Archive for February 3, 2023

Friday, February 3, 2023

Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem

Ben Lovejoy:

The White House asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to investigate, and Axios reports that it also concluded antitrust legislation is required.

The NTIA’s report is here (PDF).

Jon Brodkin:

The Biden administration wants major changes to the Apple and Google mobile app models, saying the companies “act as gatekeepers over the apps that people and businesses rely on” and enforce policies that “have the potential to harm consumers by inflating prices and reducing innovation.”

An analysis of the market and recommendations for lawmakers and regulators were issued today in a report by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The report was required by President Biden’s 2021 executive order on competition and touted by the White House today as being part of “new progress on his competition agenda.”

The NTIA concluded that “consumers largely can’t get apps outside of the app store model, controlled by Apple and Google,” and that “Apple and Google create hurdles for developers to compete for consumers by imposing technical limits, such as restricting how apps can function or requiring developers to go through slow and opaque review processes.”

Hartley Charlton:

On the basis of the investigation’s findings, the report recommends:

  • Third-party app stores should be permitted and users should not be prevented from sideloading apps outside a gatekeeper’s own app store. Legislative and regulatory measures should prohibit restrictions on sideloading, alternative app stores, and web apps.
  • Requirements that ban developers from using alternative in-app payment systems should be banned.
  • Third-party web browser apps should be able to offer full functionality and not face browser engine restrictions.
  • Pre-installed apps, default options, and anticompetitive self-preferencing should be limited, including in search results.
  • Users should be able to choose their own apps as defaults and delete or hide pre-installed apps.
  • App store review processes should be more transparent.

Florian Mueller:

It’s suboptimal, though, and I don’t just mean the fact that there are various typos (unusually many for a government document). As an app developer who tried to make a game work as a web app (and found the results extremely dissatisfactory), I believe the part about web apps could have raised several additional issues.

There are quotes from ACT | The App Association (again, it’s actually an Apple Association) and the R Street Institute that argue small app developers benefit from the trust that end users place in apps they download from curated stores. First, if they trust an Apple or Google store, why wouldn’t they also trust a Microsoft, Amazon, or Meta store? Second, independent software vendors (ISVs) have historically had great opportunities on open systems like Windows and the Mac (which compared to iOS is pretty open, though Apple may change that step by step). It’s not like mobile app stores were needed so the little guys had a chance to succeed. I’m extremely cautious about what I download to my Windows computers (desktop and notebook) and never installed any malware (nothing was found whenever I scanned, and nothing ever happened that suggested the presence of malware), but even I install software from small developers: I’m just careful about where I obtain it from, but that doesn’t mean I trust only Microsoft’s own store.


Update (2023-02-14): Florian Mueller:

President Biden effectively reinforces push for Open App Markets Act in State of the Union speech: first SOTU reference to antitrust since 1979

Designing Swift’s Macros Feature

Doug Gregor:

Swift folks, we’re busy working on a macros for the Swift language and would love your thoughts. It’s a big feature with a lot of details that need to be right.


As things are starting to work in the prototype, we’re putting them into a sample repository with a couple of different kinds of macros. These demonstrate different aspects of macros, from the kind of code you can generate to how you handle errors. The repository is here.

Swift Macros Dashboard:

This gist provides a “dashboard” with links to the various documents and example projects that are part of the Swift Macros effort.


Update (2023-03-03): Ben Cohen:

This is a beautifully short example of how macros have the potential to make swift library code easier to use for everyone.

Update (2023-03-08): See also: the Option Set Declaration Macro pitch.

Touchability, Productivity, and Portability — Pick Two

Federico Viticci:

In simpler terms: what happens if you prefer the Apple ecosystem for UI and UX but you’re feeling hamstrung by it at the same time?


The problem is that an iPad, at least for people like me, isn’t supposed to be a companion to work that happens somewhere else. It is the work. And ultimately, I think it’s fair to demand efficiency from a machine that is supposed to make you productive. I feel this every time Stage Manager doesn’t let me place windows where I want on an external display; every time I can’t place more than four windows in a workspace; every time I can’t record podcasts like I can on a Mac; every time a website doesn’t work quite right like it does on a desktop; I feel it, over a decade into the iPad’s existence, when developers like Rogue Amoeba or Raycast can’t bring their software to iPadOS.


Maybe this has been true for a while and Stage Manager was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. You can’t separate art from the technology, but, at the end of the day, there’s also work to be done.

Jack Wellborn:

It’s foolishly optimistic to think that Microsoft or even Apple can make pointer interfaces as touch friendly as iPadOS without also destroying the very thing that makes them more productive than iPadOS — information density. Smaller controls means these platforms can disclose more information and interactivity to their users at once. That’s why a bunch of windows on even a 11″ MacBook Air feels natural while only four windows on a “large” 13″ iPad feels ungainly.

Conversely, it’s impossible to make iPadOS more information dense without sacrificing the very thing that makes it the best tablet OS — touch friendliness. iPad users want more information on screen because that will help them be more productive, but the only way to present more information in iPadOS without sacrificing touch friendliness is a larger display. Not only is a larger display not portable, iPadOS’s support for larger displays still sucks. There’s nothing Apple can do about large displays not being portable, but better support for larger displays? That’s a problem Apple can solve.


Update (2023-02-21): Jack Wellborn:

The lesson to take from this half decade of disappointing iPadOS and iPad Pro updates is not that the iPad platform is fatally flawed and that Apple needs to jump ship to macOS for its pro tablet OS. It’s that Apple’s been trying to solve what increasingly seems like an impossible set of constraints — touchability, productivity, and portability. It’s foolish to think Apple or anyone can move those same constraints and demands to a different platform and assume a better outcome. I am all for adding touch support to Macs, but that won’t satisfy the dreams of iPad Pro users who want the same touch first experience found on their iPads today. Furthermore, overhauling macOS to create a touch first experience would only introduce the same problems found on iPadOS today, and if that’s the case, then what’s the point?


Apple’s Q1 2023 Results

Apple (transcript, Hacker News, MacRumors):

The Company posted quarterly revenue of $117.2 billion, down 5 percent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.88.


“We set an all-time revenue record of $20.8 billion in our Services business, and in spite of a difficult macroeconomic environment and significant supply constraints, we grew total company revenue on a constant currency basis,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO.

Jason Snell:

Again, total profit was the second-most ever at $30 billion but it’s down from last year.


By all accounts, Apple originally intended to have new MacBook Pro and Mac mini models ready to go during this quarter, but those releases were delayed until this month. With no new Macs in the offing at all, Mac sales took a big hit, down 29 percent year-over-year.


Honestly, given that Apple warned of iPhone production problems that would prevent the company from meeting demand, being down only 8% year over year strikes me as being a bit of a relief.

Jason Snell:

Since the iPad is taking a victory lap, let me hit you with a few other iPad tidbits. It’s the first time the iPad has sold better than the Mac in a quarter in seven years. And it’s the biggest iPad quarter by revenue in nine years. The iPad is, at this point, basically a $32 billion a year business for Apple, when just a few years ago, it looked like it might be worth $20 billion at most. Sure, we might look at that janky Apple Pencil adapter on the 9th-generation iPad and at the aging design of the iPad Pro and wonder what’s up with the hardware design, but the numbers don’t lie.

John Voorhees:

The year-over-year decline was driven by multiple factors, including:

  • Shortages of iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max caused by COVID lockdowns in China
  • Soft consumer demand resulting from worldwide inflationary pressure
  • Adverse effects caused by foreign currency exchange rates

Although Apple did not forecast results for Q1 2023 during its last earnings call, the company warned in November that production disruptions would impact shipments, so the declines today should not be a shock.