Some thoughts on the Apple vs Epic trial results

Last week we saw the result of the Epic vs Apple trial. As expected, most of the stuff that was discussed on the lawsuit was rejected, and the judge gave Apple a pass on almost all of the accusations (also, Epic will have to pay a lot of money due to breaking contracts with Apple). Of course, Apple is claiming that they won the trial (and if you just look at the numbers, I would tend to agree). However though, there were some parts that I found quite interesting and I want to discuss here.

First, the fact that the judge did not say that Apple is not a monopoly, she just stated that Epic was not able to demonstrate that (and to me this is quite relevant, because we can see other trials in the future discussing exactly this point). Second, the judge ordered that, from now on, Apple has to allow developers including information about different pay options that work outside the Apple Store. Many people will say that Apple will not lose much money from that (and I agree), but I think that this is not the point at all. In fact, the questionable benefit split is still there, and they could even make it worse for developers by arguing that they are losing money. However, allowing developers stating that users can give them money without using the app store (and thus evading the Apple tax) is a small crack on the walled garden that iOS is, and who knows where it could end (I still think that different stores are a terrible long shot, but who knows).

During the trial, Apple stated that their model was good, and used two arguments to try to demonstrate that. First, that the tax is a way to obtain money for all the development that Apple has put onto the store. Second, that this model preserves user security, as parallel stores would promote insecure apps. While I agree on the argument that developing the store was expensive (and it still is, as maintaining and updating it entails some costs), they have already won billions of dollars with it. When is it a good moment to say “okay, that is enough, we already recovered our inversion”? Of course, Apple being a company, this moment will never arrive. The second point is so weak that even during the trial, the lawyers found it extremely hard to sustain it (I mean, you can download apps from wherever you want if you use a computer with MacOS). We saw many examples of malicious apps getting very good reviews, and not being removed from the store for months even when Apple was pretty aware of the problem. Security does not just mean privacy. If your users get lured into fake apps, or are the target of questionable marketing tricks to spend money, your system cannot be labelled as secure.

There is another related topic that I also found very interesting at the time, which is the curation process that the store follows. During the court case, there were many exhibits showing the mess it is, with many examples from developers. We even saw some internal mails showing how scam apps where buying 5-star reviews and appearing on top of the store. Also, there has been a lot of developers telling their experiences during the last months via twitter, for example. It seems quite clear to me that the process they follow now (little to no automation, human-based review) is not working (from the exhibits and the stories you find online, the reviewers are even worse than the ones you usually find in academic journal reviewing). Will they switch to more algorithm-based curation like Google does? Will they hire enough people to improve the system? Or will they come up with new solutions? This is one of the main problems users and developers get when there is just one app store on your platform: there is no competition, so there is no rush to improve these systems and people cannot escape the garden to get a better service (does it sound like monopoly practices just to me?).

So, are we going to see new trials regarding these topics? I am pretty certain we will. Is Apple applying monopolistic actions? While you can always argue that if you don’t like their store, you can choose another operating system (Android), I still feel like the way they handle the store is hurting both users and developers, and they can handle the store in that way because there is no other option in the system. It actually reminds me of the famous case against Microsoft with Internet Explorer back in the day…

If you are interested and want to dive deeper on the trial, I found the following links very informative:

Apple Won a Battle to Lose the War, on 500ish
Apple called its Epic ruling a ‘huge win.’ It wasn’t, on the Washington post

PS: I know this might seem impossible, but if someone at Apple reads this, I would just love to be able to type “Twitter” on the app store and get the oficial Twitter app as the first result, instead of some random advertisement shenanigans (you can try with many very famous services. I particularly like to see Amazon Prime Video as the first result when you search for Netflix). I know you do not have a big budget, but it would be a cool feature.

The weekly recap (2021#19)

Busy week, but somehow I managed to find some cool stuff to share. Let’s start:

Apple vs Epic, the trial that keeps on giving

I am getting low on popcorn reserves. Lots of documents and insights on how both companies operate. I particularly enjoyed seeing how much money Epic paid for its exclusives (I am very happy for some developers there tbh). Here are some links & tweets, in case you are interested on the topic:

Epic wanted Sony’s PlayStation PC games to compete with Steam, documents show, on theverge
Epic Games trial reveals Apple negotiations with Netflix, Facebook and Microsoft, on cnbc
Epic’s Years-Long Plan to Paint Itself as Gaming’s Good Guy, on wired
Apple needs to show iOS allows competition… while justifying locking it down, on theverge

Nice view on how the advances in AI are shaping the world we are living on. What happens when state-of-the-art research is funded/developed by the army, which operates by its own logic? I see clouds ahead of us…

Stop the emerging AI cold war, on nature

Good doggo

This reminded me of that cool scene in Prometheus (what a terrible movie btw) where the geologist maps the entire caverns by using a couple small flying balls. We do not have flying mapping spheres (yet), but it seems that the Boston Dynamics robots are getting to work on the idea…

Researchers’ new best friend? Robot dog gets to work, on techxplore

The month in images

Another month, another set of incredibly cool science-related images, gathered by Nature. Honestly, it has been terribly difficult to pick just one image for the recap. Actually, I could not help but add another one as the header of the post…

Black holes, buckyballs and boxing hares — April’s best science images, on nature

Tesla & Bitcoin

Not long ago Elon Musk wrote on twitter that Tesla would start accepting Bitcoin as a payment. As usual, his tweets provoked movements on the stock market. This week, Tesla announced that they would not accept Bitcoin unless its infrastructure goes green. I don’t know what worries me more, the fact that Musk could not know how bad e-coins are for the environment, the fact that reducing the transportation environmental footprint is literally what Tesla sells as their leitmotiv (a greener world using their electric cars), or that he could have done it just to get a bit richer. Anyway, what I always like to say in these situations: welcome to the XXI century.

Renewable energy won’t make Elon Musk love bitcoin again, on theverge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

The weekly recap (2021#18)

Hectic week… sometimes unexpected tasks jeopardize you schedule. Coming back to normal now I hope.

Anyway, really interesting stuff has been happening for the past few days. Let’s delve into it:

Apple vs the world: episode #1

Recently Apple changed the way its users are noticed about how some apps track their information. This perturbation on the (advertisement) force has generated a lot of ripples, which might become bigger than a tsunami. There have been a lot of interesting articles on the topic, most of them defending a good vs bad sceneario (where Apple is almost a white knight fighting for our privacy and Facebook is a devil). While obviously there are companies that behave much worse than others, I kinda see the scenario as the evil vs the lesser evil. If you are interested, I found these sources particularly informative:

Apple And Tracking: A Story Of Good Guys And Bad Guys, on forbes
I checked Apple’s new privacy ‘nutrition labels.’ Many were false. on The Washington Post

Anyone in cherno?

One of the reasons we have not gone fully on the nuclear wagon was the Chernobyl accident. While some might think that everything was solved by now, there have been recent news that sparkled some concerns: nuclear reactions are starting to ramp up in activity again

‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl, on Science

Was Wolfram right?

I remember some coding lessons on the university that used Mathematica and their notebooks. I kinda hated those and always thought that it was a terrible way of coding, and only nice for sharing stuff. Nowadays Jupyter notebooks are used by millions of people, and I still see terrible code on notebooks that should have been just a .py file (also, it has to be said that I also see amazing dissemination notebooks).

Anyway, if you want to read the opinion of really clever people, you can take a look at this article:

Reactive, reproducible, collaborative: computational notebooks evolve, on Nature

Apple vs the world: episode #2

This week the trial on Apple vs Epic started, and oh boy it’s been fun. Two tech giants spreading shit all over the place. Let’s see how far greed can get.

I share some articles and a couple threads on twitter. While the articles are nice, the threads are kind of a live streaming of the trial, and I loved reading them. Also, every email that has been exposed during this week is pure gold, and a perfect insight on how companies operate… Interesting topic which will have a lot of repercussions in the way we interact with our devices…

Even If Epic Loses Against Apple, Developers Could Still Win, on bloomberg
Apple antitrust trial kicks off with Tim Sweeney’s metaverse dreams, on theverge

Has AI gone too far?

Wild news on how some people are using AI-fuelled narrative games to make disturbing narratives involving sex and children. It really makes you think about the biases in training, the use we give to any tool, responsibility of companies on the use people do of their tech, and privacy. What a nice read:

It Began as an AI-Fueled Dungeon Game. It Got Much Darker, on wired

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!