Welcome to our Apple Breakfast column, which brings together all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy summary. We call it “apple breakfast” because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s great if you want to read it during lunch or dinner as well.
A lengthy WSJ report released this week accuses Apple of courting smaller companies for potential partnerships, getting into discussions with them, and then copying their ideas.
Apple, it should be emphasized, insists that it respects intellectual property and does not steal technology. But this assertion, at least in its general form, is not new. The alleged habit even has a name: “Sherlocking,” after a controversial update Apple made to its own search app, Sherlock, in 2002 that appears to replicate some of the features of competing Watson software. According to WSJ sources – and most of them are stakeholders from potential partners – the company is still in the practice, and one of the legal disputes mentioned in the article is ongoing as I write.
The report documents complaints from five companies whose work Apple allegedly copied over the years, but the firm’s MO (which the WSJ calls “the kiss of death”) can be generalized to Valencell’s experience. In 2013, Apple contacted the heart monitoring technology company about a possible partnership for the Apple Watch. Apple “repeatedly requested information” about the technology, Valencelle said, but ended the discussion shortly before the launch of the Apple Watch with its own heart rate detection feature in 2015. When Valencell filed a patent lawsuit, Apple responded by attempting to invalidate the related patents and numerous others that Valencell said were unrelated. Apple, the WSJ reports, has since 2012 “attempted to invalidate more patent applications in the Patent Review and Review Board than any other applicant.”
The above is based on Valencell’s report on deals between the two firms, which Apple disputes, and (other than Valencell is far from alone in filing such complaints) Macworld is in no position to judge the specific rights and wrongs of the case. What I will say is that regardless of whether Apple follows the letter of the law and abuses the patent system, the firm’s behavior demonstrates an approach to product development and interaction with partners that does not seem ethical or sustainable. .
Apple builds and maintains platforms—iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, and so on—and then depends on third parties to enrich those platforms with software and accessories. Make no mistake: a platform depends on its developers, as sweaty falsetto Steve Ballmer realized years ago. If everyone decided to stop making iOS apps and only develop for Android, the iPhone would be fried.
Given the importance of smaller partners to Apple’s mission, it seems strange that company management is so happy to give the kiss of death to so many of them: contest their patents, poach their employees, and drive them out of the market. The truth is that, so far, these small companies have needed Apple far more than Apple has needed them, at least individually. An exodus of developers from iOS would be a disaster, but if only a few leave the scene, there will be plenty of them.
But the landscape is changing. Not because developers have unionized, and not because Apple platforms have faced an exodus of third-party talent, but because the company’s methods have come under the spotlight. Faced with regulatory investigation across multiple continents and repeated criticism from competitors, partners, lawmakers and others over alleged anti-competitive behavior, Apple has been forced to make numerous concessions. It’s moved (in the most uncooperative way) to accommodate self-service repairs: it’s switching from Lightning to a standardized USB-C charging port on the iPhone; you can use alternative payment systems in the App Store; and all signs point to iOS 17 allowing unpublished app downloads, which would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.
In short, Apple must be doing its best, and this report comes at a very inconvenient time. Especially since the company is supposed to be planning a Sherlock classic at this very moment. iPhone owners, it’s true, benefit when a great third-party service is provided in-house, made free, and tightly integrated with the rest of the OS. But this may not always happen at the expense of a partner. If only to avoid more bad publicity, Apple needs to remember Steve Ballmer’s motto and treat developers right.
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Podcast of the week
A16, A17, M1, M2, M3… what happens to apple silicon? In this edition of the Macworld podcast, we’ll talk about the state of Apple’s chips, where they are now, what’s available, and how it will affect you and your Apple devices. It’s all in this show, hold on!
You can watch every episode of the Macworld podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own website.
Several new MacBooks may appear in WWDC 2023.
But 15 inch Macbook Air may not be as interesting as it might be.
Apple Reality Pro Headset will amaze you, according to a well-known leader. And that’s all the Apple headset will do right out of the box.
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The report shed light on Apple’s early plans for completely different iPhone 15.
watchOS 10 will reportedly be so good that no one will care about the new Apple Watch. And its new interface has been revealed.
iPadOS 17 will likely bring an iPhone lock screen and always-on display to the big screen.
macbook we all thoughts were dead may receive a 2023 update.
A future iMac will be able to use your wall as second display.
Video of the week
Marquez Brownlee just bought a sealed original iPhone for $40,000. See how he opens it:
Software updates, bugs and issues
Your Mac may not be safe from ransomware much longer.
Google released an emergency update to Chrome for Mac to fix actively exploited disadvantage. Wait… here’s another one!
This is where we finished this week. If you would like to receive regular news updates, subscribe to our newsletters. You can also follow us on twitter or on Facebook to discuss the latest Apple news. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of the weekend and stay Eppley.