On deck for today are Facebook’s F8 conference, Apple and right to repair, and Q2 2019.
It’s Friday — er, Saturday, fine! — and once again I’m taking three stories from around the web that are important but that either wouldn’t fill a full video or I just plain missed out on covering during the week.
It’s code-named The Wrap, because Capstone was taken, and if you have stories you want to see covered next week, just drop them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Then hit subscribe and dropkick that little bell dingus so you don’t miss them when they land.
On deck for today are Facebook’s F8 conference, Apple and right to repair, and Q2 2019.
Facebook’s fake pivot
You all have been asking me for my reaction to Facebook’s big F8 conference all week. The introduction by Mark Zuckerberg said it all. He mentioned privacy, and the crowd reacted… awkwardly. He mentioned privacy again. He reacted. Painfully.
And the reason is simple — everyone, maybe with the possible exception of Zuckerberg himself, know his words are absolutely meaningless at this point. He and Facebook have lost any and all credibility. Nothing they say can be believed. Not any more. There have been too many scandals, too many lies, and too much malfeasance. Only actions, not words, can even begin to pull Facebook out of the moral and ethical hole they’ve spent the last decade digging for themselves, and it’s completely unclear that they even understand that and want to do anything real, anything truthful about it.
Take privacy and encryption. It’s being marketed as a big business pivot. But is it? The underlying business doesn’t seem to be changing at all.
You know that urban myth about Facebook showing you ads by eavesdropping on what you say through the microphones? Everyone who’s ever investigated the claim has determined it’s not true — but only because Facebook has so much data on us and such good algorithms that it doesn’t need to listen in. Listening in would be less effective than the computer models of us they’re constantly building and tweaking now.
How effing scary is that?
And none of that is changing. It’s just getting a different front end. One Facebook hopes will entice us to just plug ourselves back in. And encryption and privacy don’t stop that. They enable it.
Casey Johnston said it well on the Outline:
But what his presentation elided was the fact that Facebook does not need to see the content of what people are saying in order to advertise to them. The metadata — who, or what (as in a business), you’re talking to, and even where you are or what time the conversation is taking place as it comes together with other pieces of information — provides more than enough information to make a very educated guess about what you’re interested in, to the point that knowing specifically what you are saying adds almost nothing.
I mean, encrypted messaging is better than non-encrypted messaging, and shame on them for taking so long to enable it, opportunistic and manipulative as it is, but if we fall for it and keep using them at this point, seriously, shame on us.
Apple is wrong on repair
According to Motherboard, an Apple lobbyist told lawmakers in California that people attempting to repair iPhones on their own could hurt themselves by, for example, puncturing the lithium-ion battery.
In recent weeks, an Apple representative and a lobbyist for CompTIA, a trade organization that represents big tech companies, have been privately meeting with legislators in California to encourage them to kill legislation that would make it easier for consumers to repair their electronics, Motherboard has learned.
According to two sources in the California State Assembly, the lobbyists have met with members of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, which is set to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon. The lobbyists brought an iPhone to the meetings and showed lawmakers and their legislative aides the internal components of the phone. The lobbyists said that if improperly disassembled, consumers who are trying to fix their own iPhone could hurt themselves by puncturing the lithium-ion battery, the sources, who Motherboard is not naming because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said.
A similar situation played out yesterday in Ontario, with safety, security, and intellectual property concerns topping the fear list.
California has pushed back their discussions at least a year now and Ontario’s just seems dead.
That it was part of a larger, coordinated industry effort, including pretty much every tech company you can imagine, doesn’t matter. Apple is Apple. They advocate for customer experience, for the environment, for civil rights, for sustainability. They hold themselves to a higher standard and so they get held to one. And this just isn’t the right side to be on.
Apple and local repair shops shouldn’t be opponents. They should be compliments. Apple, because of its scale, can do a lot of simple things for hundreds of millions of people, far more efficiently than any indie. But, conversely, Indies can provide specialized skills and services that Apple, because of its scale, simply can’t. Apple shouldn’t be working against that. It should be working with it.
There are a billion plus Apple devices out there, old and new. Apple has Genius Bars and AppleCare and authorized third party outlets, but the former aren’t everywhere, certainly not every corner, and certainly not in every home, and the latter are still limited it what they can do.
If Apple feels the need to lobby, they shouldn’t be lobbying to prevent repairs, they should be lobbying to establish privacy, security, quality, and safety regulations around the repair industry.
A famous repair expert told me we shouldn’t worry about them seeing our private data anymore than we should worry about a doctor seeing our private parts. But doctors go through years of accredited education, are licensed, and are accountable to the medical association and other entities.
If Apple worked with the indie repair industry, they could help guarantee the quality of parts and procedures, and help ensure whatever regulations are set up to respect the safety of procedures and workers and the privacy and security of customers.
Given Apple’s commitment to exactly these kinds of issues, both the right and responsibility of repair feels like the next logical step.
Q2 2019 Aftermath
Apple reported its quarterly results this week. I had the chance to speak about it a little bit on Yahoo Finance earlier in the week, both before and after, but I wanted to follow up on a few things.
First, a couple of quarters ago, Apple announced slowing iPhone sales and the world freaked out — well, the world being blog, YouTube, and TV hot-takers. Even though other manufacturers were seeing similar or bigger declines, it was Apple, as usual, that got the attention but also, kinda ended up ringing a bell.
This quarter Apple beat expectations, which is good. But the reality is starting to sink in. As much as the iPhone is mature, maybe even saturated, Google’s results put search in the same box and hardware into question. Amazon’s put the growth of ecomm in general. Facebook’s, well, despite billions in fines investors seem fine, so everything in the universe is as terrible as you’d expect.
But, back to Apple:
iPhone was down again, especially in emerging markets, but it seems to be bottoming out. Tim Cook said:
While we grew year over year in developed markets, and while we had record March quarter results in a number of major markets, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan. We did experience a revenue decline in emerging markets, but we feel positive about our trajectory.
International pricing adjustments and pushing trade-ins, hard, as a way to mitigate against higher prices and replace older incentives like carrier contracts seem to be working.
iPad was up, thanks to the ongoing strength of the Pro and the late-in-the-quarter intrdouction of the new Air and mini. Apple still owns the tablet market and, thanks to the issues highlighted by the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which currently still doesn’t have a new release date, foldables won’t be changing that any time soon. Much as I’d love them to. Since Apple doesn’t typically update iPads on a yearly basis but more like every 18 months, the next set of drivers will likely be iOS 13 in preview form this June and release this September. Especially if it makes nerds as happy as the other 90% of people have been with iPad to date.
Watch and AirPods continue to be similar to iPad, facing almost no competition in the market. That’s still bad, because competition drives growth and provides choice. Qualcomm can’t seem to even afford to to be in the watch chip business, because no one is really willing to pay them a lot for watch chips. Samsung is still making Gear and Google and partners are still plugging away on Wear OS devices, kinda, but wearables are the near-future of extremely personal tech and so, somehow, they need to figure out a way to not even catch up but just get into the damn race. Ditto AirPods.
Mac was down but here’s where that got really interesting: Apple laid the blame for it on Intel’s inability to supply enough chips. Otherwise, Apple said, Mac would have been up as well. Intel still hasn’t been able to get its 10-nanometer process going, despite years of broken roadmaps, and umpteen delays to Apple’s product pipeline. And the super obvious question remains, with best-in-class A-series chips still shipping on time, every time, how much longer will Apple be willing or able to wait on custom Mac silicon?
Services were up, and that’s before TV+, Arcade, and Apple Card have even come online. Services margins being high also helped balance out hardware margins being low. Yeah, despite Apple selling more expensive products than ever, for reasons including using more custom and more expensive parts to increasing R&D, Apple is making less off those products than ever.
Either way, Wall Street seems to get and like the services narrative more than it ever did the devices one, even after a decade of it being one of the most profitable businesses on earth, which should tell you everything you ever need to really know about the markets.
That’s a wrap
Facebook’s non-privacy, non-pivot at F8, Apple on the wrong side of right to repair, and Q2 results highlighting the continued rise of wearables and services, and maybe, just maybe, the stabilizing of iPhone. Which is and will remain Apple’s biggest business until, probably, the advent of what… cybernetics?
Now, I’d love to hear what you think about any and all of these stories… and about what you’d like to see me cover next.