances: they’re shitty appliances that don’t work properly half the time, but because they’re so locked down, there’s nothing you can do to fix anything.

I definitely have my fair share of issues with diagnostics, yes.

iPad sales aren’t exactly exploding right now, but it’s anyways a bit of an odd argument. I don’t think anyone claimed that selling locked-down non-upgradeable half-broken hardware was bad for Apple. It’s certainly good for Apple that people can’t upgrade their stuff, and have to buy new stuff every two years. It’s certainly good for Apple that they get 30% of every app sold on iOS.

However, I don’t see how this is good for me.

We know exactly what an iPad that’s less locked down and more upgradeable looks like. It’s thicker, heavier, less structurally rigid, hideous, and no joy at all. Those devices existed for almost a decade in the Windows world and they sucked. They were mildly interesting as a “the world we might live in some day” concept.

Contrast how tablets look now.

(You can still buy Toughbooks if you really want that kind of thing. I’ve always found that a bit of a weird proposition. Yes, I can give Panasonic $2,500 for an impressively rigid device that the salesman literally shows they can throw against a wall. That’s great. Except, at that price tag, I can instead just buy an iPad, and if it does break, get contaminated with water or oil, etc., I can just buy another and still have spent less than on the Toughbook. We did the Toughbook dance for years, but our customers figured out that they hated both the price tag and actually using the thing.

Now, obviously, that’s the other extreme. But you argued that “it’s not good for you”. But, yes, actually, making the device physically simpler can be good for you. It’s thinner, lighter, there’s less chance of mechanical failure, and it’s more of a joy to hold in your hands.)

So, you may not see how it’s good for you, but the argument that it’s only good for Apple just doesn’t hold water.

I’d love to see those statistics.

Talk to regular users who don’t have an IDE or text editor (and don’t know or care what that is). It’s eye-opening how differently they approach this topic, and how they’re completely baffled by the nerdy discussion of “yeah, but how am I supposed to swap my RAM”.

Somehow, I’m not convinced you’ll find a lot of gamers that think it is awesome that every console has its own exclusive games

Well, sure. But that’s yet another discussion.

I also don’t think you’ll find a lot of gamers that think it’s awesome that console games often cost significantly more than PC games, because the locked-down nature of the console marketplaces makes any kind of competition impossible.

Well, publishers would probably argue that those same games ship on consoles first, and that the higher price actually helps fund PC development down the line. Don’t want console games costing more? Great — they’ll instead kill the PC port altogether.

First I’m anti gay,then once that is debunked, now I’m sexist? Is this going to be a class on ad hominem attacks?

I didn’t really mean to imply either of those. My impression, again, is that “lifestyle accessory” is usually derogatory (in the sense of “not useful”), and usually tied to an insult of people who buy such a product anyway.

Apple is clearly marketing itself as a lifestyle brand, hence the watches and headphones and similar.

I… really think Apple is a bit more multi-faceted than that.

(Is Samsung a “lifestyle brand”? Where does “sells consumer electronics” end and “lifestyle brand” begin?)

That’s okay, but making their computing platforms into appliances seems to devalue the product

I don’t agree that that’s a given.

The original Macintosh had, by design, zero internal expansion. Did that devalue the product? In terms of expansion, yes, obviously. Did some geeks hate it for that reason? Yes. It was still a pretty damn good product, and part of it was precisely that it was just right out of the box.

If I could have a MacBook Pro that’s roughly as thin and light and structurally rigid as it currently is, but also allows for RAM expansion, I would take it. But that’s not physically possible. Making it more internally flexible inevitably means more complex mechanics, so it becomes either thicker or less structurally rigid. Should Apple make another MacBook variant that’s simply thicker and allows for more expansion? Maybe. (Would I buy that? Tempting. Kind of hard to weigh something I’ll do once every two or three years — adding RAM and/or replacing the SSD — vs. how I’ll be using it every single day.)

As far as being apart of the Apple user community, while I no longer use Apple products now, I was a long time user circa 1991/1992 all the way through to 2015.

I… don’t know why you bring that up. (I started in 1992, had a non-Mac stint for several years, came back in the early OS X days.)

Some comparisons that Apple didn't mention:

- Bandcamp (music): 15-20%, depending on payment processor fees. Took Series A venture funding a decade ago, hasn't been back for more since then.

- Itch (software, art, and media, with optional companion apps for Mac/Windows/Linux): Seller chooses the % they give to Itch, anywhere from 0–100%. This honor system seems to be working out for the Itch proprietors. One nice feature: their software upload tool automatically supports deploying delta updates to customers. No venture capital.

- Ko-fi (subscriptions for people who make things, including software): $6/month + Stripe/PayPal fees (about 3% + $0.30 per transaction). Support for paywalled content. No venture capital, and no intention of taking any.

These infinitesimally smaller companies are outcompeting Apple — one of the wealthiest corporations humanity has ever seen — on price. It's hard to see Apple's position as anything other than blatant rent-seeking by holding onto their monopoly of app distribution, especially given the corporate focus on increasing service revenue.

@Sören
Samsung is definitely in the same boat as Apple, except they also sell actual appliances, computer parts, etc. in addition to their ridiculously marketed consumer electronics. Have you seen one of their big launch parties? Samsung events are as silly as anything I have seen in this space.

Lifestyle accessory is meant to be insulting…to Apple…not the consumers. Apple, like many corporations, are prone to exploit the weaknesses in people's psychology to sell them things that will not have nearly the appreciable impact upon their life as promised in the marketing. Consumers are cynically targeted by empty promises and imprecise language meant to evoke a state of fulfillment from such ephemeral promises. Essentially boiling down these goods to some nebulous lifestyle accessory, rather than a truly useful tool. Even worse, Apple is not just marketing fluff, which is unfortunately par for the course in the consumer goods space, but likewise falsely fetishizes the aspirational nature of their luxury products.

"Live better" or "Work better" are admirable slogans for any company, but the truth of it is, how, why, etc. will your product fulfill these goals? I like things that look nice as much as the next person, no lie, but I am not tied to brand/product identity as the way to define self. I can and will cheerfully continue to ignore the nonsense spewed by the marketing departments of these lifestyle accessory brands, but I do get frustrated when otherwise sensible and intelligent people regurgitate a given company's marketing points word for word as a rebuttal to a valid critique. Present company excluded of course.

I know, I know, shocking revelations here, but despite of their often silly marketing, Apple did at one time provide valid solutions to the consumer. I feel in the last ten years, Apple has instead leaned into their worst tendencies to overprice, lock down, and belittle their customer and frankly, developer base. It is what it is. No worries.

As to the point about me being a former Apple user, I just wanted to clarify, my insights did not come from a unknowing outsider viewpoint, but a jaundiced, formerly insider viewpoint.

@remmah: Ko-fi seems like a stretch. The App Store does a fair bit more than Ko-fi, Patreon, etc. do. Now I know many developers don’t want/need those additional things the App Store does, but that’s a different matter. Bandcamp, however, does seem like an apt comparison. (And its fee isn’t really that far off?) I don’t know of Itch.

Samsung is definitely in the same boat as Apple, except they also sell actual appliances, computer parts, etc. in addition to their ridiculously marketed consumer electronics. Have you seen one of their big launch parties? Samsung events are as silly as anything I have seen in this space.

Oh, absolutely, but what of the bulk of their customers? The events seem mostly targeted at clickbait tech GottaHaveTheLatestDotCom media, who in turn have their audience. But that audience is probably a fairly slim amount of Samsung customers.

It’s an early adopter thing — you want those people excited about Samsung so they tell others (who aren’t) that Samsung is a good choice.

Lifestyle accessory is meant to be insulting…to Apple…not the consumers.

I don’t think that distinction works, though.

Apple, like many corporations, are prone to exploit the weaknesses in people’s psychology to sell them things that will not have nearly the appreciable impact upon their life as promised in the marketing.

I mean, sure.

“Live better” or “Work better” are admirable slogans for any company, but the truth of it is, how, why, etc. will your product fulfill these goals?

My Apple Watch has helped me lose weight.

Could I have lost weight without it? Yes. Would a far cheaper fitness tracker have been good enough? Maybe. Was the Apple Watch UX perfect? Sadly, no (in particular, the Activity/Fitness app seems incredibly challenged by, uh, arithmetic?).

But overall, the end result does feel fulfilling and worth it.

I do get frustrated when otherwise sensible and intelligent people regurgitate a given company’s marketing points word for word as a rebuttal to a valid critique.

Definitely.

I wish the Grubers and Ritchies et al were more critical and took more of a look at what the competition’s been up to.

I know, I know, shocking revelations here, but despite of their often silly marketing, Apple did at one time provide valid solutions to the consumer. I feel in the last ten years, Apple has instead leaned into their worst tendencies to overprice, lock down, and belittle their customer and frankly, developer base.

It’s hard to measure, and “Apple has lost its way” critiques are probably as old as Apple itself.

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment