Image: Epic Games
April 8, 2021
Good morning! This Thursday, what's in store in the Epic v. Apple trial, what Peter Thiel thinks about China and tech, what Apple means when it says "no tracking" and why Lyft's president supports raising taxes.
The Big Story
Epic v. Apple is almost here
Apple and Epic both filed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law documents overnight. That's a fancy name for "the giant, many-hundreds-of-pages documents that detail all the evidence we have and how we plan to fight in court."
- The trial is set to begin on May 3, and will last until May 24. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has given each side 45 hours to argue its case, and both companies plan to call their highest executives to the stand. It's going to be seriously intense.
The stakes here have been clear for some time: Epic believes Apple is a rent-seeking monopolist that is stifling innovation and ought to be required to let developers sell mobile apps and collect payments outside its own systems. Apple says it created the iPhone, and Epic simply wants to reap all the benefits of its enormous success without paying for it.
But we do know more about how the fight will go. A big part of Apple's case will focus on "Project Liberty," the internal name for Epic's plot to pick antitrust fights with Google and Apple.
- Epic has acknowledged the plan, and said that it was the result of long-simmering issues with Apple. Apple will argue that's not the case. "Epic is asking this Court to force alternative terms on Apple so that Epic can make more money," its filing says.
- Epic says giving Apple 30% of its business is preposterous; Apple says that's a competitive figure and a fair price to pay for everything Apple offers.
One argument Apple said it expects to hear is, "Well, what about the Mac?" Proponents of Epic's suit say that the Mac provides the right path forward: It has an App Store that provides all the upsides Apple claims, but developers can sell their apps outside the store commission-free and users can choose where they download them.
- Apple's response is simply that the devices are different, and that the iPhone needs more security.
Both sides continue to be feisty in their filings. We're going to get 90 hours of testimony in May, and it's going to be wild.
Peter Thiel on the state of tech
We don't often hear from Peter Thiel anymore, but this week at the Nixon Seminar on Conservative Realism and National Security, Thiel expounded on China and all sorts of other tech-related issues. Here are a few of the greatest hits:
- On competition with China: "I think innovation happens in the West, and shockingly little innovation happens in China. But they have been very good at copying things, stealing things, and to some extent if China is able to just catch up, there is a way in which it will become a more powerful country."
- On Bitcoin: "Even though I'm sort of a pro-crypto, pro-Bitcoin maximalist person, I do wonder whether at this point Bitcoin should also be thought in part of as a Chinese financial weapon against the U.S., where it threatens fiat money but it especially threatens the U.S. dollar, and China wants to do things to weaken it."
- On Big Tech: "You can think of Big Tech as something that's very natural. It's maybe unnaturally big. It's unhealthy. It's too strong. But there's something in the nature of tech to be big."
- On tech and government: "We need to call companies like Google out on working on AI with communist China, not with [the] U.S. military. I think we should be putting a lot of pressure on Apple with its whole labor force [and] supply chain on the iPhone manufacturing in China."
- On Facebook deplatforming Trump: "There has been outright censorship, outright deplatforming. And when you do it with the president of the United States, that does feel like you really crossed some kind of Rubicon … I'm not sure you declare war on half the country but maybe a third, 40% of the country, and that seems really crazy."
What App Tracking means
Apple's App Tracking Transparency is the thing that goes bump in the night for advertising companies: Nobody knows quite when it's coming or what it'll do, but a pop-up in every app saying "Can I track you?" has everyone worried.
Apple promised the feature in "early spring," and well, here we are. But it looks like it's coming, as Apple published a whitepaper and gave TechCrunch some more information on what to expect.
- The tracking goes beyond device identifiers, TechCrunch said: "Apple will also expect developers to stop using any other identifiers (such as hashed email addresses) to track users for ad targeting purposes, and not to share that information with data brokers."
- Apple's own apps have to follow the rules, too. Companies can track users across all their own apps, but not once they leave.
In a different kind of tracking news, Apple also announced it's officially opening up the Find My app to third parties. You'll be able to track your Belkin headphones, your VanMoof bike and your Chipolo Bluetooth tag through Apple's own systems. That's pretty clearly a gesture to Tile, which has picked an antitrust fight with Apple — and maybe an indication that AirTags are coming soon?
Technology has been the leading sector in trust since Edelman began its Trust Barometer 21 years ago. Since that time, trust in business has risen while trust in technology has declined – and this year, the decline has been dramatic.
People Are Talking
Emi Nietfeld wrote about her time at Google, and how speaking up about harassment changed her perspective on work:
- "I'd made myself vulnerable to my manager and the investigators but felt I got nothing solid in return. I was constantly on edge from seeing my harasser in the hallways and at the cafes. When people came up behind my desk, I startled more and more easily, my scream echoing across the open-floor-plan office. I worried I'd get a poor performance review, ruining my upward trajectory and setting my career back even further."
Polestar is building a climate-neutral car, and CEO Thomas Ingenlath said it won't take the easy way out:
- "Offsetting is a cop-out. By pushing ourselves to create a completely climate-neutral car, we are forced to reach beyond what is possible today. We will have to question everything, innovate and look to exponential technologies as we design towards zero."
Wix is running attack ads against WordPress, and Matt Mullenweg isn't having it:
- "They are so insecure that they are also the only website creator I'm aware of that doesn't allow you to export your content, so they're like a roach motel where you can check in but never check out."
Lyft's John Zimmer is another tech exec in favor of raising the corporate tax rate:
- "I think it's important to make investments in the country and the economy, and as the economy grows, so too does jobs and so too do people's needs to get around. So I think it's a smart investment."
Number of the Day
That's how many people voted in the Amazon warehouse workers' union election in Bessemer, Alabama, Anna Kramer reports. That's out of more than 5,800 eligible workers. Next up: a public count, which will begin today or Friday, after Amazon and the union spent eight days reviewing the validity of each ballot with the National Labor Relations Board.
In Other News
- Twitter held talks to buy Clubhouse for around $4 billion, Bloomberg reported. But the talks are reportedly no longer in progress.
- President Biden might retaliate against Russia over the SolarWinds hack and other alleged offenses. Among the possibilities: sanctions and the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in the U.S.
- Pinterest launched a $500,000 "creator fund" to pay influencers to create content for the site. It's starting off with eight people from underrepresented backgrounds.
- Don't miss this story on what went wrong at Intel, from Bloomberg. As is so often the case, the problems seem to stem largely from company culture — which seems like it took a turn for the worse under CEO Brian Krzanich.
- Gimlet Media and The Ringer ratified collective bargaining agreements with Spotify. The contracts include higher salary minimums, limitations on the use of contractors and an 11-week minimum severance.
- Uber announced a $250 million stimulus to lure back drivers, while Lyft is giving bonuses for referring former drivers. Over in the U.K., Deliveroo riders went on strike over pay and working conditions.
- Huawei split its cloud and AI unit in two, just 14 months after establishing it. Server and hardware storage operations will now move to its internet products and solutions department, while Zhang Pingan will now run a standalone cloud business unit.
One More Thing
NFT of the day
McDonald's has always been … different in France. (Royale with Cheese, anyone?) So it feels appropriate that Francey D's is the first into the fast-food NFT space, with several menu items on the docket including french fries and Big Macs. But they won't be for sale; McDonald's is using the NFTs as a reward for a social media campaign it will run this coming weekend. It's going to be the food event of the season. I'm hungry just thinking about it.
If technology has enabled us to stay connected during the pandemic, why are we trusting it so much less? According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a big reason why is the fear that automation will lead to job loss – a concern accelerated by the pandemic.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers's name. This story was updated on April 8, 2021.