Once the iconoclastic upstart that aimed to break the monopoly of the IBM PC world, Apple has now become Big Brother, controlling the way we access and pay for our games, software and services, while exacting an unfair tribute from their developers and publishers.
That’s the storyline Epic is pushing in its brilliant parody of Apple’s famous 1984 ad — see the side-by-side videos comparison here. In what was obviously a campaign planned as well as a successful Fortnite foray, yesterday’s video release was part of an assault that included filing a civil antitrust suit, after the video game maker had goaded Apple into throwing it out of the App Store.
Epic’s boss Tim Sweeney has criticised Apple’s store and the platforms of Google (from whose Play store it has also been ejected) and Facebook as having too much power. Services are now driving the iPhone maker’s business, with revenues from them topping $50bn in the past 12 months, but it risks competition investigations as relationships worsen with its partners.
Epic had introduced its own payment mechanism on Thursday for players making in-app purchases, in order to get round giving Apple a 30 per cent cut — a violation of App Store guidelines.
It has plenty of allies prepared to fight alongside it, with music streaming service Spotify and dating apps group Match the first to come out with statements in support of Epic’s action.
Apple has also irked Facebook, Microsoft and Google by blocking or restricting their gaming apps. News publishers are angry over Apple not informing them about a change in its software that would redirect user traffic away from their websites and towards its News+ app instead. Advertisers are apprehensive about Apple later this year disabling identifiers (IDFA) that track user behaviour and help with targeting.
To cap it all, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Apple is readying a series of “Apple One” bundles that will let customers subscribe to several of its services at a lower monthly price. That is bound to raise the hackles of its antitrust accusers and ensure a battle royale over the App Store in the coming months.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. TikTok staff prepare to challenge Trump
A group of TikTok employees in the US is preparing to take legal action over President Trump’s executive order against the short-video app. If TikTok is not sold to Microsoft by a mid-September deadline, its 1,500 US workers fear they will no longer be able to accept pay cheques from their employer under the sweeping terms of the order. Richard Waters looks at TikTok’s AI-powered personalisation technology in his latest column.
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2. China’s iQiyi is another video app under US pressure
Shares in iQiyi and its parent Baidu fell 18 per cent and 7 per cent respectively after the Netflix-style video streaming company disclosed that it was under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. IQiyi contributed about 28 per cent of Baidu’s revenue in the second quarter. Lex says short-seller Wolfpack Research has accused iQiyi of overstating sales last year by up to 44 per cent.
3. ViacomCBS plots streaming rebrand
ViacomCBS is considering rebranding its streaming services as Paramount+, creating a “super-service” to compete with the likes of Disney and Netflix and revive the media empire following Sumner Redstone’s death, according to this FT scoop.
4. WeWork secures $1.1bn SoftBank loan
SoftBank has agreed to lend $1.1bn to WeWork to help cover coronavirus disruption, on top of the more than $10bn it has already invested in the lossmaking property group, according to a memo sent by WeWork’s chief financial officer to employees on Thursday.
5. Tech weekend reads
John Thornhill reviews three books that offer different answers to why innovation is so difficult to achieve. Tim Bradshaw says eradicating time zones may feel like an idea whose time has come, but the moment to achieve it has probably passed.
Tech tools — Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Techcrunch has reviewed the latest smartwatch from Samsung, unveiled at its Unpacked event last week. It judges Samsung devices as the best alternative to Apple, and the Watch 3 sees the welcome return of the rotating bezel: “The ability to toggle between screens by spinning the border of the display has long been the Gear line’s most distinguishing characteristic — and the best smartwatch input by far.” There are the usual health and workout apps and the Galaxy Store features more than 80,000 watch faces. Battery life is decent but the Watch 3 comes at premium prices of $400 (£439) and $430 (£459) for the 41mm and 45mm versions, respectively. The Verge and Engadget also have reviews.
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