June 8, 2021
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Good morning! This Tuesday, privacy takes center stage at WWDC, Anthony Weiner wants to make an NFT out of his errant sex tweet, Google's tweaking how it handles ads and Excel is … an esport?
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The Big Story
Who really owns your phone?
The biggest product mentioned in Apple's WWDC keynote was FaceTime. Apple built FaceTime for the web and a new service for watch parties, and on iOS it added spatial audio to calls and the ability to do blurred-background video chats. Apple's coming for Zoom, and trying to turn FaceTime into a platform just as it's done with iMessage.
But privacy was the real star of WWDC. From the Apple Watch to iOS to macOS Monterey to Safari, Apple's overarching product story is becoming a privacy story. "We don't think you should have to make a trade-off between great features and privacy," Craig Federighi said. "We believe you deserve both."
Actually, the word "privacy" doesn't quite describe it. It's really more about control. Apple's idea is that your device, in some meaningful way, is you. It's your home, your bank, your identity. And that means that you should be in charge of every aspect of it. Privacy is part of it, but so is control. And that's what Apple says it's offering.
- The new iCloud+ service includes a VPN and a bunch of ways to keep your email habits private. You can also store your ID, hotel room keys and office badge in Apple Wallet.
- The new Focus Mode on iOS and macOS lets you shut off or filter notifications depending on what you're doing: You can cut off TikTok all day, and your boss's incessant Slacks all night. Even your Home Screen can change throughout the day.
- You can now securely share your health data with someone, or even decide what happens to your device and data if you die.
- And the new App Privacy Report is meant to tell you exactly how your apps are accessing your information, and where that data might be going.
It's a pretty good pitch! And there's some obvious subtext: It's a scary, overwhelming world out there, Apple's executives want you to know, but Apple can protect you. "You can be tracked by a complex ecosystem of data brokers and ad-tech firms," Federighi said, "often without your permission. We don't think this is right."
- You've probably noticed the debate the last few days about whether Apple is a walled garden, a theme park or a carrier, but the point is that Apple wants you to live inside its universe where everything is cozy and nothing bad ever happens to anyone. And don't forget how much Apple is doing for you to keep it that way!
Meanwhile, Apple's foes would like to remind you what that costs.
- "To help more creators make a living on our platforms," Mark Zuckerberg posted yesterday, not coincidentally a few hours before WWDC started, "we're going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023. And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take."
- Apple didn't talk about Epic, or the App Store fights, or do anything to overtly extend an olive branch to developers. (Though it did make a couple of updates to the App Store guidelines.) Its strategy has always been to make its products so compelling that they're worth the price. And many developers continue to say that cost is unbearable.
There were plenty of other announcements yesterday, of course: new ways to use Notes, an impressive tool for extracting text from photos, better multitasking and new ways to keep all your stuff in sync across your Apple devices that I'm sure will work just fine and not be a total mess like when my AirPods try to guess which device I'm using.
But the thread running through everything was that if you buy an Apple device, it's yours. And it's you. And if you buy, well, anything else, you're just a slab of meat holding a slab of glass through which the internet will manipulate and extract data from you any way it wants. So, yeah, the garden's walls may be high, but Apple says that's only to keep you safe.
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
The most recent elections made it clear: Voters in both political parties support higher wages. The federal minimum wage hasn't changed in 12 years, despite significant cost-of-living increases. Amazon saw the need to do more for their employees and communities and in 2018 raised their starting wage to at least $15 an hour.
People Are Talking
Anthony Weiner said he wants to turn his errant sext tweet into an NFT, because of course he does:
- "Cashing in would be nice … to sell my own stuff but also to create a new category that lets people buy and sell political collectibles as a form of political fund-raising and contributing."
Donald Trump is still not a Bitcoin fan:
- "It just seems like a scam. I was surprised — you know, with us, it was at $6,000 and much lower. I don't like it because it's another currency competing against the dollar."
After saying he didn't want diversity to "override merit," Snowflake's Frank Slootman walked back his comments:
- "Comments I made during a media interview last week may have led some to infer that I believe that diversity and merit are mutually exclusive when it comes to recruitment, hiring and promotion. I do not believe this, and I want to personally apologize to anyone who may have been hurt or offended by my comments."
Marc Benioff applauded Jeff Bezos's space travel plans, but won't be following his lead:
- "I think it's very exciting that he's willing to basically say, 'If you want to use my product, I will use it first.' And I think that that's 100% the right move … [But] I think I might have to take a couple of Ativans before I climb in there."
Lisa Hone is joining the National Economic Council. She comes from the FCC, and will help guide the White House's efforts to close the broadband gap.
Paytm is going public. It's planning to raise about $3 billion at a $30 billion valuation, TechCrunch reported.
Clear is also going public. The airport-security company is jumping on the post-pandemic travel uptick, and has become a popular vaccine passport provider.
Dave? Also going public. It's getting SPAC'd, in fact, and will be valued at $4 billion.
Jerome Guillen left Tesla last week. He had been running the company's Heavy Trucking team, but only lasted three months in the role.
Jonathan Harris is Molekule's new CEO. Co-founder and former CEO Jaya Rao is stepping down and leaving the company.
In Other News
- Seemingly half the internet was down for a good chunk of the morning. The culprit appears to have been Fastly, which was "investigating potential impact to performance with our CDN services" for nearly an hour.
- On Protocol: Google is making ad changes. After arriving at a $270 million settlement in France, the company will now give ad buyers more data and make Ad Manager work better with other ad networks.
- Big Tech said it likes the G7's big new tax reform. CNBC rounded up some responses, all of which say, basically, "Yes, we love taxes!" Behind the scenes, it seems that's because the companies hope the tax deal means an end to digital services taxes.
- And that tax reform is indeed coming for Amazon. The retail part of the organization may not qualify, but the G7 is reportedly planning to write a new rule that would include AWS.
- GlobalFoundries sued IBM, arguing that it doesn't owe IBM the $2.5 billion IBM says it does. According to IBM, GlobalFoundries didn't deliver chips that it had promised and been paid for.
- The Nigerian government is pushing harder on its Twitter ban. News organizations have been told not to use Twitter, critics of the ban are being summoned for conversations and tweeting is now a crime in the country. Meanwhile, Russia is also extending its own crackdown on social.
- On Protocol | Fintech: The DOJ recovered $2.3 million in ransomware spending. It found 63.7 bitcoins that Colonial Pipeline had paid to DarkSide, but about a dozen bitcoin may still be unaccounted for.
- Plans in Nevada to mine rare lithium for batteriescould be slowed by the presence of an even rarer flower.
- Don't miss this story about Amazon's attempt to make it big in India from The New York Times. The venture has created a confrontation with Reliance and Mukesh Ambani: The world's richest man takes on India's richest man.
- Excel is an esport. Microsoft is sponsoring the Financial Modeling World Cup, which kicks off today, and it's a chance to watch the top financial modelers throw down in a tournament setting. And for all you Excel nerds out there, you can even buy merch.
One More Thing
You need a few Shortcuts
One of the more exciting in-the-weeds WWDC announcements was that Shortcuts is coming to the Mac. That means all the wonky, needlessly complicated but extremely useful tricks you've taught your phone to do can now be done on your laptop. From a work perspective, this could be huge: Imagine being able to upload your most recent screenshot to a Slack channel with one click, log your time just by clicking a widget on your Mac or quickly delete every file in your Desktop folder that's more than a month old.
Shortcuts isn't the easiest Apple tool to use, but it's a seriously handy one. So take notes this summer on all the repetitive, annoying things you do on your Mac 100 times a day, and start planning to Shortcuts the heck out of your workday.
A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON
"This is the first time in my life that I have dental insurance, vision insurance, [and] life insurance." Making more than $15 an hour and comprehensive benefits gives Leonardo and Amazon employees like him peace of mind and the freedom to do more — like go back to school.
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