Web Excursions 2021-09-14

On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking by lithub.com

  • Darwin’s best thinking, however, was not done in his study.

    • It was done outside, on a lowercase d–shaped path on the edge of his property.

    • Darwin called it the Sandwalk.

    • Today, it is known as Darwin’s thinking path.

  • He would pile up a mound of flints at the turn of the path and

    • knock one away every time he passed

    • to ensure he made a predetermined number of circuits

    • without having to interrupt his train of thought.

  • JeanJacques Rousseau once said, “There is something about walking which stimulates and enlivens my thoughts.

    • When I stay in one place I can hardly think at all;

    • my body has to be on the move to set my mind going.”

  • Dickens wrote, “The road was so lonely in the night,

    • that I fell asleep to the monotonous sound of my own feet, doing their regular four miles an hour,”

    • “Mile after mile I walked, without the slightest sense of exertion, dozing heavily and dreaming constantly.”


The Apple v. Epic Decision

  • while I do think Apple’s anti-steering provision is anti-competitive, this injunction is an odd outcome of this specific case, and a source of much confusion about what this decision was actually about.

  • Supreme Court precedent is extremely skeptical that there are single brand markets, and

    • the primary exception (Eastman Kodak) is only applicable if customers are unaware of aftermarket limitations at the time of purchase.

    • In fact, customers are not only aware of Apple’s walled garden policies, but it is in fact a selling point for the iPhone,

      • which means customers know what they are getting into when they choose the iPhone over Android.

  • The strong distinction Judge Gonzales Rogers draws between games and non-gaming apps:

    1. given this market definition, this case was only about mobile games.

      • That is good news for app developers who have their own antitrust complaints about Apple’s policies, and

      • also a reason for Apple to not take this ruling as a complete endorsement of their policies.

    2. Second, this ruling does suggest that Apple ought to — and now has the judicial imprimatur to — treat games differently than other apps.

      • so much of the company’s App Store troubles have come from applying rules and regulations

        • that are appropriate for games to other areas of the App Store that are totally different, and

        • now the company has license to come up with two sets of rules for two different markets.

  • a larger problem in many tech markets: the tendency towards duopoly, which often lets one company cover for the other acting anti-competitively

    • [Apple & Google’s duopoly in the mobile app distribution market] isn’t the only duopoly:

      • Google and Facebook jointly dominate digital advertising,

      • Microsoft and Google jointly dominate productivity applications,

      • Microsoft and Amazon jointly dominate the public cloud, and

      • Amazon and Google jointly dominate shopping searches.

    • And, while all of these companies compete, those competitive forces have set nearly all of these duopolies into fairly stable positions

      • that justify cooperation of the sort documented between Apple and Google,

      • even as any one company alone is able to use its rival as justification for avoiding antitrust scrutiny.

  • the intellectual property to which Apple is entitled to receive a commission is more narrowly defined:

    • Apple’s IAP is a secured system which

      • tracks and verifies digital purchases, then

      • determines and collects the appropriate commission on those transactions.

    • In this regard, the system records all digital sales

      • by identifying the customer and their payment methods,

      • tracking and accumulating transactions; and

      • conducts fraud-related checks.

    • IAP simultaneously provides information to consumers

    • IAP is not the App Store app or the payment processing or any other discrete offering, but rather the totality of its digital e-commerce system

    • “IAP”as Apple’s overall commerce system is different from “in-app purchases” that are purchases made in an app.

      • Apple is justified in requiring IAP for in-app purchases.

  • Judge Gonzales Rogers’ argument is not that Apple has to allow different payment options within an app — that is Apple’s right to control, and even mandate —

    • but rather that Apple can’t stop a developer from telling users that they can go outside the app to another platform to acquire digital content.

  • the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of anti-steering provisions in a case about American Express’s policies;

    • Gonzales Rogers made a good argument that this situation is different, but that is open to interpretation

  • Apple may also appeal that the decision considers violations under the UCL separately from violations under federal antitrust law,

    • the company already argued in court that Judge Gonzales Rogers should not do so

    • and while Judge Gonzales Rogers took particularly scathing interest in Apple’s anti-steering provisions during CEO Tim Cook’s testimony, they were not a major focus of Epic’s case.

  • Apple won on almost every count but one, but that one has the potential to cause Apple a fair bit of trouble.

    • Games have always been a vector for scams and abuse;

    • it would have been much better (and profitable) for Apple to keep tight control of the category while giving ground elsewhere.

    • Now it has to deal with a blanket injunction and critics who still don’t think it is enough.


The Future of the App Store

  • Here’s what I think we’ll end up with:

    • Most apps will be required to also offer IAP side-by-side with any external methods.

    • Only “Reader apps” will be exempt from this requirement.

    • Apple will have many rules regarding the display, descriptions, and behavior of external purchases,

      • many of which will be unpublished and ever-changing.

      • App Review will be extremely harsh, inconsistent, capricious, petty, and punitive with their enforcement.

    • Apple won’t require price-matching between IAP and external purchases.

  • The result won’t look much different than the status quo:

    • Many games will offer both IAP and external purchases,

      • with the external choice offering a discount, bonus gems, extra loot boxes, or other manipulative tricks

      • to optimize the profitability of casino games for children

        • (commissions from which have been the largest portion of Apple’s “services revenue” to date).

  • External purchase methods will evolve to be almost as convenient as IAP

    • (especially if Apple Pay is permitted in this context), and

    • payment processors will reduce the burden of manual credit-card entry

      • with shared credentials available across multiple apps.

  • The payment-fraud doomsday scenarios argued by Apple and many fans mostly won’t happen,

    • in part because App Review will prevent most obvious cases,

    • but also because parents don’t typically offer their credit cards to untrustworthy children;

  • I don’t expect side-loading or alternative app stores to become possible, and I’m relieved, because that is not a future I want for iOS.

  • When evaluating such ideas, I merely ask myself, “What would Facebook do?”

    • As a user, a multiple-app-store world sounds like an annoying mess;

    • as a developer, it terrifies me.

    • Apple’s App Store is the devil we know.

      • The most viable alternatives that would crop up would be far worse.

  • Apple is entitled to run their platform mostly as they wish,

    • with governmental interference only warranted to fix market-scale issues

      • that harm large segments of commerce or society.