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An Apple a day - 5 stories from the worlds most valuable company

15 September 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

From security flaws to space tours

Since its foundation in the 70s, Apple has had a different take on how to create technology. From its drive for simplicity when others were adding complexity to making closed ecosystems as others were looking to build open ones.

History has shown that for the most part they made the right call to become the dominant player in the very lucrative US phone market and grow their market cap to be the most valuable company in the world at over $2 trillion.

They have also had critical moments that could have seriously changed their path to success. This week has seen a few long running themes come together to highlight both how influential the company is but also that like every business, you are constantly having to prove your worth to your customers.

Monopoly accusations

Epic Games made a bold play to get around Apple’s 30% fee for all transactions done via its App store by offering its own payment method in contravention with Apples T&C’s. Apple blocked the game Fortnite from the platform and Epic (the creators of Fortnite) sued.

The case was heard in August with the judgement in September that found Apple was not acting like a monopoly but that they would have to end the practice of not allowing alternative payment options. Apple may have expected that outcome as it had created a lower commission structure for many developers.

The court did find that Epic did breach its contract with Apple and ordered it to pay the 30% of revenue it has earned since the app was removed from the store (users that already installed the app were able to continue using it.)

Epic has appealed the decision. The impact will extend to other court battles in and outside of the US, the most notable being the issue with Facebook over privacy.

Security flaw

The Apple share price dipped in the wake of the court ruling and was kept there after a zero click security flaw was announced by a cybersecurity group that found a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been compromised by the Pegasus software created by the surveillance company NSO.

The issue was patched and Apple is currently asking all users of their phones, watches and tablets to install the patch.

While the threat may have only affected a small group, the fact that it could compromise the phone security via the way images are handled in the iMessage platform raises a real risk from others who may try to use the same exploit on unpatched devices to steal info or add malware.

The new devices

Two negative stories don’t help in the week when you announce your updates to the devices. While the improvements each year used to generate a lot of interest and resulted in queues of people waiting to be the first to get the new gadgets, Apple now focuses on the improvements to make the user experience and performance better, but then so does everyone else.

Everything got some polish with the iPad mini getting the biggest update, the Watch getting a bigger face and the phones an update to the camera layout and abilities with a big improvement on their video.

The updates were not enough to lift the share price although for Apple fans there is still no reason to consider getting a competitor's device.

The decision to scan iPhones for potential child sexual abuse material has been put on hold as customers and advocacy group petitioned the company to reconsider. Had they implemented it anyway may have seen some users look for an alternative even though the process for identifying harmful content was sound, the idea that the company would decide what you had on what was supposed to be your phone may have pushed some to give up on the brand.

A side-note on who owns the phone is Apple resistance to allow anyone to work and repair phones. The official reason is to ensure the correct parts and process is followed, but those who oppose it argue that it is a way for Apple to make more money even when their devices fail. The writing on the wall appears to be that lawmakers may introduce regulations that end their ability to decide who may fix their phones.

South Africa recently ended car manufacturers ability to enforce repairs and maintenance only by them to maintain their warranties.

It is a long running rumour/expectation that Apple will also be building an electric car. The joke about it is that it will not have Windows.

To the stars

As Apple moves away from its focus on hardware it is looking to improve the offerings it offers via software and services. Its pay services and ad network are two with Apple TV another big play. The other is the work to make their watch better as a health device. When SpaceX sends its first four private astronauts to space on 15 September for a three day mission in a low Earth orbit, it will be tracking how the astronauts are doing via Apple watches and surveys via iPads.

The mission was paid for by payments billionaire Jared Isaacson who decided to use the other three seats in a fundraiser for St Jude’s Children's Hospital - the hospital chose one of its staff Hayley Arceneaux who herself was a child patient at the hospital. The other seat went to Chris Sembroski who bought a ticket in a sweepstakes fundraiser for the hospital and Sian Proctor who won her seat by raising funds for the hospital using Isaacson’s payment platform. She had hoped to be an NASA astronaut when she applied in 2009 but was eventually not selected. They will be taking a bunch of items to sell on auction when they return and because it is 2021, it includes an NFT of a song that will be played from on board.

Their trip orbiting at 575km above the planet and completing an orbit about 15 times a day will give NASA additional data on how they respond to being in space. The potential for Apple to expand its health services via its Watch is both a good business for supporting the sale of the watches but with partnerships like Discovery in South Africa the watch works to both get members rewarded for regular good health habits like exercise but also taking a more active role in managing their health.

If you have had a busy week, spare a thought for billionaire Apple CEO Tim Cook.

15 September 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

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