Archive for January 29, 2024

Monday, January 29, 2024

Fossil Is Quitting Smartwatches

Victoria Song (via Hacker News):

The company has been one of the most prolific makers of Wear OS smartwatches over the years, and its absence will leave a large gap in the market.

[…]

This shouldn’t come as a huge shock if you’ve been paying attention to Fossil the past few months. Some Reddit users had been reporting Fossil retail employees as saying Fossil was pulling out of the business, while others on the platform claiming “insider” knowledge said the company was waiting for a new chipset. The company regularly put out smartwatches through Wear OS’s toughest years and was often a permanent fixture at CES. However, the company was notably absent from the show earlier this month. What’s more, Fossil was expected to announce news of a new Gen 7 featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus platform in 2023 — however, it was nothing but crickets the entire year. Well, now we know why.

Previously:

App Marketplaces: AltStore and Epic Games Store

AltStore:

We’ve started the process of becoming a legitimate “app marketplace”, allowing our European friends to download @delta and other AltStore apps officially for the first time ever!

See you in March ☘️

Jacob Kastrenakes:

Epic plans to launch the Epic Games Store on the iPhone this year in the European Union — and it’s bringing Fortnite back to the platform along with it.

The announcement comes after Apple shared how it will open up iOS in response to the EU’s crackdown on Big Tech. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney described Apple’s rules as “hot garbage,” but they are clearly not so hot as to keep Epic away altogether.

Juli Clover:

Apple is charging an 0.50 euro fee per user per year for apps installed outside of the App Store (and in the App Store for developers who opt in to the new terms and also still choose to use Apple’s system), but there are no App Store commissions or in-app fees. While Apple is waiving fees for the first one million installs, the 0.50 per user fee will cost app developers like Epic Games a notable amount of money. Sweeney called Apple’s payment “junk fees.”

Manton Reece:

Reviewing news coverage of the Core Technology Fee, usually glossed over is that the CTF applies to every install of a marketplace.

[…]

Because marketplaces will usually be free, this makes it nearly impossible for them to work without charging developers just as much as Apple does, or having enough cash that it can lose money. Everything in Apple’s rules is designed to prevent anyone from using this.

Benedek Kozma:

Marketplaces have to pay CTF for all “first annual installs”, not just 1M+. Non-profits don’t have to pay the CTF but can only install apps from developers who also have the fee waivered.

Epic would have to pay the Core Technology Fee twice, both for the Fortnite app itself and for the marketplace app that’s used to download Fortnite. Plus, since marketplaces are supposed to be open to apps within a given category, Epic would also have the overhead of managing and reviewing whatever apps other developers submit to their marketplace.

See also:

Previously:

Update (2024-01-30): John Gruber:

One problem I see with the Core Technology Fee is that it doesn’t seem compatible with the concept of completely free-of-charge apps from developers who aren’t registered non-profits, educational institutions, or governments. What we used to call freeware back in the day.

Update (2024-03-01): Joe Rossignol:

MacPaw today announced that Setapp will be available as an alternative app marketplace on the iPhone in the EU starting in April. Those wanting access to the beta version can join a waitlist, and developers interested in the platform can apply on this page.

Apple Podcasts Transcripts

Apple:

This spring [with iOS 17.4], Apple is introducing transcripts on Apple Podcasts, making it easier for anyone to access podcasts.

With transcripts, your audience can read the full text of an episode, search the episode for a specific word or phrase, and tap the text to play from that point in the episode. As an episode plays, each word is highlighted, making it easy to follow along. Transcripts can also be accessed from the episode details page. Touch and hold a podcast episode to reveal an option to view a transcript.

Apple automatically generates transcripts after a new episode is published. Your episode will be available for listening right away, and the transcript will be available shortly afterwards.

[…]

When you submit your show to Apple Podcasts, transcripts will be automatically created. If you would like to provide your own transcripts, you can change the transcript setting for your show in the Availability tab on your show page in Apple Podcasts Connect.

John Voorhees:

I’ve experimented with OpenAI’s Whisper for creating transcripts of MacStories’ podcasts, and although the results are good enough for creating a searchable episode database for our internal use, they haven’t been good enough to publish. As a result, I’m very keen to see how well Apple’s solution works. If they prefer, podcasters will be able to upload their own transcripts, too.

The transcripts generated by Apple are saved as VTT files, which is a W3C standard for displaying timed text using HTML 5’s track element. I looked at AppStories, and sure enough, there’s a transcript available for the latest episode already. As one of the show’s creators, I can access, download, edit, and re-upload the transcript. Based on my preliminary scan of the latest episode, though, the transcription is very good, including timestamps and identification of each speaker, although not by name, which isn’t surprising.

Ben Thompson:

Apple’s new ToS for podcasts claims that you can opt out of transcripts, but there is no option to do so in Podcast Connect.

It seems to be a per-episode setting, though that sounds like it creates a race condition where you would have to wait long enough for Apple Podcasts to see the episode so that you could opt out but not wait so long that the episode and transcript have already been distributed to listeners.

I carefully consider every word I write down. Podcasts are a freer medium in part because they are not screen-shottable.

I don’t think that will be the case long-term, regardless of what Apple does here.

Jason Snell:

Speaking as a prolific podcaster, I’m really happy that Apple has provided this feature because it dramatically improves the accessibility of our podcasts. Transcription technology has only recently gotten good enough to make automated transcripts readable, but the ideal solution to the problem was always to have platform owners like Apple build in this technology themselves.

Platform Tilt

Mozilla (via Mike Rockwell):

This dashboard tracks technical issues in major software platforms which disadvantage Firefox relative to the first-party browser. We consider aspects like security, stability, performance, and functionality, and propose changes to create a more level playing field.

Previously:

Update (2024-01-30): Thomas Claburn (Hacker News):

“For years, Mozilla has engaged in dialog with platform vendors in an effort to address these issues,” the development group declared. “With renewed public attention and an evolving regulatory environment, we think it’s time to publish these concerns using the same transparent process and tools we use to develop positions on emerging technical standards.”

[…]

At the top of the dashboard – by virtue of alphabetic order and coincidentally by actual importance – is Rule 2.5.6 of the Apple App Store Review Guidelines, which requires that all browsers on iOS use Apple’s WebKit rendering engine.

[…]

Google gets called out for failing to allow third-party Android browsers to import browsing data, for sometimes ignoring a user’s default browser choice, and for integrating Android with Google Search in a way that makes search results worse when users search with Firefox.

Microsoft is not spared either. The Windows biz stands accused of failing to allow third-party browsers to set themselves as the default browser, for allowing Edge to set itself as the default more easily, and for opening certain features in Edge regardless of the user’s choice of default browser.