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Posts tagged with "app store"

2021 Apple Design Awards Given to Twelve Developers

The annual Apple Design Awards were handled a little differently this year. On June 1st, the company, for the first time, announced finalists in six categories: Inclusivity, Delight and Fun, Interaction, Social Impact, Visuals and Graphics, and Innovation. For each category, Apple picked six finalists for a total of 36 ADA contenders.

As a part of sessions held at WWDC today, Apple announced the 12 winners, an app and game in each category:

Inclusivity

App Winner: Voice Dream Reader

Apple picked Voice Dream Reader as the winner for the app Inclusivity ADA for its use of VoiceOver technology. The app is a text-to-speech reader that can turn any document or ebook into audio.

Game Winner: HoloVista

In the game Inclusivity category, Apple chose HoloVista, a game where you explore a mysterious mansion, filled with secrets you need to uncover.

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Apple Captured in a Single Email Message

Matthew Panzarino writing at TechCrunch breaks down an email message between Steve Jobs, Bertrand Serlet, Scott Forstall, and others that documents the moment the App Store was born. Here’s the message:

The email captures an important moment in Apple’s history, but as Panzarino explains, it’s also an important lesson in effective leadership:

All in all, this exchange is a wildly important bit of ephemera that underpins the entire app ecosystem era and an explosive growth phase for Internet technology. And it’s also an encapsulation of the kind of environment that has made Apple an effective and brutally efficient company for so many years.

It’s also fascinating to learn how soon after the iPhone’s debut the call was made to let third-party apps onto the platform:

Though there has been plenty of established documentation of Steve being reluctant about allowing third-party apps on iPhone, this email establishes an official timeline for when the decision was not only made but essentially fully formed. And it’s much earlier than the apocryphal discussion about when the call was made. This is just weeks after the first hacky third-party attempts had made their way to iPhone and just under two months since the first iPhone jailbreak toolchain appeared. 

Apple is far larger today than it was in 2007, but it was by no means small then either. The sort of ruthlessly efficient decision-making on display in Serlet and Jobs’ interaction is a lot easier for startups with a handful of employees, which makes it notable for a company of Apple’s size in 2007.

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Epic Versus Apple: The MacStories Overview

Later today, Epic Games and Apple will square off in a high-stakes trial in US federal district court that’s nominally about money. However, if that were all that was at stake, the claims each company has made against the other would likely have been resolved by now. Companies the size of Apple and Epic settle because it’s rarely in their interest to have a judge make decisions for them. However, this trial is different.

There’s more to these disputes than Epic’s allegation that Apple violated antitrust laws and Apple’s claims that Epic violated its developer agreement. Underlying it all is the way the dispute was precipitated by Epic. The Fortnite creator’s actions don’t necessarily absolve Apple of antitrust violations, but Epic’s calculated orchestration of events leading to the dispute have not gone unnoticed by the judge presiding over the case and may influence the trial’s outcome. Coupled with Epic’s efforts to get regulators around the world to take up its cause and its very public crusade against the way Apple operates the App Store, it’s not surprising that the claims haven’t settled. Instead, the parties will begin today with opening arguments in front of US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who the parties have agreed will decide the dispute instead of a jury.

Regardless of your opinion of the way Apple runs the App Store or Epic’s litigation tactics, the thing to keep in mind as the trial starts is that the judge is being asked to settle a legal dispute, not set policy. Both companies have made specific claims against the other, which by definition means the judge’s ruling will likely be narrower in scope than it would be in an antitrust case brought by the US government. Nor is any remedy imposed by the judge likely to be as broad as government regulation of the App Store might be someday.

Still, that doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high; they are. An adverse ruling against Apple could significantly change the way the company operates the App Store and would likely trigger more antitrust lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny in the future. As a result, I thought it would be useful to dig in and take a closer look at some of the parties’ arguments and the context in which this dispute arose to provide a better sense of what to expect from the trial, which is expected to run about three weeks, and what the outcome might be.

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Apple Court Filing Details ‘Project Liberty,’ Epic’s Plan to Free Itself of App Store Commissions

Just past midnight Pacific time today, Apple filed Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in its legal dispute with Epic Games. The document, a standard pre-trial filing, is designed to serve as a road map for the trial judge, explaining the facts Apple expects will be admitted into evidence at trial, how the law applies to those facts, and the decision Apple believes the court should reach. In other words, it’s a one-sided account of the disputes meant to persuade the judge that Apple’s legal positions are correct. Epic has filed a similar pleading in the case arguing its side of the story.

That context is important to keep in mind because until the judge issues a ruling, filings like these remain legal posturing. That doesn’t mean that Apple’s filing doesn’t contain facts that may be found to be true through the trial process, but until that trial happens, it’s best to approach these sorts of pleadings with skepticism.

That said, the document Apple filed includes some interesting revelations that the company backs up with reference to the documents and other evidence gathered during the pre-trial discovery phase of the litigation. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is the additional backstory about something Epic called Project Liberty, a plan that Apple says was hatched by Epic in 2019 to free itself from App Store commissions and that Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney recently mentioned in an interview with CNN.

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Kara Swisher Interviews Apple CEO Cook for Sway

Apple CEO Tim Cook was interviewed on Sway, The New York Times’ podcast hosted by Kara Swisher, in an episode released today. Swisher asked Cook about a wide range of topics, including privacy, iOS 14.5, Parler’s removal from the App Store, autonomous vehicles, AR, its upcoming court case with Epic Games, and more.

On privacy and the reaction to App Tracking Transparency, Cook said he was shocked by the degree of pushback the feature has caused. Asked whether he thought ATT will harm businesses that rely on digital advertising, Cook said:

I think that you can do digital advertising and make money from digital advertising without tracking people when they don’t know they’re being tracked. And I think time will prove that out. I’ve heard this about other things we’ve done in the past that it’s almost existential and it wasn’t. I don’t buy that.

Regarding Parler’s removal from the App Store, Cook explained that can return to the App Store when they comply with its rules:

Well, in some ways, it was a straightforward decision, because they were not adhering to the guidelines of the App Store. You can’t be inciting violence or allow people to incite violence. You can’t allow hate speech and so forth. And they had moved from moderating to not being able to moderate. But we gave them a chance to cure that. And they were unable to do that or didn’t do that. And so we had to pull them off. Now, having said that, Kara, I hope that they come back on. Because we work hard to get people on the store, not to keep people off the store. And so, I’m hoping that they put in the moderation that’s required to be on the store and come back, because I think having more social networks out there is better than having less.

Cook also made the case that human curation on the App Store is a crucial element of the marketplace’s security model, rejecting the notion that users should be able to sideload apps and elaborating:

I think curation is important as a part of the App Store. In any given week, 100,000 applications come into the app review. 40,000 of them are rejected. Most of them are rejected because they don’t work or don’t work like they say that they work. You can imagine if curation went away, what would occur to the App Store in a very short amount of time.

Regarding new products, Cook wouldn’t confirm whether Apple is planning to offer augmented reality hardware or an autonomous car. Still, his excitement about those underlying technologies was evident, noting that AR, in particular, is critical to Apple’s future.

Also of note was Cook’s comment that iOS 14.5 is ‘just a few weeks’ away, which is longer than I expected and perhaps a sign that an April product event will occur.

The interview, which is just under 36 minutes long, touches on other topics, including Apple’s role in policy issues like voting rights, working with the US government, and Cook’s role as the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The episode is available in Apple Podcasts as well as third-party podcast players, and The New York Times has published a transcript of the entire interview.

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Apple and Others Suspend Parler from Their Platforms

Saturday, Apple suspended social media app Parler from the App Store. The move followed Google’s removal of the Android version of the app from the Play Store on Friday and happened at roughly the same time that Amazon announced that it was ending Parler’s access to its cloud services.

Parler is a social network that became popular with conservatives who felt they had been unfairly treated by services like Twitter and Facebook.

On Friday, Google removed the service’s app from the Play Store, telling CNN that:

“We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US. We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”

That same day, BuzzFeed News reported that Apple had given Parler 24-hours to improve its moderation of content posted to the service, or it would be suspended. Although there were reports that Parler removed some content, it wasn’t enough for Apple. On Saturday, in a statement to TechCrunch and other media outlets, the company said:

We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.

Around the same time, Amazon announced that it would bar Parler from using its cloud services, which host Parler’s content, beginning Monday at midnight and dealing another serious blow to its future.

We are deeply saddened by the horrific events that occurred in Washington, DC last week. As a site that covers apps, we applaud Apple, Google, and Amazon for taking action to eliminate threats of violence and illegal activity from their platforms. Apps have been a force for good in the world in so many ways, but like any tool, they can be used for evil too. There should never be a place on the App Store or any other app platform for threats of violence or illegal activity.


Apple Recaps Its 2020 Services, Including the App Store’s Record-Breaking Holiday Season

In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:

Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.

Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:

The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.

Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
  • The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
  • TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
  • Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
  • Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
  • Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
  • Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
  • Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
  • Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
  • iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication

Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.


Microsoft Says Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Will Add Browser-Based iOS Cloud Gaming in 2021

Microsoft originally planned to bring cloud-based Xbox gaming to iOS as a native app. The company got as far as a TestFlight beta, but that ended when it became clear that Apple would not allow Xbox games to be streamed unless they were available as App Store downloads that were subject to App Review.

When Microsoft pulled the plug on the Project xCloud beta, The Verge reported that its sources said the company would shift to a browser-based solution. Now, the company has confirmed that browser streaming is indeed planned for its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, announcing that the solution would be available in 2021.

According to Microsoft’s Jerret West:

In Spring 2021, we will take the next step in our journey to reach more players around the world by making cloud gaming as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate available on Windows PCs through the Xbox app and browser, and iOS devices through mobile web browser. By adding over a billion devices as a path to playing in the Xbox ecosystem, we envision a seamless experience for all types of players; whether it’s playing Minecraft Dungeons with your Xbox friends using touch controls on an iPhone, or jumping into a Destiny 2: Beyond Light strike on a Surface Pro when you have a break between meetings.

Microsoft isn’t the first to offer console videogame streaming via the browser. Nvidia’s GeForce NOW and Amazon’s Luna service are available on iOS and iPadOS via Safari, with Google’s Stadia service coming next year too.

It’s a testament to the importance of the iPhone and iPad as platforms for game streaming and the power of their hardware that Microsoft and others are willing to work around Apple’s App Store restrictions by developing progressive web apps. However, it’s also disappointing. There’s a place for console gaming on iOS and iPadOS, and Microsoft, Sony, Google, Amazon, Nvidia, and others should all be able to compete in the App Store on equal footing with other native apps and games. Perhaps we’ll get there someday, but for now, the gaming landscape on iOS and iPadOS remains fractured and likely confusing for many users.

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