Archive for June 17, 2024

Monday, June 17, 2024

Rumored Thinner Apple Devices

Tim Hardwick:

Apple intends to slim down the MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, and iPhone, with the new ultra-thin M4 iPad Pro a sign of the company’s new design trajectory, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

[…]

Writing in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman says that like the iPad Pro, Apple is now focused on delivering the thinnest possible devices across its lineups without compromising on battery life or major new features.

[…]

In 2021, Apple significantly redesigned the MacBook Pro, making it thicker and heavier. A major highlight of the redesign was the reintroduction of several ports that were removed in previous iterations in favor of chassis thinness.

The 2021 MacBook Pro was a big step in the right direction, but I think it didn’t go far enough. The spec sheet shows all-day battery life, but when using Xcode with my M1 MacBook Pro, battery is still a concern, even on non-transcontinental flights. And I would trade some thinness to be able to replace the battery (or storage!) without mailing the computer to Apple.

I also don’t want a thinner keyboard. I would rather they add more hardware, such as more USB ports and a cellular modem, than shave off a few more millimeters. Maybe that makes sense for a device like a MacBook Air or watch that’s supposed to be small, but not at the Pro end of the lineup.

Previously:

Update (2024-06-18): Robin Kunde:

The MBP still doesn’t have enough ports and the keyboard is finally back in a decent place (aside from the crappy key caps). Who’s asking for this?

John Gruber:

Unlike other devices Apple sells, Apple Watch sizes are given not by screen diagonal but by case height. So what Kuo is claiming is that the current “big” size will become the small size and the new big size will be much bigger. I find this very hard to believe.

I hope Kuo is wrong because the current small Apple Watch size is already larger than I’d like. It’s not so much about how it looks but how it feels on a narrow wrist. And this is the one Apple product that I’d want to be thinner, so that it stays out of the way of long sleeves and gloves.

U.S. Sues Adobe Over Subscriptions

FTC (PDF, via Hacker News):

The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against software maker Adobe and two of its executives, Maninder Sawhney and David Wadhwani, for deceiving consumers by hiding the early termination fee for its most popular subscription plan and making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions.

[…]

According to the complaint, when consumers purchase a subscription through the company’s website, Adobe pushes consumers to its “annual paid monthly” subscription plan, pre-selecting it as a default. Adobe prominently shows the plan’s “monthly” cost during enrollment, but it buries the early termination fee (ETF) and its amount, which is 50 percent of the remaining monthly payments when a consumer cancels in their first year. Adobe’s ETF disclosures are buried on the company’s website in small print or require consumers to hover over small icons to find the disclosures.

[…]

In addition to failing to disclose the ETF to consumers when they subscribe, the complaint also alleges that Adobe uses the ETF to ambush consumers to deter them from cancelling their subscriptions. The complaint also alleges that Adobe’s cancellation processes are designed to make cancellation difficult for consumers. When consumers have attempted to cancel their subscription on the company’s website, they have been forced to navigate numerous pages in order to cancel.

Emma Roth:

Customers encounter similar obstacles when attempting to cancel their subscriptions over the phone or via live chats, the DOJ alleges. The complaint claims “subscribers have had their calls or chats either dropped or disconnected and have had to re-explain their reason for calling when they re-connect.”

[…]

In 2012, Adobe went from selling its creative software for lifetime use to charging users for a monthly or yearly subscription to its suite of products, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and others. The company’s subscription model has long frustrated creatives, who are often forced to stay subscribed to Adobe in order to keep doing their jobs.

Jeremy Gray:

Despite being full of passionate, talented people who genuinely care about artists, the company has earned its negative reputation. To no fault of the people who make the Adobe software that so many use daily, the company’s beleaguered customers do not trust Adobe.

Previously:

Update (2024-06-18): Nick Heer:

The contours of the case itself bear similarities to the Amazon Prime one, too. In both cases, customers are easily coerced into subscriptions which are difficult to cancel. Executives were aware of customer complaints, according to the FTC, yet they allegedly allowed or encouraged these practices. But there are key differences between these cases as well.

See also: Mac Power Users Talk, MacRumors.

EU to Charge Apple for Violating DMA

Joe Rossignol (Hacker News):

The European Commission plans to charge Apple for violating the Digital Markets Act after determining that the iPhone maker is not complying with obligations to allow app developers to “steer” users to offers outside of the App Store without fees, according to the Financial Times, which cites three people familiar with the matter.

It appears that the EU is taking issue with Apple’s Core Technology Fee, but the exact charges that it allegedly plans to bring against Apple are unclear.

Ryan Jones:

Reminder: The EU itself leaks to FT

John Gruber:

My basic theory is that what the EC has wanted all along is to force Apple not merely open up iOS to other methods of distribution, but to force Apple to allow apps to be distributed through those non-App-Store channels free of charge. But they don’t want to come out and say, flatly, that they seek to forbid Apple from monetizing its IP from all developers on the platform, because that’s so radically anti-capitalist. So instead the wrote the DMA to forbid the way Apple had, heretofore, mandated its cut of App Store revenue, and I suspect they somehow thought that if they banned the current rules — all apps must go through the App Store, all apps must use Apple’s App Store payment processing — then Apple would be forced to allow free-of-charge distribution through other channels and other payment processing. They didn’t foresee the Core Technology Fee as a route to collect a cut from any and all popular applications distributed by large commercial developers.

This is buying too much into Apple’s frame. As I’ve said, Apple created the “monetizing its IP” concept, long after creating the App Store itself, as a preemptive defense of its monopoly rents in the face of antitrust action. If the EU’s language had been more sweeping, surely they would have been criticized for being heavy handed. Instead, they were more measured, explaining their intent but not exactly how to get there. I think the reason they didn’t anticipate the CTF is that it obviously violates the intent of the DMA. They were wrong to expect a good faith attempt at compliance.

It’s not as if Apple is trying to monetize its IP by licensing iOS to clone vendors. It’s already monetizing via high-margin, non-upgradable hardware and hard-sell services. As commenter Doodpants mentions, this licensing business is pernicious for customers:

I don’t want to “license” software; I want to buy it. But software companies have come up with this “licensing” concept so that they can control what you can and cannot do with the software after you’ve paid for and installed it.

René Fouquet:

The thing that irritated me most is the “you can just buy an Android phone” by Federighi [at The Talk Show]. If this is your response to valid criticism, watch out not to fall from that high horse.

Of course, this recalls Tim Cook saying that the solution for iOS’s poor messaging interoperability is to buy your mother an iPhone. It reminds me of nothing so much as the current American political situation. No big deal if you’re unhappy with one of the two main candidates—you can just vote for the other guy! Yet in another four years there will be two new candidates, but we’ll still have Apple and Google and little means of influencing either.

archagon:

Listening to Apple, I come away feeling that the Mac is only an open platform for legacy reasons, and it certainly wouldn’t be one if it was released as a new product today. I am very worried that we’re heading towards a future where Apple disables my notarized emulators, torrent clients, and encrypted messaging apps for commercial, legal, or political reasons and then tells me to “just buy a PC” if I don’t like it.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple leadership has twisted itself in knots to fit an App Store-centric reality distortion field and that’s why they’re facing antitrust action around the world and serious, painful consequences for their illegal conduct

mʌp:

As someone that qualified for his first WWDC scholarship in 2002 it sure feels weird to hear Tim say that there were no students in the dev community before the App Store…

Martin Pilkington:

I was literally in University when both the iPhone and the App Store were released, and had been shipping apps for years prior.

Apple seems to be stuck in its own reality distortion field when it comes to the App Store.

Previously:

Update (2024-06-18): Jesper:

The EC is not the ideal horse, and other multi-billion dollar technology firms are not the ideal cheerleaders. In a world where the phone is the dominant computing device for most people and nearly everything involves it, the case against monopolistic rent seeking and corporatist distribution restrictions should be to protect not only customers but individual freedoms. Nevertheless, the horse has been saddled and does work roughly towards the same goals.

[…]

There are still ways Apple, say, in its approach to privacy and compared to some of its competitors, are exceptional. But dying on this hill, to squeeze out the same money that putatively is not the primary driver behind the company anyway, to maintain a ridiculous charade wherein no developers were successful before a distribution model that not uncommonly was a significant downgrade, is just exceptionally stupid.

Update (2024-06-19): See also: Hacker News.

Juli Clover (Mastodon):

Apple is facing a “number” of “very serious” issues with its Digital Markets Act compliance in Europe, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in an interview with CNBC.

[…]

Vestager does not believe that Apple’s changes meet the requirements of the DMA. “We have a number of Apple issues; I find them very serious,” she said. “I was very surprised that we would have such suspicions of Apple being non-compliant.”

Craig Grannell:

I suspect there’s US arrogance here, along with a total misunderstanding of how the EU works. Ian Betteridge has said this way better than I can, but US folks appear to consider this some kind of negotiation, whereas for the EU it’s more a case of “here’s where you need to be and it’s up to you how you get there”.

See also: Steve Troughton-Smith, Hacker News.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-08): See also: Hacker News.

Previously:

Japan Passes Law to Allow App Marketplaces

Ryohei Yasoshima and Riho Nagao (Hacker News):

Legislation slated to be sent to the parliament in 2024 would restrict moves by platform operators to keep users in the operators’ own ecosystems and shut out rivals, focusing mainly on four areas: app stores and payments, search, browsers, and operating systems.

The plan is to allow the Japan Fair Trade Commission to impose fines for violations. If this is modeled on existing antitrust law, the penalties would generally amount to around 6% of revenue earned from the problematic activities.

Kazuaki Nagata:

A bill submitted by the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would compel the dominant platforms to allow third parties to launch their own app markets and to offer more payment options, while banning the technology giants from giving preferential treatment to their own products.

Hartley Charlton (Hacker News):

New legislation in Japan requires Apple to allow third-party app stores and payment providers on the iPhone.

The Japanese parliament has passed the Act on Promotion of Competition for Specified Smartphone Software, a law that compels Apple to allow access to third-party app stores and payment providers on devices that run iOS. The legislation, which was passed by Japan’s upper house and will be enforced following Cabinet approval within the next eighteen months, seeks to curb the dominance of major tech firms like Apple in the smartphone market.

The law requires Apple to make several significant changes to its business practices. The company will have to permit third-party app stores on its devices, just like it does in the EU. App developers will be allowed to use third-party payment services. There are also provisions to allow users to change default settings via new choice screens during setup, such as for selecting a default browser.

Nick Heer:

Penalties are 20–30% of Japanese revenue. Japan is one of very few countries in the world where the iPhone’s market share exceeds that of Android phones.

John Gruber:

The United States should treat this as a trade war, and reciprocate by passing legislation mandating third-party game stores and payments on game consoles from Sony and Nintendo. […] It’s patently hypocritical that Japan’s law targets only phones; this law wouldn’t exist if Sony were a player in phones and mobile platforms.

As I’ve said, I’m not persuaded that the smartphone market is analogous to game consoles. It’s not hypocritical that phone companies and ISPs are regulated differently from, say, refrigerators and slot machines.

Alan Crisp:

What percentage of the global economy’s business comms and app usage (outside China) is on Apple/Android systems? 80%? 90%? 95%?

For me it makes sense that the regulatory focus is on phones - this can have a great impact on innovation across all markets. The gaming console market, by comparison, has a far, far smaller impact on the lives of everyday commerce, and thus far less deserving of regulating those systems.

[…]

Imagine if AT&T banned you from calling certain phone numbers (App Store anti-steering provisions), or chose which kinds of telesales were allowed. With the landline being essential to business communications, left unchecked AT&T could have slowed innovation more generally in other areas.

Previously: