Welcome to our Apple Breakfast column, which includes all of the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Stop the steal
In a lengthy WSJ report published this week, Apple stands accused of courting smaller companies for potential partnerships, entering discussions with them, and then copying their ideas.
Apple, it should be emphasized, insists that it respects intellectual property and does not steal technology. But the claim, at least in its general form, is not new. The alleged habit even has a name: “Sherlocking,” after the controversial update Apple made to its own Sherlock search app in 2002, appearing to replicate some features of the rival Watson software. If the WSJ’s sources are to be trusted–and most of them are interested parties from the would-be partners–the company is still indulging in the practice, with one of the legal disputes mentioned in the article continuing as I write.
The report documents the complaints of five companies whose work Apple is alleged to have copied over the years, but the firm’s MO (which the WSJ calls the “kiss of death”) can be summed up by the experience of Valencell. In 2013 Apple contacted the company, which made heart-monitoring technology, about a possible partnership for the Apple Watch. According to Valencell, Apple “repeatedly sought information” about the tech but ended discussions shortly before launching the Apple Watch with its own heart-sensing feature in 2015. When Valencell filed a patent lawsuit, Apple responded by attempting to invalidate the relevant patents and multiple others which, according to Valencell, were not related. Apple, the WSJ reports, “has attempted to invalidate more patent claims before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board than any other petitioner” since 2012.
The above is based on Valencell’s account of the dealings between the two firms, which Apple disputes, and (other than noting that Valencell is far from alone in making such complaints) Macworld is not in a position to judge the specific rights and wrongs of the case. What I will say is that, whether or not Apple is following the letter of the law, and whether or not it is misusing the patent system, the firm’s behavior displays an approach to product development and partner liaison that does not appear either ethical or sustainable.
Apple builds and runs platforms–the iPhone, the Mac, the Apple Watch, and so on–and then depends on third parties to enrich those platforms with software and accessories. Make no mistake: a platform depends on its developers, as the sweating falsetto Steve Ballmer understood all those years ago. If everyone decided to stop making apps for iOS and only develop for Android, the iPhone would be toast.
Given the importance of smaller partners to Apple’s mission, it seems odd for the company’s management to be so happy to bestow the kiss of death on so many of them: to dispute their patents, poach their employees, and push them out of markets. The truth is that, until now, those small companies have needed Apple far more than Apple needed them, at least on an individual basis. Devs quitting iOS en masse would have been a disaster, but if only a few quit the scene, there were plenty to take their place.
But the landscape is changing. Not because developers have unionized, nor because Apple’s platforms face a large-scale exodus of third-party talent, but because the company’s methods have come under the spotlight. Facing regulatory investigation on multiple continents and repeated criticism from rivals, partners, lawmakers, and other organizations over alleged anticompetitive behavior, Apple has been pushed into numerous concessions. It has moved (in the most uncooperative way possible) to accommodate self-service repairs: It’s switching from Lightning to a standardized USB-C charging port on the iPhone; you can use alternative payment systems on the App Store; and all signs point to iOS 17 allowing sideloading, a climbdown that would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.
Apple, in short, has to be on its best behavior, and this report comes at a very awkward time. Particularly as the company is understood to be planning a classic bit of Sherlocking at this very moment. iPhone owners, it’s true, benefit when an excellent third-party service is brought in-house, made free, and given tight integration with the rest of the OS. But this cannot always happen at the partner’s expense. If for no other reason than to avoid more bad PR, Apple needs to remember Steve Ballmer’s motto and treat developers right.
Trending: Top stories
If sideloading is allowed in iOS 17, someone will pay for it–and it won’t be Apple, says the Macalope.
There are 5 mistakes you need to avoid when buying a new iPhone.
Apple’s new AR headset has a secret weapon: Old tech.
Apple Card Savings is here! Apple Card holders can now earn 4.15% interest on their Daily Cash.
Great deal alert: This obsolete Mac Pro from 2013 can be yours for just… $6,400. Wait, what?
Podcast of the week
A16, A17, M1, M2, M3…just what is going on with Apple silicon? In this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we’ll talk about the state of Apple’s chips, where they are now, what’s in store, and how it will affect you and your Apple devices. It’s all in this show, stick around!
You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
The rumor mill
Multiple new MacBooks may be coming at WWDC 2023.
But the 15-inch MacBook Air might not be as exciting as it could have been.
Apple’s Reality Pro headset will blow you away, according to a well-known leaker. And here is everything Apple’s headset will do right out of the box.
The iPhone 15 Pro buttons saga presses on with a new ‘3D Touch’ Action button rumor.
A report has shed light on Apple’s early plans for a very different iPhone 15.
watchOS 10 will reportedly be so good, no one will care about the new Apple Watch. And its new interface has been revealed.
iPadOS 17 is likely to bring the iPhone’s Lock Screen and always-on display to the big screen.
The MacBook we all thought was dead might be getting a 2023 update.
A future iMac may be able to use your wall as a second display.
Video of the week
Marques Brownlee just bought a sealed original iPhone for $40,000. Watch him open it up:
Software updates, bugs & problems
Your Mac might not be safe from ransomware for much longer.
Google has pushed an emergency Chrome for Mac update to fix an actively exploited flaw. Hold on… here comes another one!
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay Appley.