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Apple Signs Martin Scorsese to First-Look Film and TV Deal

12 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Justin Kroll and Mike Fleming Jr., reporting for Deadline:

Two and one-half months after it stepped up to become the producers of Killers of the Flower Moon, Apple has inked a first-look deal with its director, Martin Scorsese. The master filmmaker will base his Sikelia Productions banner at Apple in a multi-year deal for film and television projects Scorsese will produce and direct for Apple TV +.

The relationship kicks off with Killers of the Flower Moon, the Eric Roth-scripted adaptation of the David Grann non-fiction book which will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro will star in. Apple won an auction with the $180 million+ film originally optioned by Paramount came back on the market. Deadline revealed on May 27 that Apple won a deal that has Paramount releasing the film theatrically.

The way to apply Apple’s “the best, not the most” mantra to Hollywood would be signing more deals like this. Apple TV+ will never have the most exclusive movies and TV shows, but it can have a large share of the best ones.

Tripp Mickle Profiles Tim Cook, Without Any Access, for the WSJ

12 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Tripp Mickle wrote a long feature for The Wall Street Journal, “How Tim Cook Made Apple His Own” (News+ link):

After Steve Jobs’s death, Silicon Valley anticipated Apple Inc.’s business would falter. Wall Street fretted about the road ahead. And loyal customers agonized about the future of a beloved product innovator.

Today, Apple shares are at record highs. The company’s market valuation is $1.9 trillion — bigger than the GDP of Canada, Russia or Spain. And Apple, now the world’s largest company, continues to dominate the smartphone market.

That’s a good and mostly fair lede. But I don’t think it’s fair at all to say that “loyal customers agonized about the future”. Where’s the evidence of that? I’d say the group that’s missing after Silicon Valley (which believes strongly, justifiably in most cases, in the importance of founders) and Wall Street are business reporters. It wasn’t so much much investors as the business media who predicted “can’t innovate without Steve Jobs” doom for Apple.

The feature is largely fair though, and it does read like Mickle tried very hard to get people who know Cook to talk about him. But, well, very few of them did, and those who did don’t seem to know him all that well:

Mr. Cook is described by colleagues and acquaintances as a humble workaholic with a singular commitment to Apple. Longtime colleagues seldom socialized with him, and assistants said he kept his calendar clear of personal events.

Around Thanksgiving two years ago, guests saw him dining by himself at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park. When a guest later bumped into him, he said he came to the hotel to recharge after a hectic fall punctuated by the rollout of Apple’s latest iPhone. “They have the best masseuses in the world here,” he said, the guest recalls.

Here Mickle’s source is a random guest who recognized Cook at a hotel.

It’s sort of inside baseball, but this paragraph is my favorite from the whole piece:

Apple declined to make Mr. Cook or any of its executives available. Instead, the company helped arrange calls with four people it said could speak to areas of importance to Mr. Cook such as environmentalism, education and health. None of the four said they knew him well. One had never met him, another met him only in passing, a third spent half an hour with him and a fourth spent a few hours with him.

I mean just savor the passive-aggressive fuck you/fuck you too back-and-forth of Apple making available four useless sources to Mickle, and Mickle pointing out in the article just how useless the four sources Apple made available were.

But this one weird paragraph actually says a lot about the difference between Steve Jobs’s Apple and Cook’s. Jobs wouldn’t have participated in a profile like this, either, but I think Apple’s response would have been nothing more than the two-letter word “no”. With Cook, Apple still didn’t make him available, still didn’t make anyone who works at Apple available, and still didn’t make anyone who actually knows Cook available. But they offered Mickle and the Journal something rather than just telling him to go pound sand.

Though current and former employees say Mr. Cook has created a more relaxed workplace than Mr. Jobs, he has been similarly demanding and detail oriented. He once got irritated that the company mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of Japan, said a former colleague, adding that it seemed like a minor misstep for a company shipping nearly 200 million iPhones annually. “We’re losing our commitment to excellence,” Mr. Cook said, this person recalls.

25 computers mistakenly shipped to Korea would not make my list of signs that Apple is losing its commitment to excellence, but this anecdote actually buoys me.

Mozilla Lays Off 250 Employees, About One-Third of Its Workforce

12 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet Zero Day

Furthermore, Mozilla’s contract with Google to include Google as the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla’s revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past 2021.

I think that’s basically the whole story right there. Firefox was very popular, and Google paid Mozilla a small fortune to make Google search the default in Firefox because it was so popular. But then came Chrome. Why should Google fund Mozilla when Chrome is about 10 times more popular than Firefox, other than out of the goodness of their heart?

It is a very good thing for the world and the web that a truly independent browser exists from a privacy-minded company, but there’s not much of a business model for it unless it’s popular enough to get the dominant search engine to pay for placement.

“We must learn and expand different ways to support ourselves and build a business that isn’t what we see today.”

This most likely includes a bigger focus on Mozilla’s VPN offering, which Mozilla formally launched last month. Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps are one of today’s biggest money-makers in tech, and Mozilla, despite arriving late to the party, is set to become one of the biggest players on the market, primarily due to its reputation as a privacy-first organization and civil and privacy rights advocate.

I have no idea if a VPN offering can even come close to making up for the money Mozilla was earning from Google for default search placement, but it’s a great idea. If you’re going to use a VPN, you want to use one from a company you can trust, and Mozilla has a fortune of well-earned trust in the bank.

[Sponsor] Tara AI -- Smart Project Management

11 August, by Daring Fireball Department of Commerce[ —]

Most project management software (a) takes a lot of time to configure, (b) is not built for cross-functional teams, and (c) takes focus away from releases. The status quo is that engineers spend precious time wading through tickets.

We’ve been dedicated to designing a modern and simple interface that just works for teams building rapidly. Tara AI helps engineers and teams deliver on planned releases with simple sprint planning, a unified view of tasks and a clear overview of daily priorities synced to Github.

We’re excited to be launching v1.0 to the DF community, with no user or task limits, free of charge.

Yours Truly on Antony Johnston’s ‘Writing and Breathing’ Podcast

11 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Antony Johnston — best known as the creator of the excellent and right-up-my-alley Atomic Blonde — hosts a podcast devoted to writing, and he was kind enough to invite me on. I could talk about writing — what I do, how I do it — forever, even though, as I hope I made clear to Johnston, I don’t really fully understand how exactly I do what I do. The only thing I really understand about writing is that I need to do it.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about this. If that sounds interesting to you, I bet you’ll dig listening.

★ Dithering Preview

10 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Speaking of podcasts, another month, another new album cover for Dithering, the new thrice-weekly podcast with me and Ben Thompson.

August 2020 cover art for Dithering, depicting a bunch of kids, in two groups, battling each other in a water balloon game of some sort.

One reason Ben and I make for a good team, I think, is that even when we agree on something, we often see the issue from very different perspectives. But we don’t always agree, and to date, never less so than regarding this controversy over Apple’s ban on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming service from the App Store. We’ve had some crackerjack episodes these last few days — but our arguments are constructive, not destructive. What makes for an invigorating disagreement is the shared belief that you can only have confidence that your opinion is correct if you’re willing to honestly contemplate that you might be wrong. We’ve got that.

More good news, too, for the Dithering curious. The obvious downside to a paid subscription podcast ($5/month — cheap!) is that some prospective listeners naturally want to know what the show is like before paying. We’ve been thinking about this since we initially conceived of the show, and last week launched our solution: Dithering Preview, a free podcast with the best clips from each month’s episodes.

You should be able to find it just by searching for “Dithering Preview” in your favorite podcast player, or use one of the handy shortcuts below:

If you’ve been on the fence, give an episode or two of Dithering Preview a listen, and you’ll get an honest taste of what the show is like. For those of you who’ve already subscribed, I thank you kindly for listening, and for helping to spread the word about the show.

★ Decoding Apple’s Statement to Business Insider Regarding Xbox Game Pass

10 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Ben Gilbert, reporting yesterday for Business Insider (italic emphasis added):

This September, Microsoft plans to launch a major coup in the video game business: The world’s first game streaming service with a built-in library, Netflix-style. For $15 a month, you’ll be able to stream over 100 games to smartphones and tablets — but it won’t be available on Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone and iPad.

The reason, an Apple spokesperson said on Thursday, is because Apple isn’t able to review each game that’s available through Game Pass.

Following hot on the heels of the controversy over Basecamp’s Hey app, and Tim Cook being called to testify at an antitrust Congressional hearing regarding App Store policies, and given the high profile of Xbox Game Pass, it’s no surprise that this has gotten a lot of attention, almost all of it focused on taking the italicized paragraph from Business Insider at its word. But that’s Ben Gilbert’s interpretation, not a quote from Apple. Gilbert’s interpretation is not an unfair or sensationalized take on Apple’s statement, but it’s adding a “because” that Apple did not state. That entire sentence is not a paraphrase of something Apple said.

Here is Apple’s statement to Business Insider, apparently in its entirety. Apple seemingly sent this statement only to Business Insider, which itself is a bit unusual:

The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.

Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.

Running this statement through my Applespeak-to-English decoder ring, what I hear is not that they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass because they can’t review each game separately. What I hear is that game streaming services are not allowed in the iOS App Store. Period, full stop. I don’t even think this has anything to do with whether Microsoft offers in-app subscriptions, or whether those subscriptions get a discount from the standard 70/30 split for the first year. I think Apple’s stance is that game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud project are simply verboten.1

App Store guideline 4.2.7, “Remote Desktop Clients”, seemingly makes this clear, too — it’s a written rule, not an unwritten one. This rule is why Steam Link is in the App Store and Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia are not:

(a) The app must only connect to a user-owned host device that is a personal computer or dedicated game console owned by the user, and both the host device and client must be connected on a local and LAN-based network.

It’s like this: Business Insider asked Apple why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass. Apple didn’t say why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass, and instead gave a non-answer answer by describing what they do allow:

… gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.

Submitting games individually and appearing in charts and search — presumably App Store charts and search — is just an obfuscated way of saying that native iOS game apps are allowed in the iOS App Store. Well, duh. Everyone is distracted by the interpretation that Apple won’t allow Xbox Game Pass because they can’t review each game. It is a nonsensical justification, no doubt about that. But the comparison to Netflix or Spotify is beside the point. Of course Apple doesn’t and can’t review every movie on Netflix or every song on Spotify. But if you think about it, they could review every game on Xbox Game Pass. Even if it’s 100 games, they could look at them all. I’m sure they could find quite a few volunteers among the App Store reviewer corps to spend the time to play these games thoroughly.

The point is that streaming video and music services are allowed in the App Store; streaming software (games or otherwise) is not, unless it works over the web. Apple just doesn’t want to say that. Here, in my opinion, is how this conversation is best decoded:

Business Insider: Why are game streaming services like Xbox Game Pass not allowed in the App Store?

Apple: Native iPhone games are allowed in the App Store. Native iPhone games are good because we review them individually, and they appear in App Store charts and search results.

It’s a perfect example of the difference between bullshit and a lie. Every word in Apple’s statement is true, but not a word of it answers why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass or any other cloud game streaming service.

Apple would have been much better off saying nothing at all than offering this bullshit non-answer answer, that in fact was so easily and reasonably misconstrued. And, purely as a guess on my part, I think Apple realized this, which is why they didn’t send this statement to any other outlet and haven’t added a word of clarification since.

  1. Maybe it is just about the money, or even partially about the money2 — which certainly wouldn’t be shocking — but we don’t know, because Apple didn’t say, and neither did Microsoft in its own testily worded statement, which, unlike Apple’s statement, was distributed to numerous news outlets. ↩︎

  2. I really hope it’s not about the money. I mean let’s face it, no matter what the story is here, it’s sad in some way. Microsoft has made something technically impressive and cool and fun, and millions of Xbox-playing iOS users would love to play these games on their iPhones and iPads and but they can’t because of some sort of business or strategic shit that’s between Apple and Microsoft. But if it’s really just a dispute about goddamn money — between, of all companies, two of the richest in the history of the world — man, that’s just tawdry. It’s just two corporations fighting over one more stream of money neither even knows what to do with atop the Scrooge McDuckian mountains of cash they each already have flooding into their coffers each day. That’s business, but that’s a stale saltine of a story.

    But what if it’s not Apple being a dick about money? What if it’s Apple being a dick about control?

    That’s not cold and dry — that’s a goddamn sizzling hot juicy steak of a story. That’s personal. For one thing it would explain the pissy, petulant tone of Microsoft’s statement. Maybe Microsoft went into this whole endeavor gearing up for a knockdown drag-out knife-fight negotiation about how exactly to split the money, and Apple just went stone cold Michael Corleone on them: “You can have our answer now, if you like. Our offer is this: nothing. Not even the 30 percent fee for the gaming subscription, which we would appreciate if you put up your ass.” The idea being, in this scenario, that Apple has something Microsoft needs, Microsoft has nothing to offer in return that Apple wants, and so Microsoft just has to sit there grooving on it, stuck with a premium paid subscription service that’s only available on the low-rent mobile platform where people don’t pay for things.

    Apple is clearly being a dick to Microsoft about something here, and if it’s platform control not money, well by god at least there’s some delicious poetic justice at play. That’d be a veritable vintage bottle of wine being uncorked. Not having any control over the world’s most lucrative computing platform and wanting something from the company that does — and which has a real taste for exerting its dictatorial control over said platform in mercurial fashion — would fucking suck, wouldn’t it? ↩︎︎

Sycophancy Sweepstakes Winner: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem

10 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times:

Since the first days after she was elected governor of South Dakota in 2018, Kristi Noem had been working to ensure that President Trump would come to Mount Rushmore for a fireworks-filled July 4 extravaganza.

After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And last year, a White House aide reached out to the governor’s office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What’s the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore? […]

In private, the efforts to charm Mr. Trump were more pointed, according to a person familiar with the episode: Ms. Noem greeted him with a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his.

In a couple of months, this particular anecdote is going to evoke tears. What kind of tears, we shall see.

SoundSource 5

10 August, by John Gruber[ —]

So let’s just get this out of the way: Rogue Amoeba was last week’s sponsor here at DF but the sponsorship was for Loopback, for which I just posted my end-of-the-week thank-you. But this week they also released a major update to another of their excellent Mac audio utilities, SoundSource, and it’s well worth your attention.

SoundSource is on my short list of Mac utilities that I don’t know what I’d do without. It’s the system-wide audio menu item that ought to be built into MacOS. It gives you instant volume control to every output and input device connected to your Mac, and per-application controls for controlling audio input and output. When I wrote about SoundSource 4 last year, I noted the interface:

SoundSource is also a great example of a distinctive, branded UI that still looks and feels in every way like a standard Mac app.

SoundSource 5 is a solid upgrade on functional grounds alone — just the audio features that are its reason for being. But the UI changes and tweaks in version 5 are delightful, and too long to list here. (E.g. the pin icon animation, and the gear menu animation.) The UI is so good that I encourage anyone who appreciates great UI design to download the demo and explore, examine, and think about the interface details of this app even if you have no interest in its features.

It’s both great UI design in the abstract, and a hall-of-fame caliber example of a Mac-assed Mac app in particular.

Apple Is Fighting Trademark for Prepear’s Pear-Shaped Logo

10 August, by John Gruber[ —]

Apple, in its legal filing:

Consumers encountering Applicant’s Mark are likely to associate the mark with Apple. Applicant’s Mark consists of a minimalistic fruit design with a right-angled leaf, which readily calls to mind Apple’s famous Apple Logo and creates a similar commercial impression, as shown in the following side-by-side comparison.

Here’s the comparison. I could actually see this being a reasonable objection if Prepear were selling computers or phones or watches. But they’re a recipe app. Their logo clearly looks like a pear, not an apple, and their pear does not even look like an Apple-logo-like pear.

Back in the old days Apple didn’t even pursue legal action against the Banana Junior series of personal computers, and their logo was a six-color banana.

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