January 27th, 2024

The Desolation of Apple

The folks at Apple have been working on the Vision Pro for a staggering 16 years and, despite my, and others, misgivings, they seem to have produced an incredibly well engineered product.

The device finally went up for preorder on 19th January. This should have been a huge week for Apple. One for them to bask in all of the positive attention from customers, and excited developers eager to create for the platform. This, however, isn’t quite how it’s gone.

On the 25th of January Apple released the iOS 17.4 developer beta and along with it released one of the most petulant press releases I think I’ve ever read. The developer beta included with it some changes Apple has been forced to make to address new EU regulations, namely the Digital Markets Act, or DMA. This isn’t the first time EU lawmakers have forced Apple to make changes to their products or services, we had the introduction of USB-C worldwide, but when they’ve done it in the past they were able to make the most of the situation and spin it into a benefit for customers, and cover up the fact they were essentially compelled to do it.

With the latest announcement, however, Apple have gone full Veruca Salt, and thrown their toys out of the pram.

An artist’s (charGPT) rendition of ‘Male Veruca Salt’. It
wouldn’t let me reference Tim Cook!
An artist’s (charGPT) rendition of ‘Male Veruca Salt’. It wouldn’t let me reference Tim Cook!

Their press release is just laden with fear mongering and patronising statements, such as:

For users, the changes include new controls and disclosures, and expanded protections to reduce privacy and security risks the DMA creates

The copy is littered with references to fraud and users being confronted with choosing a browser. Won’t someone please think of the children!

The irony of flagging the increased risk of fraud, scams, and bad actors that will spring up from giving users choices and options to use their device the way they want just throws Apple’s other product line, the Mac, under the bus. Customers that side of the room can choose their default browser, and download apps from where they want, and generally use their computer for any computing they want. Are Apple implying what they’ve been doing for the Mac for years is actually harmful and irresponsible?

The iPhone, and iPad are incredibly powerful and capable machines now, and both devices have been in people’s lives for a long time now. Its obvious that Apple aren’t really upset about the risks to customers here, or they’d be pushing for the same with the Mac. Whilst some in the community are still struggling to see this, Apple is very much a business and its primary guiding focus is to make more and more money for shareholders. Sure, if they can bring some change to the world via some life changing devices then wonderful, but the number one guiding focus is always going to be ‘will this device make money?’ Apple’s insistence on retaining control of the iPhone and the way it’s used is not about protecting the poor stupid users that need Daddy Cook to stop us downloading dodgy stuff off the internet it’s about protecting their bottom line. By putting out a pissy statement like this, they’re only highlighting this fact, and making themselves look very childish to boot.

Some of Apple’s choices when it comes to complying with the DMA requirements seem questionable, such as potential insane costs associated to using an external payment system, and it seems they’re blowing their developer relations by pushing all of this out the week when all developers eyes, and excitement, should be aimed at making Vision Pro experiences, which by all accounts seem to be quite lacking currently.

One interesting comment, on Daring Fireball, struck me as quite amusing. As John Gruber put it:

The delicious irony in Apple’s not knowing if these massive proposals will be deemed DMA-compliant is that their dealings with the European Commission sound exactly like App Store developers’ dealings with Apple. Do all the work to build it first, and only then find out if it passes muster with the largely inscrutable rules.

Whilst there have certainly been a few mentions of Vision Pro in my timeline, and in podcasts, there has been noticeably less discourse than there has been over this angry compliance with the DMA rules, and it feels like Apple has shot itself in the foot with this statement, and alternative payment plans all in the same week. Yes, it will all blow over, but this is another dent in their armour on both the general public, and developers, good will for the company. If I had worked on Vision Pro for any of those 16 years it’s apparently been in development, I’d also be fuming at Apple, and Tim Cook, for whizzing on my bonfire. 

I hope it’s worth it Apple.