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Why AWS is bringing Apple’s MacOS to its cloud

Developers writing software for billions of Apple products need to test that software on Apple hardware, and now they can run those tests on AWS.

Why AWS is bringing Apple’s MacOS to its cloud

Given that Apple doesn't license its operating system to companies to install on their own hardware, the Mac Mini has been the cheapest option for a long time. AWS will likely add Mac Minis based on Apple's M1 chip at a later date.

Image: Apple

AWS is now an Apple customer.

Apple developers will be able to use AWS-managed Mac Minis to test their Mac and iOS applications, AWS announced Monday evening on the first day of the virtual re:Invent event. The new Mac instances, based around Intel's Core i7 processors, will allow AWS customers to run Apple developer tools like Xcode alongside other AWS services such as Elastic Block Storage and Virtual Private Cloud.

The new service was designed for AWS customers who are building iOS or Mac apps — which is an awful lot of them — and want to get rid of physical Mac hardware needed to test how those apps will perform and look across Apple's family of devices, said David Brown, vice president of AWS' flagship EC2 compute service, in an interview with Protocol.

"When you launch a Mac instance on EC2, it's exactly the same as launching any other EC2 instance," Brown said. "It is the environment that the Apple developer is used to."

AWS currently offers Linux and Windows instances for developers to use as both testing and production computing resources, but this is the first time MacOS will be available on the cloud leader's compute service. It's unlikely that the new Mac instances will actually run public-facing applications given the relatively limited computing power of the Core i7 compared to the server processors from Intel, AMD and AWS itself that are available in EC2.

But testing environments are very important to the software development process, for obvious reasons. Few companies can ignore the iPhone as a development platform, especially in a pandemic that has reduced human contact, and there are lots of different screen sizes, processors and other components being used every day across the generations of iPhones in service.

And given that Apple doesn't license its operating system to companies to install on their own hardware, the Mac Mini has been the cheapest option for a long time. Facebook used Mac Minis as test servers to conduct "hundreds of thousands of tests every hour" on its ubiquitous iPhone app, according to a Wired article from 2013.

That article highlights one of the reasons Brown thinks that Apple developers will be interested in the new Mac instances. At large companies like Facebook, developers testing Mac or iOS apps have to compete for a fixed number of Mac testing machines that someone also has to maintain with operating system patches and all the other routine maintenance that comes along with managing your own hardware.

"If I'm a team, I don't have to worry about whether another team is currently using that capacity. I can just launch that machine and complete my builds, or run a capacity for me, and shut them down when I don't need them again," Brown said.

AWS will likely add Mac Minis based on Apple's M1 chip at a later date, but apps built and tested using the new Intel-powered instances will work on the newest generation of Apple hardware thanks to Apple's Rosetta 2 emulation technology. The Mac instances will use Mac Minis based around Intel's eighth-generation Core i7 processors running at 3.2GHz and 32GB of memory, and pricing is expected to be released later on Monday.

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Yes, GameStop is a content moderation issue for Reddit

The same tools that can be used to build mass movements can be used by bad actors to manipulate the masses later on. Consider Reddit warned.

WallStreetBets' behavior may not be illegal. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem for Reddit.

Image: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The Redditors who are driving up the cost of GameStop stock just to pwn the hedge funds that bet on its demise may not be breaking the law. But this show of force by the subreddit r/WallStreetBets still represents a new and uncharted front in the evolution of content moderation on social media platforms.

In a statement to Protocol, a Reddit spokesperson said the company's site-wide policies "prohibit posting illegal content or soliciting or facilitating illegal transactions. We will review and cooperate with valid law enforcement investigations or actions as needed."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Protocol | Enterprise

SAP unveiled a big sales promo. It's a bid to juice cloud customer numbers.

The move is the culmination of CEO Christian Klein's efforts to turn around the German software giant.

SAP unveiled "RISE with SAP" on Wednesday.

Image: SAP

SAP CEO Christian Klein is trying out a major sales gambit in his attempt to get more customers onboard the software giant's signature cloud platform.

A new offer unveiled on Wednesday called "RISE with SAP" bundles together several products, including the flagship S/4 HANA platform, under one contract with a flat cost, a promotion that the company is hoping will encourage more users to more quickly switch from the on-premise services that dominated the company's product line until the last few years.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | China

More women are joining China's tech elite, but 'Wolf Culture' isn't going away

It turns out getting rid of misogyny in Chinese tech isn't just a numbers game.

Chinese tech companies that claim to value female empowerment may act differently behind closed doors.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Getty Images

A woman we'll call Fan had heard about the men of Alibaba before she joined its high-profile affiliate about three years ago. Some of them were "greasy," she said, to use a Chinese term often describing middle-aged men with poor boundaries. Fan tells Protocol that lewd conversations were omnipresent at team meetings and private events, and even women would feel compelled to crack off-color jokes in front of the men. Some male supervisors treated younger female colleagues like personal assistants.

Within six months, despite the cachet the lucrative job carried, Fan wanted to quit.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a Reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

About Protocol | Enterprise

‘It’s not OK’: Elastic takes aim at AWS, at the risk of major collateral damage

Elastic's long-running dispute with AWS entered a new chapter last week with big changes to two of its open-source projects. AWS now plans to take those projects under its wing.

"I don't know why this is surprising to people," Elastic CEO Shay Banon said in an interview with Protocol.

Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Fed up with what he sees as unfair competition from AWS, Elastic CEO Shay Banon felt he had no choice but to restrict the way third parties can use two important open-source projects developed by his company. Yet much of enterprise tech thinks he just threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Last Thursday, Elastic published a blog post — curiously titled "Doubling down on open, Part II" — announcing that Elasticsearch and Kibana, two widely used open-source projects in enterprise tech, would no longer be available under the permissive Apache 2.0 license. Instead, all subsequent releases to those projects will only be available under either a controversial new license known as the SSPL, or the Elastic License, both of which were designed to make it difficult for cloud companies to sell managed versions of the open-source projects they're applied to.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

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