Welcome to our weekend Apple Breakfast column, which includes all of the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
The king has evil counselors
There is a centuries-old practice in the UK—and likely in other tinpot monarchies*—whereby canny political operators disguise criticism of the king by instead complaining about his “evil counselors.” It’s a fiction that has been exploited to great effect by a few prime ministers, too, and more than once I’ve caught myself applying it to Apple’s CEO.
Tim Cook is a seemingly transparently decent man. Around the peripheries of his role as Apple boss, he has done some transparently decent things, from championing the rights of gay and transgender people and migrant workers to pushing back against climate skeptic shareholders. But when it comes to the company’s core business, his eye is on the bottom line. He has one of the most important corporate jobs in the world for a reason, which is that under his direction Apple has made and continues to make a metric shedload of cash. And as tempting as it is to assign the company’s less fluffy strategies to an imaginary evil counselor (a profit-obsessed shareholder spokesperson, perhaps), the simplest explanation is that Cook is a ruthless businessman.
Take iMessage, for example–which was in the news this week, when Google took out a massive billboard ad trying to shame its rival into adopting the RCS messaging standard so that iPhone and Android owners can message each other from a position of equality. Now, if Cook’s Apple existed to make the world a better place (as it might occasionally like us to think) this would be a no-brainer. There are technical hurdles, to be sure, but a universal standard across platforms would help people to stay in touch more easily regardless of their choice of device. Apple doesn’t want to, however, because iMessage (and the shaming handed out to Android users when they join a group chat and force everyone to use SMS) is a brilliant way to encourage people to buy iPhones. And Cook’s job isn’t to do the right thing for its competitors, it’s to do the right thing for Apple.
A similar principle applies to the company’s ongoing and multi-front battle against accusations of anticompetitive behavior. Once again, it’s difficult to argue that empowering users to repair their own devices, for example, wouldn’t make life easier for at least some people. But in-house and authorized repairs are a juicy source of income, so Apple resisted the idea for as long as possible and then launched a self-repair program seemingly designed to put people off. Ditto for alternative payment systems and app stores—both things resisted, not because they open users up to security problems (a worthwhile but soluble consideration) but because they undermine valued revenue streams.
On the whole, I’m okay with this. It’s not Apple’s job to make our lives easier. It’s a corporation, whose only jobs are to increase profitability and obey the law. What’s more, I don’t in general trust corporate responsibility: if we want change, why should we depend on the beneficence of some suit? Instead, we should enforce the behaviors we demand from our corporations using the law and the ballot box. Not just because that’s the only language they understand, but because they can’t change their mind when it becomes inconvenient.
The new year is often used as a gateway for change. And while Apple does plenty of things right, we’re hoping that Apple takes this cue and introduces some much-needed changes. The Macworld staff talks about a few things that we’re hoping Apple does in 2023 in this episode of the Macworld Podcast.
Noticed the overexposed raw image export bug in macOS Monterey Photos? Don’t worry, it’s fixed in macOS Ventura.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay Appley.