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Apple fights for the App Store

Apple

Good morning! This Monday, Apple gives an inch while others take a mile, Google's Big Moments is breaking news with a twist, and Apple's expanding in Los Angeles.

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The Big Story

Apple stands its ground

If big changes are coming to Apple and the App Store (and to be clear, that's still a big if), it's increasingly clear that they're not coming all at once. Instead, it'll come in increments: a South Korean payments law here, a Japanese investigation there, a concession to developers over there.

Epic took the biggest swing yet against Apple, and didn't quite finish the job. But it did win one key concession: Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found that Apple violated anti-steering rules, and said Apple had to let developers tell users where else they could pay for things.

Now Apple is appealing the ruling. Never mind that the company called it a "resounding victory" way back in the halcyon days of eight weeks ago. It's digging back in.

  • The appeal asks for a delay in enforcement of the new policies, which were scheduled to go into effect this year. "Apple is carefully working through many complex issues across a global landscape," the company wrote, which is Lawyer Speak for "we're still trying to figure out what to actually, like, do here."
  • It also takes issue with the anti-steering decision: "Epic barely mentioned that claim during the trial and offered no evidence that it was harmed by the anti-steering provisions."
  • The company also pointed to its recent developer guidelines changes, which allow developers to tell customers about payment options, but not in the apps themselves. And if you're saying "that sounds like the least Apple could do," that's the point.
  • This tiny-olive-branch strategy is an increasingly popular one: Nick Clegg said again over the weekend that Facebook is working on some small "nudges" to help young users look at better content. And if you're saying, "that sounds like the least Facebook could do," that's also the point.

Death by a thousand cuts is a real threat for Apple, and the whole anti-steering thing is a perfect example. Apple gave an inch, allowing developers to email their users about payment options; Judge Gonzalez Rogers then extended the idea even further. People like Tim Sweeney immediately began to promote the idea that this meant developers can do whatever they want, which became the narrative.

Anywhere Apple opens a door, competitors are waiting. Paddle announced a new payment system for apps last week, which it calls "a true like-for-like, drop-in replacement for Apple's IAP," only with lower fees. It surely won't be the last.

  • Even in this appeal, which is ostensibly about anti-steering, Apple tried to cut off the scope creep. "The Court has stricken one sentence of Guideline 3.1.1," which is the anti-steering bit, it wrote, "but did not disable Apple from otherwise running its business or protecting customers."
  • Apple's argument, by the way, hasn't changed a bit: Apple's way is the safest way, the company keeps saying, and to open up payments or anything else is "fraught with risk."

This is a huge operational headache for Apple. It obviously understands that it has to run the App Store differently than before, but how differently, and in what way, seems to change every day. In this particular case, Apple's hoping to kick the can as far down the road as possible.

  • South Korea is making life even more complicated. Apple and Google are both supposed to turn in their plans this week for how they'll comply with new laws that will force them to allow other payment providers in apps. (In other words, exactly the thing Apple's afraid of happening in the U.S.)
  • But this is how tech regulation works now. Instead of the kind of omnibus, industry-shaping legislation many people have been waiting for, we're due for years of regulators trying to eat Big Tech one bite at a time. The New York Times reported this weekend that lawmakers are settling in for the long haul on all things tech.

This is all still a long way from over. The momentum to change anti-steering policies continues to grow, but Apple's going to fight it tooth and nail, and if it can win this appeal it means change will take a long time to be real. And maybe by then, Apple can find the happy medium that works for everyone. Or not.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

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People Are Talking

Senator Richard Blumenthal is not impressed with Facebook's new "nudges" and "take a break" options:

  • "Their aim should be protecting kids, not winning PR. Unspecific, superficial generalities are no substitute for real action."

Qualcomm's Cristiano Amon is getting heat from customers worried about the chip crisis:

  • "It is a pressure cooker right now."

On Protocol | Policy: Facebook's counterattack to Frances Haugen isn't a good look, said Nu Wexler, a former Facebook policy communications staffer:

  • "They're going to have a hard time convincing people that she doesn't know what she's talking about."

Tesla's new Berlin site could run into staffing issues, Elon Musk said:

  • "We're a bit worried we won't be able to find enough people. We really need great talent to come here from all over Europe."
Big Tech's reputation problem isn't going away, Brian Chesky said:
  • "The world is rooting against them ... They don't think they have society's interest in their favor."

Coming this week

Google Cloud Next starts tomorrow. A bunch of Google execs are expected to speak, including Sundar Pichai.

William Shatner is heading to space tomorrow. The "Star Trek" star will board a Blue Origin spacecraft alongside three other passengers.

Xchange Virtual Summit starts Wednesday. The two-day event is happening online and is all about improving the customer experience.

World of WEB3 begins Thursday. The summit brings together DeFi and NFT experts and leaders.

Instacart shoppers plan to strike on Saturday. The workers have a few demands for the company that would give them higher pay.

In Other News

  • Google's getting deeper into breaking news. The team inside the company has been working on a tool called Big Moments, which would highlight and add context around major topics in the news cycle, sources told The Information.
  • Meituan was slapped with a big antitrust fine. China fined the food-delivery company $530 million for anticompetitive practices, which Meituan accepted "with sincerity."
  • Frances Haugen wasn't the only staffer who took issue with Facebook. Former employees told The Washington Post that they joined the company hoping to make it better, but realized that Facebook is so preoccupied with growth that it's hard to change from within.
  • Apple is setting up shop in Los Angeles. The company is building a new regional headquarters in Culver City, where Apple TV+ is already located, as it pushes into the Hollywood scene.
  • Where else can people make money online if not on Facebook? Creators and small-business owners say they've been expanding to other platforms, like Twitter and TikTok, but before Facebook's outage, Instagram was their first choice.
  • Facebook had another little outage on Friday. It was resolved within a couple hours, and the company said it's unrelated to the longer one earlier last week.
  • The Biden administration wants a bill of rights for AI. As a first step, the White House is asking for information on a bunch of biometric systems — from past deployments to ongoing pilots — that have been used for purposes such as identity verification.

One More Thing

A morning appetizer

Morning podcasts sound like a good idea, until you realize you barely have time to eat breakfast let alone devote an hour to hearing someone talk at you. But with "Before Breakfast," you can listen to an entire podcast before you've finished brushing your teeth.

The episodes cover topics like fatigue, how to best plan your day, and why busy people need hobbies. And at only a few minutes long (like, seven minutes tops), you can easily check at least one thing off your list before rushing to work.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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