The Proper-Oversight Edition Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Apple Fails To Block Porn & Gambling “Enterprise” Apps, by Josh COnstine, TechCrunch

Facebook and Google were far from the only developers openly abusing Apple’s Enterprise Certificate program meant for companies offering employee-only apps. A TechCrunch investigation uncovered a dozen hardcore pornography apps and a dozen real-money gambling apps that escaped Apple’s oversight. The developers passed Apple’s weak Enterprise Certificate screening process or piggybacked on a legitimate approval, allowing them to sidestep the App Store and Cupertino’s traditional safeguards designed to keep iOS family friendly. Without proper oversight, they were able to operate these vice apps that blatantly flaunt Apple’s content policies.

The situation shows further evidence that Apple has been neglecting its responsibility to police the Enterprise Certificate program, leading to its exploitation to circumvent App Store rules and forbidden categories. For a company whose CEO Tim Cook frequently criticizes its competitors for data misuse and policy fiascos like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica, Apple’s failure to catch and block these porn and gambling demonstrates it has work to do itself.

Now Is The Time For Apple To Re-think Its Retail Priorities, by Jason Snell, Macworld

Still, perhaps what Ahrendts was hired to do five years ago isn’t what Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s leadership want out of retail today. Ahrendts’ fashion-industry resume may have seemed more relevant when Apple was planning on launching that gold Apple Watch Edition, but that strategy has been folded. The beautiful new stores and detailed course curriculum suggest a company that viewed massive retail sales as a given—when current sales suggest that the iPhone is no longer selling itself and that Apple Store staff needs to spend time actively convincing customers to buy.

My hope for the future of the Apple Store is that it goes back to basics, focusing not just on product sales but on service. Back in the day, the Genius Bar made Apple’s retail efforts stand out—but today I hear far more complaints than compliments about post-sale support in Apple Stores. Some of that is understandably due to Apple’s enormous growth, of course, but Apple Retail has to figure out a way to cope with that growth.

Apple Reports Self-Driving Car Disengagements To DMV, Earns Worst Rank, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

Apple's total number of disengagements was higher than any other company doing autonomous vehicle testing, suggesting Apple drivers need to take over for the self-driving vehicle more frequently than other companies as it works out kinks in the software. This could be because Apple is driving more challenging routes, Apple drivers are abundantly cautious, or it could be because its self-driving software is less evolved.

Health Matters

Apple Is Getting So Serious About Health, It's Started Hosting Heart-health Events At Apple Stores, by Christina Farr, CNBC

Apple hosted its first health-focused event at its Union Square store in San Francisco on Monday evening. It started with a panel on the topic of heart health and ended with an walk around the block to demonstrate the activity features on the Apple Watch.

Cutting Your Screen Time Isn't Curbing Your Phone Addiction, Survey Says, by Abrar Al-Heeti, CNET

But 54 percent said cutting back on technology, particularly smartphones and other personal devices, didn't lead to them spending less time on their devices, or they were unsure if it had that effect. In addition, one in three respondents said their usage either went up when they began using their device again or it didn't have any effect.

Team San Jose

WWDC 2019 Dates Confirmed: June 3-7 In San Jose, by Joe Rossignol, MacRumors

We discovered that San Jose requires permitting for large public events such as Apple's WWDC Bash, which took place at the Discovery Meadow park next to McEnery in 2018.

[...] we unearthed a 2019 events calendar from the City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs that lists this year's WWDC Bash at Discovery Meadow on the evening of Thursday, June 6. The event is named "Team San Jose 2019 WWDC" and is organized by "Apple."

MacRumors Projects WWDC Dates: June 3-7 In San Jose, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Hotel rates in downtown San Jose are higher than they’ve been the last two years, but that’s been true for these dates for months. They’ve already gone up since MacRumors published this story this morning, though.

Subscription Services

Apple Plans News Event For March 25, by John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed

Sources tell BuzzFeed News that the company plans to hold a special event on March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater on its Apple Park campus. Headlining the gathering: That subscription news service that has been all over the news today. Unlikely to make an appearance: next generation Airpods, or that rumored new iPad Mini.

WSJ: Apple Wants 50% Revenue From $10/month News Subscription Service, by Peter Cao, 9to5Mac

The Wall Street Journal has published a new report describing the ongoing negotiations between Apple and major publishers over an upcoming subscription news service. While the service would go through Apple’s built-in News app on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, Apple is reportedly pitching a revenue split that sees it keep 50% of a suggested $10/month membership fee with the remaining 50% shared among participating publishers. The WSJ says negotiations are ongoing, adding that publishers aren’t likely to accept the revenue split as presented.

Apple’s New Deal For Journalism Should Send Publishers Running, by Casey Newton, The Verge

Usually, I’m glad when tech platforms offer publishers new ways to make money. More money in journalism means more journalists investigating the darker corners of our republic. But Apple’s approach seems to designed to ensure that the company makes the absolute most it can get away with.

Welcome to capitalism, I know. But every few months, Tim Cook gets on stage and asks the world to hold his company to a higher standard. This proposal doesn’t meet it. When he takes the stage next month, here’s hoping he has better news.

The Cost Of Apple News, by Ben Thompson, Stratechery

To that end, I am sure that a significant number of publications will sign up for Apple’s offering; clearly the company is confident enough to leak a date. And, frankly, many publications should: most publishers are already locked into the volume game when it comes to their editorial direction, and Apple News subscription payouts will be additive to the bottom line.

Publishers that have truly committed to subscriptions, though, should say no: not only will it be difficult to make up revenue that will be cannibalized lower per-customer payouts from Apple News, but more importantly a reversion to a model predicated on page views will hurt their business in the long run. This is especially the case if Apple News becomes a major revenue driver; yes, digital content can be distributed with zero marginal cost, but the incentive cost should not be discounted — it works directly against the quality imperative that is the critical factor in making the Aggregator-avoiding direct-to-consumer business model work.

Restrict Movement

Tim Cook Says Apple Will Investigate App That Lets Saudi Men Track And Control Women, by Jon Porter, The Verge

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the company will look into an app that can be used to track and limit the travel freedom of women in Saudi Arabia. “I haven’t heard about it,” the CEO said in an interview with NPR. “But obviously we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”

Apple & Google Directed By Senator Paul Wyden To Pull Saudi Tracking App, by Roger Fingas, AppleInsider

"It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women, but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy," Sen. Wyden wrote in part of the letter. "By permitting the app in your respective stores, your companies are making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smartphones and restrict their movement. This flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend."

Why Are Apple And Google Hosting An App That Subjugates Saudi Women?, by Charles Kenny, Slate

U.S. companies should not provide products or services that materially abet violations of women’s fundamental rights in countries practicing gender apartheid. That would include hosting an application specifically designed to help enforce laws that prevent women from leaving the house or the country of their own volition.


The Best GTD App For Apple Watch, by Matt Birchler, The Sweet Setup

Testing a bunch of task managers for this comparison made us realize that the state of task managers on the Apple Watch is currently very good. Even if Things is not your cup of tea, Todoist is a fantastic alternative that excels in different ways, and TickTick, OmniFocus, Goodtask, and Remember the Milk could all be your personal favorite. While other app categories may have one or two decent options on the watch, task managers are a general smorgasbord of great choices.


The Hip New Open Plan Office Trend? Cubicles, by Mark Wilson, Fast Company

As many as 70% of offices in the U.S. are now of the “open plan” variety, where shared areas take priority over personal offices, according to an oft-cited stat from the International Facilities Management Association. In the 2000s, open offices certainly had a certain cachet, as a pointed rejection of ’90s cubicle culture. They were thought to increase collaboration. Prized by startups, these build-outs were also less expensive than traditional offices–and the seating arrangements allowed more people to be crammed into a smaller space.

As companies have migrated from suburban parks back to urban high-rises, real estate costs have grown while square footage has shrunk. Open offices are essentially sardine cans that offer a bohemian feel–like you’re in a casual relationship with your employer rather than a legal contract. They seemed so cool!

That was, until we learned about their psychological and social costs. In an open workspace, everyone is working on display all the time. In turn, making a simple phone call can feel like an intrusion to your coworkers, and women in particular feel as if they’re being constantly judged. Even productivity took a hit. And now employers want that productivity back–within the same open office footprint.


Your Smart Light Can Tell Amazon And Google When You Go To Bed, by Matt Day, Bloomberg

In other words, after you connect a light fixture to Alexa, Amazon wants to know every time the light is turned on or off, regardless of whether you asked Alexa to toggle the switch. Televisions must report the channel they’re set to. Smart locks must keep the company apprised whether or not the front door bolt is engaged.

This information may seem mundane compared with smartphone geolocation software that follows you around or the trove of personal data Facebook Inc. vacuums up based on your activity. But even gadgets as simple as light bulbs could enable tech companies to fill in blanks about their customers and use the data for marketing purposes. Having already amassed a digital record of activity in public spaces, critics say, tech companies are now bent on establishing a beachhead in the home.

Bottom of the Page

Apple has already said that its video streaming service will not be availabe worldwide at launch. I suspect the news service will also not be available internationally. (The current Apple News is still quite limited goegraphically till today.) Texture was never available outside of a few selected countries.

I suspect most of us outside of U.S. will not get anything out of the rumored March event.


Thanks for reading.