Hello, and welcome to the Wednesday edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech.
This week: For Tim Cook and Apple, it’s Lights, Cameras … Sideshow!
If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the latest iPad you may have enjoyed Apple’s “Special Event” on Tuesday. But to me, Apple’s big event was mainly a sign of how the scripted product launches that Big Tech relies upon to control the news cycle are increasingly impotent.
But I think there’s something else going on too:
Now that tech is at the center of the biggest political and geopolitical dramas, product launches have become sideshows that can’t compete with the main event.
- On the same day as the Apple event, Google’s top dealmaker Don Harrison testified before US Senators and defended the company’s business practices, as the search giant braces for imminent antitrust charges from the Justice Department.
- Reports that the FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook is gaining steam also emerged on Tuesday.
- And Facebook is still reeling from a bombshell internal memo, published by Buzzfeed on Monday, in which a departing employee detailed the company’s repeated failures to stop manipulation by governments throughout the world.
And yes, there’s the fate of TikTok, caught in the middle of the US-China tech cold war, which continued to play out in real time on Tuesday while Apple streamed.
- You can catch up on the latest on TikTok, Oracle, Trump and all the other players here.
Even Apple — at its own product event — couldn’t escape the regulatory clouds hanging over its business.
- Spotify, a longtime critic of Apple’s App Store policies, took issue with the new Apple One bundle, which gives consumers Apple’s streaming music and TV services for $14.95 a month. Spotify, which sells its streaming music service for $9.99 a month, accused Apple of abusing its dominant position to unfairly package and promote its services.
- And Apple immediately raised eyebrows with the launch of Fitness Plus, its new fitness app. That’s because it will compete dozens of other small companies who make training and live workout classes, and who can only reach Apple users through Apple’s App Store (and by paying Apple a 30% fee on any revenue). As Julie Bort points out, Apple is competing with its own customers — on its own turf, with home-field advantages.
- To be honest, it’s surprising that Apple went forward with the Fitness Plus announcement at this time, given the war against its App Store practices that Epic Games is waging.
Of course, this may have felt like a sideshow because Apple’s event on Tuesday did not feature the new, highly-anticipated iPhone. For that, you’ll have to wait until October, when Apple is expected to have another event to introduce its first 5G iPhone.
The iPhone launch is certain to generate a lot more excitement than this week’s event. But no matter what the new iPhone can do, and no matter how much hoopla Tim Cook and company bring to the table, Apple will be addressing a different audience — one with a less friendly view of Big Tech and with many other, bigger issues to focus on.
Facebook is easily bouncing back from boycotts
Kim Kardashian West has stopped posting to her Instagram and Facebook accounts to protest Facebook’s failure to stop the spread of misinformation on its platforms. But she’ll be back tomorrow. It’s a one-day boycott.
And remember that advertiser boycott of Facebook that started in July? Well, they made their point and now Facebook VP Nicola Mendelsohn affirms on Bloomberg TV that marketers are coming back to their favorite platform. Mendelsohn says the big brands have returned because they’ve seen the strides Facebook has made removing hateful content on the platform — except, of course, that notorious Kenosha militia post, or the post by a politician in India’s ruling party calling to shoot Muslim immigrants.
The Facebook executive did note that the company was successfully weeding out 95% of the bad stuff. Maybe for big brand marketers, that’s good enough…
Not necessarily in tech:
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.