Company / division: Apple
Apple Music: Platform? Promoter? Both. – The New York Times (Dec 22, 2016)
Competition in the streaming music market is tough – everyone is offering roughly the same catalogs for roughly the same monthly price. So competition happens at the margins – in recommendations, user interfaces, and exclusive content, which is the subject of this interview with Apple Music execs.
For all the complaining about how the new MacBooks weren’t truly worthy of the Pro designation, it’s been largely a matter of opinion, and one I’ve argued doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. But if this is a verifiable performance issue with the new MBPs, that’s a concern – I’ve seen pretty variable battery life on my review unit. But see also this iMore piece that questions some of the findings, and this later 9to5Mac piece which follows up with some additional data.
Reporting has suggested for some time now that Apple will be seeking to use OLED for in at least some of its 2017 iPhone models. The challenge is that OLED displays are in high demand and short supply, so supply constraints might be an issue.
America’s Big 5 tech companies increase patent filings, Microsoft holds lead in AI technologies – IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law (Dec 22, 2016)
Interesting and valuable analysis. But clearly an oversimplification to make patents held the arbiter of a “lead” in AI. Ultimately, whether you lead in AI comes down to the customer benefit you drive from it, not the patents themselves.
Pokémon Go arrives on the Apple Watch | TechCrunch (Dec 22, 2016)
This Watch app was announced way back in September, so it’s been a long time coming. But it looks really solid and is cleverly integrated into the Activity app too. Stuff like this is what the Watch needs to make a success of its App Store, which so far has been a little underwhelming.
Super Mario Run breaks records with 40 million downloads in its first 4 days | TechCrunch (Dec 21, 2016)
The numbers are huge, as expected – that’s a lot of downloads, but it’s worth remembering that this was a free download of a game with lots of nostalgia value. Unlike Pokemon Go, this year’s other big Nintendo-backed mobile game, Super Mario Run has eschewed the standard IAP business model, and reviews have been terrible as a result. What really matters is paying users and regular users after the initial hype dies down.
Apple V. Google A ‘Stable Duopoly’ in the U.S., Says Stifel – Tech Trader Daily – Barrons.com (Dec 21, 2016)
Interesting data here on purchasing patterns for smartphones in the US – obviously iOS and Android dominate, but it’s notable that Google Pixel buyers are mostly coming from the Android, not iPhone, base. The Pixel launch certainly seems to have been a success, but that’s been bad news for other Android vendors, not Apple, so far.
Apple is losing focus again — with no Steve Jobs coming to the rescue – Business Insider (Dec 20, 2016)
This is one of the most enduring narratives about Apple – that it’s somehow lost its way and is heading for a repeat of the late 1990s. These pieces are often so overblown that they’re hard to take seriously, but the drumbeat does seem to be getting louder lately. Apple always struggles most to control the narrative when it doesn’t have big, exciting, new products to shout about, and it feels like we’re in one of those periods right now.
Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber say they won’t help Trump build a registry of Muslim-Americans – Recode (Dec 17, 2016)
There’s growing consensus on this point now among the major tech companies, and thankfully little new noise from the Trump transition team about putting this particular campaign promise into action. Of course, that’s not to say it will never happen, or that the administration couldn’t build the registry itself, but it’s good to see tech companies showing some backbone on this point at least.
This is a big policy change for Apple, whose famous penchant for secrecy has hampered its efforts to hire and retain top AI researchers. We won’t see future Apple products and services leaked through this research, obviously – it will either be generalized enough to offer no clues, or will be published after the related consumer-facing products are released. But it should help ease the hiring challenges somewhat and neutralize one of the frequent criticisms of Apple’s AI efforts.
An investigation which began in 2014 concluded in August 2016 with the EU finding that Apple’s tax arrangement with the Irish government contravened EU tax policy, and requiring that Ireland recoup $14.5 billion in back taxes. The EU had also made similar moves with regard to Starbucks and Fiat as a result of similar investigations, but the numbers involved in the Apple case are far larger. Apple argues that it creates essentially all the value in its products in the US – iPhones and other products are famously “Designed by Apple in California” – and that therefore it repatriates all its profits to the US to be taxed there. The Irish arrangement recognized this argument and the Irish government has been happy to have Apple build a big base in Ireland on this basis, but the EU feels that Ireland’s treatment of Apple is an example of unequal treatment. Part of the reason for all this is that Apple has been keeping huge amounts of cash overseas for years in anticipation of an eventual tax holiday in the US, and so this isn’t just about Apple and the EU but also about a larger battle between US and European tax authorities.
via New York Times
Trump Hits Apple Over FBI San Bernardino iPhone – CNET (Feb 17, 2016)
This was the second occasion when then-candidate Trump took aim at Apple during the campaign, with the first being his insistence that Apple should make more of its products in the US rather than overseas. This attack was over Apple’s refusal to create a backdoor to the iPhone in order to assist the FBI with its case against the alleged San Bernardino shooters. This call escalated into a call for a boycott of the iPhone (all while members of Trump’s team continued to tweet from iPhones).
This was one of the first occasions on which then-candidate Donald Trump took aim at a big US tech company, with Apple the target. He argued that as president, he would insist that Apple make more of its products in the US rather than overseas. This is a theme he’s returned to since and which both Apple and Foxconn have apparently responded to in some of their investigations of manufacturing in the US in late 2016 and early 2017.