A Google office.
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Is this the end of the app store tax?

Source Code

Good morning! Google is testing out allowing apps to use alternative billing options for Spotify. That’s good for consumers, good for Google, but what does it mean for Apple? I’m Ben Brody and, ever since getting invited out for “hot red wine” (??!), I've been wondering if we weren't on to something with pandemic restrictions.

Also, we want to know about your favorite under-the-radar websites or apps. What’s a platform you use that you don’t think other people know of? Read the bottom of this email for more information, then respond to this email and let us know!

Your move, Apple

Google’s announcement yesterday that it’s going to let Spotify try out non-Android payment options is the culmination of a brutal, multicompany, international battle — and Google’s concession that the whole saga has irreparably changed the app store in ways it’ll take us years to figure out.

Google launched a “pilot” to allow alternative billing options in certain countries for Spotify, which had been a major architect of app developers’ unlikely success in taking on Apple and Google.

  • The move, which was really an extension of what Google had to do under a new South Korean law, also teased work with a few other developers, essentially hinting that it’s trying to work out a system it can roll out across Android in coming years.

Make no mistake: This is a concession that the old way of app stores is gone. It’d been going away for a while (see: fee discounts), and it’ll last in lots of places for a long time to come. But the era of Google and Apple just routing in-app purchases through their own payments systems and charging 30% to developers for the privilege is coming to an end.

  • There had been a lot of dents in the model: lawsuits (like Epic Games’ against Google), plus proposed legislation in states, in Congress and internationally.
  • They all came together to checkmate the companies, more or less. Or the corporate leadership realized they soon would.

The only question now is what replaces it. Google won’t just leave all the money on the table when it owns Android, has the ability to place and frame alternate billing systems and is always eager to cite its own security and privacy investments.

  • The case of Apple in the Netherlands would seem to provide a useful damper on the idea that consumers will suddenly be totally free of 30% fees.
  • iOS is just charging a generic fee to dating-app developers who want to use alternate billing systems under the country’s new antitrust ruling. It’s 27%.
  • Apple, by the way, seems to be perfectly happy to just take a loss as the government fines it repeatedly for what the authorities say is non-compliance.

Apple is the elephant in the room. Google’s move certainly puts pressure on Cupertino.

  • So long as Google and Apple basically held to the same fees in the same form, the commissions were basically a fact of life that developers and consumers had to accept. (Plenty of people would call that a duopoly.)
  • Now that Google and Apple are splitting in their approach, everything is up for grabs, and the forces of antagonism led by Spotify, Epic, Match and others may be scrambling.
  • Aside from fees to companies that want to try out new payment processors, which apps can even have them? In which regions will they exist? What security standards will they have to meet, and what pretexts will be used to dismiss them? Where and how easily will consumers be able to access them?
  • And it’s an open question how much those systems want to charge.

Nobody really has the answers to these questions right now. I’m guessing they’ll only become clear over years, through corporate announcements, ongoing developer lobbying, court decisions, legislative threats, enforcer fines and more. For now, though, the next move is Apple’s.

— Ben Brody (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM INTEL

In a few years, we may be largely living “on the edge.” As the amount of data grows exponentially, there is a greater need for edge computing solutions to aid in real-time decision-making.

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People are talking

Jensen Huang said Nvidia doesn’t need Arm, but it would’ve been nice to have:

  • “As company owners, you want to own great assets, you want to own great platforms.”

ManaVoid Entertainment’s Chris Chancey said the four-day workweek is a gamechanger:

  • “Across the board, morale was up. There was a lot less absentee-ism during the week.”

Pat Gelsinger said that like oil, chips will play a role in geopolitics:

  • “Where the fabs are for a digital future is more important. Let’s build them where we want them, and define the world that we want to be part of in the U.S. and Europe.”

Making moves

Snap bought NextMind, a neurotech startup that created a headband that allows users to control parts of a computer with their thoughts, for an undisclosed amount.

Spotify is renaming its live social audio app from Greenroom to Spotify Live, sources told Bloomberg. It’s expected to take effect during the second quarter of this year.

Airbnb is joining TechNet as a member, becoming the 10th company to do so this year.

Brian Lanigan is Lacework’s new VP of Worldwide Channels and Alliances. Lanigan most recently worked at Splunk.

Mila Ferrell joined Cervin as a partner. Ferrell was an original member of Zoom’s product team.

In other news

A teenager may be leading the Lapsus$ hacking group. Researchers told Bloomberg they believe he's based in England, and has been running a worldwide operation without even his mother's knowledge.

Speaking of Lapsus$: they could see Okta's customer data, the company admitted. Okta said that it didn’t see the forensic report about the incident, which happened in January, until recently.

Stephen Wilhite, an original creator of the GIF, died of COVID last week. He was 74 years old.

Instacart is becoming less reliant on gig workers. The company is bringing management software services to grocery stores that can be used for everything from ads to fulfillment.

Koch Industries pivots to caring about climate change. After years of helping fund climate denial, the conglomerate has been investing millions in U.S. batteries and EV startups over the past year.

Arizona residents can now keep their driver’s license on their iPhones. Apple will eventually roll out the feature to other states.

Meta execs haven’t been working around Silicon Valley. A couple people headed to the U.K. and Israel, Adam Mosseri has been bouncing from Hawaii to Los Angeles to Cape Cod and Mark Zuckerberg has been splitting his time at a few locations.

Instagram’s chronological feed is finally back. Users can now see content according to the time it was shared in two different ways.

Russia blocked Google News. The government cited "unreliable information" on the war in Ukraine as its reason for the ban, as it continues to crack down on information sources in the country.

What’s your favorite super-secret app?

You can find anything online if you know where to look. Need a good movie recommendation? Head to agoodmovietowatch.com. Want to know what you might look like with a certain T-shirt on? Download the Forma Closet app. We know there are more hidden websites and apps out there, so we want to hear from you.

What’s your favorite website or app that you feel like nobody else knows about? Do you have the resource for every life hack in the world? What’s an online game you love that has managed to fly under the radar? Respond to this email and let us know, and we’ll round up our favorites in the Sunday edition of Source Code.

A MESSAGE FROM INTEL

As a form of distributed computing, edge computing enables processing to happen where data is being generated. The convergence of 5G networks with edge computing means data is not only traveling faster, but can be quickly translated via media, inferencing and analytics into insights and action, enabling new, ultra-low latency applications to come to life.

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