The WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) Apple creates a convincing reality version that sometimes seems too good to be true. Organized again earlier this month at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, the conference is a great place to discover Swift code, meet other programmers and iOS app designers and celebrate all things Apple. But you do it in a carefully designed environment, designed to optimize the image of the iPhone maker as a benign suzerain of his software realm.
There are clean wooden tables, resembling those of the Apple Store and equipped with USB-C Ethernet adapters, where you can sit and work, as well as enthusiastic guests who congratulate you. The conference rooms are equipped with HomePods that play loop-friendly synth-pop music. The pastries are decadent and the conference badges are well designed and colorful.
The Mac Pro window on the other side of the street looked like an Apple product video: everything was perfectly arranged, the light calibrated to capture every inch of aluminum in a positive angle, while ambient music was broadcast over the head. I accidentally leaned over a table displaying the new office machine $ 5,999and an Apple employee scolded me before wiping the counter with a rag. The image must be preserved.
In previous years, this flawless image was featured primarily to appeal to the audience, who was not a developer, but nevertheless gave great developer speeches, such as the one that Apple was keen for WWDC to get a glimpse of future products, like the next. versions of iOS and macOS or this new Mac Pro.
Apple knows that it addresses these two-level events simultaneously, trying to convince consumers that it always produces the most advanced and advanced versions of its software, services, and hardware, but also reminding developers of the benefits of construction in its ecosystem. .
This year, however, Apple seemed to have a slightly different message that was directed more directly to developers: build on our platforms and use our products because we are neither Facebook nor Google. That's partly because the company can gain easy public relations points by beating the drum of privacy and also because it's trying to win back the hard professional market using its iPad Pro and his new Mac Pro.
This is also partly because the company is facing the most aggressive regulatory challenges, it is the anti-technology sentiment that has reigned for years in the EU and is now heading to the states. -United. But if the developers are satisfied and consumers trust Apple, the company may well avoid the same level of vigilance as other tech titans.
Compared to Facebook or Google, which I have attended both this year, WWDC does not feel that you are forgiving serious sins. At the Google conference, protesters stole a plane banner over the head during the introductory presentation of the company's effect on local news and its positions on the protection of privacy. Later in the week, Google hired The Flaming Lips to perform in front of the attendees. At Facebook CEO on F8, CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a magnificent admission of fault"We have to change a lot of ways to manage this society." Facebook then invited each participant to release the Oculus Quest headset.
Although Apple offered a reversible jacket covered with emoticons at WWDC, it also stood out from its rivals Silicon Valley with an unusually strong position in privacy and an aggressively satisfied tone. "We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right and that we integrate it into everything we do," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, during the presentation of the speech. the WWDC.
Strangely, the attitude that has been won. Apple sees itself as one of the last bastions of privacy protection for consumers, but also a generation of technology companies that simply manufacture solid products and sell them for no other reason. Whenever a company claims to have no ulterior motive, your sonar for bullshit needs to make a very loud sound. I do not think anyone can take for granted what Big Tech said, but Apple's stock has also spoken loud and clear.
This year at WWDC, Apple introduced a way for developers to create login credentials using disguised email addresses, called Connect with Apple, which caused controversy. forcing developers to use the feature whenever they use similar options from Facebook and Google that make it easier to track users. The controversial move sent to erase the message that Apple cares about privacy enough to put the users before the developersSomething did not always communicate successfully in the last few months.
Apple has also announced a new coding framework with SwiftUI that promises to be much faster than previous methods, a dedicated iPad operating system, and new tools to turn these more robust iPad apps into Mac applications quickly. in just a few hours. In each case, the company can confidently claim that none of these changes or new features have hidden motive: Apple does not earn money with commercials and does not design products to collect a significant amount of user data in the background, even if some developers try to do so.
"I think Apple's position on privacy needs to be applauded. You will not find many developers who do not appreciate Apple's position on privacy," says Drew McCormack, developer iOS apps and co-founder of Momenta BV, a Dutch-based software studio that is developing a popular note-taking app called Agenda. . "Some might consider it cynical – a marketing ploy – but I think people at Apple really believe in the privacy of users, and they clearly put their words into action, even when it makes things technically more difficult to achieve. "
Apple may take a ton of criticism to spoil MacBook keyboards and sell its products at exorbitant, almost comical levels – a $ 1,000 monitor support for the new $ 4,999 6K HDR monitor go with his Mac Pro at $ 6,000 has earned Apple some condemnation to WWDC – but attend the WWDC and hear the way Apple talks to its developers and the way developers talk about Apple, it's easy to leave, convinced that the company sits above, or less removed from, more sinister belly of Silicon Valley.
Saying that you work for Facebook these days can leave a stranger a bad impression, even more if you talk to someone who actually follows the swirling technological news cycle. Saying that you are an Apple employee or an iOS developer is always a source of pride and that nothing is more obvious than at WWDC.
But even though Apple has largely avoided the controversies over privacy and platform moderation that affect its rivals social network owners, the regulatory threat has also weighed on its developer conference this year – regulators antitrust of the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission as well as politicians on the 2020 campaign trail eager to capitalize on a growing wave of anti-technology sentiments. Some of the developers I spoke to at WWDC were ready to complain about the current status quo.
In the middle of his big WWDC press conference, news announced that the DOJ had received the authority to open an antitrust investigation on Apple. The next day, a Two application developers filed a class action lawsuit complaint, claiming Apple "stifles innovation" by requiring that all applications go through the App Store and adhere to the strict rules of its developer contract. The lawsuit wants to break the "inappropriate monopolization of this market" by Apple, while Supreme Court decision last month indicates that consumers can now sleep at Apple to have bargain rates in the App Store.
While Apple can claim that no one is using consumer iPhones, which means that neither app developers nor consumers are forced to use the App Store, the critics say that Apple's anticompetitive practices are more subtle than the absolute monopoly of the company. It is true that Apple strictly controls the type of applications that third-party developers can sell to iPhone owners and that it orders Apple to reduce its sales by 30%. Costs have long been a point of contention at Spotify in the EU, where regulatory authorities the intention to open an antitrust investigation in the so-called "Apple tax".
Apple also tends to compete with its own developers, creating products or services of similar design to the traditional options of the App Store, but with the added benefit of coming preloaded on the iPhone and the iPhone. to have access to the basic features of the iOS system allowing this software to perform functions of third-party applications can not. Among all the news from WWDC last week, Apple has quietly changed its guidelines for reviews on the App Store restoration of access to certain development tools, these being specifically closed to lock the company's parental control applications claimed were risks to privacy. However, some of these applications also offered features similar to Apple's new Screen Time dashboard.
Apple's willingness to crush small apps on its platform and its zeal around rule enforcement are well known to developers who have witnessed the evolution of the App Store over the past decade. "I've developed for Apple platforms even before the iPhone exists. I think iOS is much more open than it was 10 years ago, with one exception." : expose user data, "says Ben Sandofsky, an application developer who has developed a pair of apps for iOS, Halide and Spectrum Camera, which adapts directly to the camera. native camera from Apple. app
"Years ago, you could access the user's address book without his permission.That ended when a company was caught secretly downloading notebooks of 39, addresses of people on their servers, "adds Sandofsky. "These last 10 years have taught Apple that it's not shameful, and that's why we have not had beautiful things." He states that Apple is competing with its own applications but that the company "has been incredibly generous" with its placement. and promoting its apps on the App Store.
But not all developers think that Apple is acting prudently. According to Steve Troughton-Smith, developer of applications and popular source of online commentary from Apple, the company has a long history of making arbitrary and inexplicable decisions and a hostile attitude to the company. With respect to third-party developers.
"There are countless examples of Apple rejecting perfectly valid applications, or entire categories of application concepts, based on Apple's emotional response rather than on the applications' own merits. or setting new rules as they go, without informing developers, letting everyone guess what they're doing wrong, "he says. "I have seen applications rejected outright for fallacious reasons, and there are many more applications that I do not care to write just because I know that Apple does not have them. will never allow.The cooling effect is real. "
What makes the evaluation of the excessive potential of Apple so complicated is that all the criticism that you can issue to the locks of the company. Requiring that all apps be subject to strict scrutiny and be distributed via the App Store – presumably for privacy and security reasons – requires all developers to keep up with the latest developments. Apple's example of privacy and to collect more than 30% of the gains made on iOS.
This could mean an increase in the number of software on iOS because of the Apple tax, while Apple could at any time judge that the 30% obtained from a third-party application were less important than the development of the Apple iOS software. an integrated alternative to iOS by default. It is difficult to have an opinion on any of these elements of Apple's business without it notifying your general view of the anti-competitive nature of Apple.
"Apple does not even compete with its developers, Apple can do all sorts of things with the operating system and its platforms that do not respect the rules that third-party developers have to follow." Of course, they allow developers, but they rarely allow them to create "as powerful" applications as Apple's own offers, "says Troughton-Smith." It's ridiculous that you had to phone Netflix and ask them how to subscribe to iOS just because they refused to continue charging 30% more users on iOS because Apple had rejected. "
Sandofsky says that he has no problem with the 30% discount, but that's also because he believes that the App Store is not fundamentally different from other closed source software distribution platforms.
"I do not see how the App Store is different from the PlayStation or Nintendo ecosystem, but it's easier to get your software on an iPhone than a game console," he says. "The Apple commission has no effect on our rates.We charge our software based on what people are going to pay.Of course, it would be nice if Apple accepted a lower discount: that would let go of the price. But we think that Apple earns 30%, they offer frictionless payment solutions, piracy prevention and a shop specially designed for the good job.It is very likely that we would be worse off in an ecosystem. more fragmented. "
Other developers, such as McCormack, claim that the only things that have changed are Apple's position in the market and the atmosphere conducive to technological regulation. "Apple has always competed with its own third-party developers," he says. McCormack cites the act of obtaining "Sherlocked", which is an old term of software development for when Apple develops a feature or a competing application of its own, as he did infamously with his Sherlock 3 app, according to which critics borrowed ideas from a third-party application called Watson. And the cemetery of dead applications under the pressure of a native Apple software is growing steadily
"The difference is that Apple is huge and also controls the only access to the market, so I can see why it's going to be nasty in Washington," McCormack adds. He says the App Store makes his life easier, but he would appreciate the 30% fee being lowered. "In the early days, you could get it back because Apple would feature your application, but there are so many apps at the moment that only the most lucky ones are on show. the fees would be welcome. "
McCormack also thinks that an alternative to the iOS App Store could help Apple avoid antitrust issues. For example, it explains how, on macOS, the developers can submit software to Apple to be "notarized" This does not involve a revision based on the guidelines of the App Store, but simply checks the software for malicious code. In this way, users can still download the software regardless of the Internet and get at least a partial Apple seal of approval.
In the end, the fact that Apple is forced to be friendlier, for fear of being enlisted in investigations that currently cover its more sordid technological rivals, is perhaps the best of the developers that can be asked. Developers like Troughton-Smith, who thought WWDC this month was a "monster year" for Apple and the evidence that it was "running at full speed", still has immense confidence in the company.
But these same Apple supporters are starting to realize that some of the company's tactics can not be ruled out as long as the cost of iPhone transactions. What began as a disadvantage to development on the Apple platform, has become over time the status quo are now being re-examined by critics who have much more fierce opinions about the technology sector, which could mean profound changes in the activities of Apple.
The question now is whether these changes will come from Apple or Washington. "I think this is not a problem that will just disappear.If Apple wants to keep a tight control on its platforms, it will have to accept an external control.Apple could also solve these problems by opening up more of its flat to the developers, without the restrictions it has today, "said Troughton-Smith." There are major implications for these two paths, but I do not see the status quo as sustainable in a just world. "