The Foreign-Relations Edition Thursday, January 12, 2023

Apple Promises To Disclose More Details About App Removals, by Kenza Bryan, Financial Times

Apple has promised to enhance disclosures about why it expels certain apps from its App Store, following claims that the tech giant’s secretive decision-making process threatens freedom of expression in countries such as China and Russia.

Activist investors secured the commitment from Apple earlier this month, according to three people familiar with the agreement. Last March nearly a third of shareholders at its annual meeting backed a resolution calling for greater transparency in its relations with foreign governments.

Apple Just Rolled Out A.I. Audiobooks. What Scares Human Narrators Is That Some Of Them Are Pretty Good., by Laura Miller, Slate

The difference is that Apple’s four voices—“Madison” and “Jackson” suggested for fiction, “Helena” and “Mitchell” for nonfiction—sound much more natural than the digitally-generated voices available elsewhere, leading to fears that they could replace human narrators altogether. A few of Apple’s voices are even noticeably similar to the voices of well-known members of the community of human audiobook narrators. “There’s a little tension there,” Edoardo Ballerini told me. “There has been a sense that narrators should stay away from this, that they shouldn’t participate in the hastening of their colleagues’ demise.”

Apple Gives Small Businesses A Direct Link To Its Listings And A Way Around Google, by Emma Roth, The Verge

The tool gives businesses the ability to tweak store hours and fill out their listings by adding header images and other photos to their place cards, which appear on Maps, Messages, Wallet, Siri, and other apps. Through Business Connect, companies can encourage customers to place orders or make reservations by linking to sites like Instacart, OpenTable, or through Apple Maps.

Ergonomically Terrible?

Apple Is Working On Adding Touch Screens To Macs In Major Turnabout, by Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple Inc. is working on adding touch screens to its Mac computers, a move that would defy long-held company orthodoxy and embrace an approach that co-founder Steve Jobs once called “ergonomically terrible.”

Apple engineers are actively engaged in the project, indicating that the company is seriously considering producing touch-screen Macs for the first time, according to people familiar with the efforts. Still, a launch hasn’t been finalized and the plans could change.

Will There Be A Touchscreen Mac? There Should Be!, by Martyn Casserly and Karen Haslam, Macworld

The integration of the two interfaces is well underway and iPads and Macs have never been closer together in terms of power and app compatibility. The flipside of that is that now that we have the ability to run iOS/iPadOS apps on the Mac the lack of touch input on the Mac becomes even more of a frustrating experience.

Could it be that touch is finally at the stage where including it in a Mac is less of a fridge/toaster situation and more of “hey, that’s really useful!” one instead? It’s starting to look like it.

Simpler Time

The Best Social Media Alternative Is Old-school Blogging, by David Nield, Popular Science

In recent years, social media platforms haven’t shown a whole lot of respect for user privacy, and have constantly proven to be detrimental to our mental health and bring out the worst in people. This has led some to believe the age of social media is drawing to an end and if you’re one of them, you may be wondering how will you invest your newly available digital time.

Private group chats in messaging apps have become a popular way to share photos and videos away from the glare of social media feeds. But if you still want some level of exposure, blogging is a way to get your thoughts, pictures, links, and other content out into the world. It goes back to an earlier, simpler time on the internet, and if that sounds appealing to you, this is how you post like in the good old days.


Apple’s Music And TV Apps For Windows Are Now Available In Preview, by Mitchell Clark, The Verge

There’s also a third preview of an app called Apple Devices, which is meant to let you manage and sync things like iPods and iPads — functionality that’s currently handled by iTunes on Windows and Finder on the Mac. It also, apparently, contains some references to Reality OS and xrOS, two codenames that have reportedly been associated with Apple’s virtual reality headset.

iPhones And iPads Now Require A Passcode On Every Backup/Sync, by Adam Engst, TidBITS

Instead of preventing AppleMobileBackup from backing up to custom locations without additional permission, Apple chose to mitigate the vulnerability by forcing the user to enter the device’s passcode on every backup or sync connection. And it works: Apple’s new approach prevents the backups from being directed to an unprotected location unless an attacker knows your device’s passcode. If they know the passcode, there’s far worse that they could do with your iPhone or iPad and the data stored on it.

This New App Uses The AI Technology Behind ChatGPT To Make You Any Kind Of Playlist You Want, by MusicRadar

The iOS app PlaylistAI (opens in new tab) is capable of generating Spotify and Apple Music playlists in response to any given text prompt. So, if you fancy listening to three hours of early '90s cheesy pop bangers, all you need to do is ask the app, and it'll instantly drop that playlist into your library.


The App Store Has Made Nearly Half A Trillion Dollars, by Michael Simon, Macworld

When we click “Get” in the App Store to download a new app or tap subscribe to start watching a streaming service, those dollars add up—quickly. Since the App Store launched in 2008, Apple says it has paid a whopping $320 billion to developers, which means Apple has raked in about $125 billion in 14 years.

Apple Custom Displays: What The Bloomberg Report Really Means (Probably), by Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac

Apple is getting much more deeply involved in the design of the displays. Instead of essentially telling Samsung to “provide a display which has these features and meets these specs,” Apple is now designing the entire display from the ground up. Essentially, it’s approaching it in the same way it does Apple A-series and M-series chips, where every single aspect of the design is created by Apple.

Apple Is Searching For A Head Of Ad Sales As Its Streaming TV And Sports Ambitions Grow, by Claire Atkinson, Insider

The streamer has spent billions over the past three years inking pricey deals with A-list Hollywood talent from Steven Spielberg to Will Smith and Martin Scorsese. This new executive search indicates that Apple has plans to create an ad tier for Apple TV+.

Bottom of the Page

Hopefully, Apple has figured out what to do with touch screen on macOS that is better than what Microsoft has done for its Windows laptops. (For tablets, iPad is miles ahead of Windows.) If all Apple wants to do is to match Microsoft, then I'd say it's not worth the effort.

What I do want is a macOS machine that is as portable as an iPad or an iPad mini. That doesn't mean touchscreen though.


Thanks for reading.