Backstage – Episode #3

Hey, is that Burt Reynolds?

and other hot takes from Apple's March 2019 keynote

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Our hottest of hot takes right after Apple’s March 25th special event. We discuss the tough questions: Do people care about privacy? Will we subscribe to Apple News+? How much will Apple Arcade cost? Is Visa cooler than MasterCard? Are there any takeaways for developers? Is that Burt Reynolds?!

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Big day today, Apple’s special event, March 25th, 2019. We like to take things from a developer’s perspective, so when we cover all this different stuff we’re always thinking about it from our audience, which is developers. We’ve got Apple News, we’ve got Apple Pay, we’ve got Apple Car, we’ve got Apple Arcade, Apple TV, Apple TV+… Lots of stuff to talk through.

I think the biggest thing for me, Jerod, was just privacy, across all these things, aside from obviously Apple TV+, because hey, that’s just content, but… Whatever.

Yeah. Well, Apple has been selling big on the privacy front - security, privacy… These are things they think consumers want. In my case, they’re right. I don’t know about you…

I would agree, yes.

Today, more than ever, I think privacy is a big thing, and I think – who were we having a show with…? We were talking about how we’re training our privacy for convenience all the time, but we’re starting to see the – maybe it was the BAT show, with Brave (the Basic Attention Token), talking about how people are starting to really value privacy more than they did maybe 3-5 years ago, just because of all of the leaks and all of the shady tactics of large tech corporations around the world. People are starting to value privacy more than they used to, and Apple is well-positioned to provide privacy, because at the end of the day – well, now they’re a services company, but for a long time they’ve been trying to sell you hardware, not sell your data to other vendors.

I think it’s important too for them in particular to have this be a named thread across all these things, because it sets a tone for other companies when they launch things to make that a feature. They’ve made privacy a feature, basically… And I think that’s really interesting, because like you’d mentioned, a couple years ago we didn’t really have that much concern for it. I don’t think because we truly had no concern, but because we assumed that these companies were for us, not against us… And in some ways, they are for us, because they want more engagement, but they’re against us in the fact that they take what’s ours, make it theirs, and sell it, and never include us in that process, or make us aware.

Right. Well, we’re included, but it’s buried down in the end user license agreement, and we are unbeknownst to us thinking we’re getting free service, and as you and I both know and as probably most of our listeners know, when there’s no price on the service, then you’re not the customer, you are the…

The product, that’s right.

…the product, exactly. So these are things that we’ve been well aware of for years now, and I think are trickling down into the mainstream, and people who value their privacy tend to be interested in what Apple has to offer; because of the way their business model is set up, they are well-positioned… So yeah, as they move into services, they are very much stressing privacy and curation across all these - Apple News, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple TV, Apple TV+, like you said…

Let’s talk about Apple News+, because this is something that – I don’t know, do you read Apple News? Do you launch the News app?

I used to, actually. Small story there - like anybody, whenever you’re bored, you usually grab your phone and you grab a small handful of favorite apps. These are mine: Instagram, YouTube… I don’t do much posting on Instagram, but I do a lot of reading of it; so I still catch up with people, but I’m a lurker. So my swipe left used to be my finality of it, like “Let me catch up on some world news real fast”, and News would be right there on that swipe left.

Recently I watched a minimalism video from a guy on YouTube named Matt D’Avella; shout-out to Matt if he’s listening… If you’re a listener, that’s awesome. But he was like, “Here’s how you make your phone not distract you, basically.” So at his advice, I took that and removed that and other things from your swipe left… So long story short - I used to.

[00:04:11.20] The big difference now from the previous Apple News… “Long story short, I used to…” [laughter] I like how you like to give the long story, and then you give the TL;DR.

That’s right, yeah.

You could have just started there, and it would have saved a few minutes, but I wouldn’t have that context, so I do appreciate that… But I mean the big news is they’re adding magazines in a subscription. So they’re bringing the magazine back… Over 300 magazines. The guy actually slipped up in the presentation and said 3,000; I was like, “Whaa…?” Then he’s like, “Hold on… It’s only 300.” That was one of the funnier moments of this particular presentation. A $999 a month – gosh… Now I just did it.

There you go.

3,000 magazine for $99/month… No. 300 magazines currently, for $9,99/month. Apple News+, all of the things you kind of expect from a magazine. I think somebody in our Slack community was saying it’s kind of like the old Newsstand merged into Apple News. But they’ve got a lot of magazine there, all the ones you’d think of: Wall Street Journal, which is a thing you’d subscribe to on its own; L.A. Times, so there’s newspapers, which has its own separate subscription… It’s all bundled in. I saw Wired in there, Vanity Fair, the Time Magazine, the New Yorker etc. Pretty much all the magazines you’d expect are there… But is this exciting? Is this something where it’s like, “Oh, finally, I can read magazines on my phone”? I don’t know, I feel like I’m over magazines. I feel like the only time I care about a magazine is when I’m sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or something.

I thought about that, and I thought something similar aside from the doctor’s office, but… I think what we miss is we’re just fed news. News typically follows the crowd. News happens on Twitter, news happens on Facebook, and what they’re actually calling us to do by doing this is say “Okay, take a step away from those things and get emerged in stories… Not just simply news.” So I think if we can get the Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times, or even like The Verge piece they did on the people that do all of the monitoring for Facebook, that kind of big exposé kind of thing - I think if we’re seeing this as a platform for those kinds of magazines that do that, then what you can do is really just take a step away from what I would consider maybe distraction media, and kind of move it towards attention media, where it requires you to truly disable other things and focus on this, and read a 15-20 minute multimedia kind of experience. I think that’s kind of interesting. I don’t see it as being very mainstream. I think it’s particularly positioned towards iPad users, because the screen is bigger, but…

Exactly.

I mean, when they led with that, I was like “Really?” It’s cool, but… Really?

A couple of things there, maybe on the production or the business side, as well as a little bit on the developer side… So I do wonder how as a creator, like if you think you’re working for Wired Magazine, how the actual production of these magazine assets that get shipped into the news app work, and if they’re going to be very similar to whatever the spread that you would do for the magazine itself, like the layout there, and the artwork, and all that… Obviously, they have more stuff because it’s digital, and the part that you liked was the live covers, where they have this Parallax effect, there’s video integration… It’s kind of this idea of rich media experience, which Apple has been kind of promoting for years now, even with the iBooks author, and with their iBooks… None of it has really – I don’t know, it hasn’t been like a huge hit. I think it’s solid…

[00:08:10.11] I know there’s lots of people who have complained about how it’s difficult to produce good iBooks using the iBooks authoring tooling, and all that… I just wonder how that works with Apple News magazines for the people who are putting those things together, and then also how Apple is going about the personalization and the curation, because because of the privacy thing, they’re saying “Hey, we don’t know what you’re reading. We don’t let advertisers track anything in Apple News, but it is personalized and it is curated based on your likes”, so how do they accomplish that? And it sounds like that on-device machine learning, where everything is localized, it never hits their servers - which they’ve started doing I think in iOS 11, or at least promoting it back then… And it seems like it’s working.

The question was, you know, Google’s fashion of personalization, which is ship everything off to Google servers, that’s where the best machine learning can happen, because they know the most about you… And then ship the answers back - versus Apple’s style. The question was “Can Apple actually deliver quality curation with on-device only machine learning, versus having this huge amount of knowledge about you?” I’d say so far it seems like they’re doing a pretty good job of it.

What makes you think that? What makes you think they’re doing a good job? Is it because you see it personally?

Yeah, I use the Apple News app on my phone, and I’m generally pretty happy with the stuff that they feed me. I don’t always read it all, but… Maybe five years ago you’d have these recommendations, especially Netflix recommendations, before the algorithms get real good, where it’s like “Why do you think I would like this…?” And that’s usually the moment where you notice the recommendation engine, is when it fails… But when it doesn’t fail, you don’t really notice it; you’re just like, “Oh, this looks nice.”

I would say Apple News has pretty much done a good job of recommending things that I would be interested in reading, based on whatever they’re currently using - the stuff I’ve read before… Well, it says they don’t know what I read; I guess it’s just stored on my phone, what I read. So yeah, just from personal experience, it just seems like it’s working pretty well, but… More mileage may vary.

Maybe the interesting thing there I think is this sort of edge device privacy thread that’s across all of these things - Apple Pay, Apple Card, Apple News+… These are all sort of on-device machine learning, plus, as you’d mentioned, this curation based upon your previous… This seems to be – as you mentioned, Google is sort of following in Apple’s footsteps with some of the stuff as well, but it all goes back to this more powerful chip. What was on the new iPhone? This Enclave thing… What’s that again?

There’s a Secure Enclave. There’s actually a chip with – not TensorFlow. Or maybe it is TensorFlow. The TPU – no, that’s Google’s thing. M12? I don’t know. I can’t remember what it’s called. They had an actual machine learning named chip on-device, but I can’t remember what it’s called.

Well, I think they have this notion of the Secure Enclave, which is where it stores your face ID, your touch ID, things like that, about you… All of your secure stuff. That’s powered with this on-device machine learning.

A12 Bionic, I’ve found it. The smartest, most powerful chip in the smartphone. It has a built-in neural engine etc. full-on chip, and it’s really focused on those particular CPU-heavy tasks… Yeah.

[00:12:01.29] This is interesting about Apple - they wanna be a privacy-focused company, as a brand… But it requires, in their case, the way they deliver products, particular hardware, and in this case technological breakthroughs, in this kind of device, to have that many chips and that much smarts behind a smartphone. Without this technology enhancement, they couldn’t be - well, I’m sure they could be, but they would just be a little further behind - the company they wanna be. So on the iPhone, on the iPad - each was there. Now, what I didn’t hear was how that affects Apple TV… Because I’m not sure what Apple TV has for machine learning, or this other stuff; so it wasn’t a case played there, but they mentioned of the Apple Arcade, where… Hey, I just wrote “privacy” again, and I’m like “No… Hey, this is the third time we’re hearing about privacy.” Third new thing, third time they mention privacy as a feature… You know, you’re just seeing this marriage of a company’s desire, and it requires hard work, it requires technology advancements, it requires a particular perspective when it comes to respecting your customer, too.

Absolutely. Let’s put a bow on the Apple News+ discussion with saying a little bit more – well, we’ve got some answers here, but there’s some open questions, especially on the production side. Is this good or bad for journalists, for newspapers, for magazine companies, on the long run? We’re not sure. There’s been talk that maybe Apple was forcing a 50% take. It’s a $10/month subscription and it’s gonna divvy out based on how much time you spend reading these particular publications; you know, who gets what kind of money, is this gonna work out well, is it gonna save journalism, is it gonna squash journalism?

We’ve seen this before with Facebook and instant articles a couple years back. That ended up being kind of a deal with the devil, so to speak, from the publishers’ perspective, because it was not a thing that saved journalism. Many publishers, I think, have regretted getting involved… But everyone’s on board here. So that’s left to be seen… I don’t know; I don’t know how it’s gonna play out. The question is, I guess, from the consumer side, $10, Apple News+, 300 magazines - are you gonna subscribe to this? Are you gonna add this to your bundle?

Well, I will say I would if I was an iPad user. I don’t think I’ll probably do it on the phone. I could be swayed there, maybe a month free, which is great… So I could be swayed during these first 30 days, but at this point I’m saying “I don’t think so.”

Yeah. One cool note about it - they’ve had this across a couple of these announcements, “No extra charge with family sharing”, which is kind of cool.

Yeah, super-cool.

I’m an Apple Music subscriber for $10/month, but then to add Rachel and the kids to have access to that, it was $5 extra. So I paid $15 to get the family onboard. So hopefully that’s a shift, and that will eventually get removed from Apple Music as well, because… You know, it just feels like they’re nickel-and-diming you, when it’s like “Hey, I’m already subscribing to this thing.” “Here, give us another $5 to get access for everybody.” It’s like, “Come on…”

Right. I think it’d be different too if I was actually reading these magazines, or have read them subscription-wise in the past.

Yeah. Here’s why it might get me… I’m not excited about the magazines, I don’t think I would really read them. I do like to flip through a magazine every once in a while, but I read their websites; I like Wired.com, for example. That being said, I had almost considered subscribing to the Wall Street Journal a few times this last (maybe) 18 months, where they just – I’ve been linked to them enough times where I’m like, “Man, maybe I should just subscribe to this”, because it’ll have a lot of the synopsis, and you can read the takeaways, but the details are behind a paywall… So I’ve almost subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. And if I get that for free as part of this, bundled into that, for $10 plus all the other stuff, plus it’s an easy one-click, added to my subscriptions - hm, I might give it a shot.

So Apple Pay - the big news with the new Apple Pay stuff is Apple Card. Apple Pay, they give a bunch of stats - 10 billion transactions this year, so it seems like it’s gaining adoption. 70% merchant penetration in the United States. Not quite as good (I don’t believe) in Canada, but there’s some places where it integrates much better with their current infrastructure. It has even better than that penetration… But they’re adding their own Apple Card, which is a collaboration with Goldman Sachs on the back-end… This card is pretty compelling. What do you think?

Apple Pay or the card?

Apple Card, yeah.

The card is amazing. They actually have a physical version of it, too. They started out with software, which is pretty awesome, and the fact that you can just literally go into the wallet app and apply right there; you don’t have to wait for the card to get to you, like any other traditional credit card. So they started out the demonstration describing this software-based version of the card and how they’re changing things, but then they turned it on the fact that “Hey, there’s sometimes that Apple Pay is not an option”, and that’s fine; they understand that it’s not gonna be an option everywhere… So instead, they give you this physical card. It’s a titanium card. There’s no number, there’s no signature, there’s no CVV, there’s no expiration date… It’s literally just a card with an Apple logo on it, and I believe your name was on it…?

Yeah, it’s etched in titanium. Something classic Apple, right?

Right. I mean, I want…

You want the card.

I just want the card. [laughter] I still use physical cards, which is cool; I don’t mind it…

So that’s my first thoughts on it - the moment I can apply, I’m gonna get one. The other side of this is Mastercard… I don’t know about you, Jerod, but my bank will often send me an offer and it seems awesome, and then it’s like “Oh, it’s a Mastercard”, and I’m like “I’m not even gonna get a Mastercard, because… Mastercard isn’t cool. AmEx, Visa - those are cool brands. Mastercard is not a cool brand.”

Do you think Visa is a cool brand? I’ve never had that thought once in my life. AmEx I’ll give you, Discover maybe, because they’re more exclusive, they have their own deals going on… But to me, Visa and Mastercard are the most interchangeable, “who cares”, “I have no allegiance to them whatsoever” brands.

Yeah. Well, what’s the difference between a Visa and a Mastercard? There’s zilch.

Well, I’ll tell you. A Visa is everywhere you wanna be.

So is the Mastercard. Anywhere that takes Visa, they take Mastercard.

That was tongue in cheek, because that’s their tagline, but I think…

[laughs] Hold on, I’m googling Mastercard’s tagline…

They probably are more interchangeable. So I guess that basic question, “Why did they choose Visa?” Was Mastercard their first choice, or was it because Mastercard would bend to their will?

Who knows…? This is the inner machinations of large corporations, and who knows how certain deals go down and why. You can go back to the iPhone and say “Well, why did it roll out on AT&T and not on Verizon back in the day, and the reason was because Verizon wouldn’t bend, and AT&T would, so Steve Jobs got his way. Why is it Mastercard and not Visa? Who knows… I don’t know. Maybe for that exact reason; maybe Visa wouldn’t bend, Mastercard would. That being said, having an Apple card would be cool, but Mastercard - everyone’s got one of those.

[00:19:57.00] Maybe it’s something that everyone can really identify with, is when you read your credit card statement, and you’re like “What the heck is that?” They’re using machine learning in their Apple Maps to reduce the obfuscation of their merchant names, which is like “Hey, this is literally the 7-Eleven on the corner” versus whatever it might be…

[event audio playing in the background] Whoops… I just reloaded the event, without intention. Sorry.

That happened to me… Nobody got to hear that, but that happened to me, too. I just left it open, and it replayed again after a bit. So your lag was about five or ten minutes after me, which is kind of interesting.

Hilarious.

But yeah, machine learning in maps to make merchant names more readable in a statement is genius.

That’s a great idea. So I guess the idea there is I go to the Kwik-E-Mart on the corner and I buy some milk, and later on I’m looking at my statement and the Kwik-E-Mart is owned by some other company, or whoever runs that transaction, I see a bunch of gobbledygook, plus like “Mart-mart” or some terrible thing, and I’m like, “What? Why did I spend $5 at some random place? I don’t even know what it is.” But they’re gonna actually use – I don’t understand where the Maps comes in; machine learning + Maps, they definitely said that.

Well, the Maps is the location part of it…

So they’re gonna know where the transaction happened then?

From what I could tell, one, it comes up in text. It says “7-Eleven, so-and-so city”. But then I believe you can click on it and it will show you not only the transaction information, but the location of where you spent the money at.

That’s a cool feature. That’s a very cool feature. So a couple other features of the card, just for those who didn’t get to watch it… It’s feeless, first of all. So no fees. I think that’s a big seller. It’s integrated, of course, as only Apple can, tightly into the iPhone and Apple Pay. You can get set up in minutes, you can just click through and apply, and just right there you’re accepted. And then it’ll do the cashback.

That’s really interesting, honestly.

The cashback is 3%, 2% and 1%. Yeah, the way they’re executing it is unique and compelling. 3% back when you buy stuff directly from Apple, 2% back anywhere that you use Apple Pay, and then 1% back when you fall back to the physical card… But the cool thing about it is that they do the cashback daily, versus some sort of monthly or quarterly cashback. So at the end of each day they just redeposit the cash right back into your Apple wallet.

And like she said too in the presentation, that’s actually cash. I can give it to you, I can use it in other ways; there’s not a limitation with how I can use or you can use this cashback. It seems logical, and it actually is.

[laughs] Yeah, that’s right.

Leave it to Apple though to execute on logical.

Yeah. I think this will be a pretty big deal, and I think a lot of people will have it. One thing about the – we were talking about the uniqueness or the cool factor… The iPhone has always had a cool factor to it. One of the things that people think is cool is a level of exclusivity, or making them different, and over time the iPhone is so successful that everybody has one. I don’t mean everybody globally, but just the generic – it’s not exclusive, it’s mainstream. And if you think it’s not mainstream, just go to a public place and wait for Marumba to play, or just turn on Marumba, and play it and then watch everybody check their phones, because they’re thinking they’re getting a phone call, you know? So I wonder if the Apple Card will have a similar effect, where it’s like “Well, it’s so easy to get… I just open the Apple wallet and I apply and I get my Apple card for free.” Maybe it won’t be so cool. What do you think?

Well, I think the accessibility definitely is good credit, I would imagine.

[00:24:02.13] Yeah, that’s true. One thing to talk about is how do they actually give the percentage, what’s the interest rate? They didn’t talk about any of that. It’s just based on your credit, right?

Yeah, they didn’t say interest rate at all.

No, I think it’s variable depending on the person’s credit; that’s the way they made it sound.

But not, they didn’t say it at all. They said it’s gonna be lower than everybody else’s, but…

Depending upon the approval process - there’s a lot of p’s in that sentence I just said there… So depending upon the approval process - to say it twice - as you said, the cool factor could be a line drawn of like, not so much just good credit/bad credit, because that’s kind of how it is anyways. If you lay down an AmEx, it usually says something about you that’s not said if you just hand out a Discover card. So there’s something that’s said just based on the device or the thing you’re using, just like an iPhone. If you’re using an iPhone over something else, there’s a certain cool factor; but as you mentioned, it’s become more mainstream, so it’s more common now. I think now the cool factor might be the latest iPhone; so if you have the latest iPhone, you remain cool-er… And maybe that’s the case with this Apple Card with titanium.

I guess you wouldn’t know that you’re using an Apple Card unless you’re using the actual titanium card. That would be where the cool factor comes in, because otherwise… I don’t know what card you use to go shop at the Kwik-E-Mart, I don’t care… But if I’m at dinner with you and you lay down this titanium Apple Card…

Slap down my titanium Apple Card…

I’m like, “Dang, Jerod…” like, that card has no number, I wanna hang with you.

That card has no number, no signature, there’s no CVV on the back… Which we joke about, but that’s actually pretty cool for security though. As we said, the titanium card is just your name and a chip. That’s all there is on it.

And so if somebody steals it or if you leave it at the Kwik-E-Mart, or something, less chance of information leak. The three-digit code isn’t on the back, etc. There’s no expiration date on it… So a thief or somebody who finds your card won’t have all the information they will need in order to use it at a lot of places.

Do you know anything about the technology behind the security chip?

I know that it was slow, and they’re making it faster… [laughs] Does that count?

Like, if you were deep enough into credit card theft hackerism, could you get my card if you were skilled enough and extract information from the chip?

I think you could. I don’t think you could extract all the information that is on the card, but I think you could – I mean, there has to be devices that can read the chip, right? That’s what all these devices are. So you would have your own hardware that would be able to read whatever the chip is there to display. Now, I know there’s [unintelligible 00:27:13.27] and there’s one-time use codes that happen with these transactions, so… I’m not sure exactly how much you could get off, if you could replay it, those kinds of things; I know that they’re way more secure than they used to be, than the swipe… Because the swipe was really just an obfuscated number, basically… Whereas these chips - there is a live communication back and forth on the payment network, with unique, one-time use strings and whatnot… Which is why they were slow at first, because it’s like, “Well, you’re at a Kwik-E-Mart, with a dial-up connection to a thing, and it’s gotta go back and forth five times…” They’ve started to make that process much faster. I don’t know the technology behind it, but I’m pretty sure if you have hardware access to it, plus your own – like, you’re a cracker who has means and you have your own hardware, I think you could probably get at whatever information is necessary.

[00:28:08.18] I guess the good thing though is that it is just that one thing on the card, aside from your name. So your name plus that chip is the only thing that sort of identifies this Apple Card as different from yours and mine. The difference is the name and the chip…

Right.

…not the CVV, and the stripe on the back. Because right now your common credit card has a stripe on the back which has information on it, and then it also has - which is older technology - the secured chip, because you have to have two ways, and there’s a transition period between old way to new way… And you’ve got all this other information - this CVV code, and the name, and the signature… I don’t know about you, but I always wrote “See ID” on the back of my cards. I never actually put my signature there.

I used to do that as well, but nobody would actually ask me for my ID, so it just… It was dumb. I just stopped.

Well, sure, it’s dumb, but it also means that your signature isn’t on it.

I don’t sign it either. I’ve never signed them.

Really? Okay…

It seemed dumb. I was like, “Why would I put my signature on there?” I don’t know, the whole thing is foolish, because then they have you sign a thing that says you’re paying for it, but – what, are you gonna go match that against the signature you have on the database?

[unintelligible 00:29:18.13] “You can’t have this thing.”

I mean, people just put a squiggly there, and it doesn’t matter…

I don’t know about you, but when I actually sign for a credit card, I actually do – well I shouldn’t tell everybody that…

Tell everybody. Tell us what’s your CVV.

One unspoken thing so far was I saw Kevin Ball perk up whenever this was mentioned was the transits accepting Apple Pay.

Yes, that’s cool.

So you’d mentioned how you just used Apple Pay for the first time recently.

I have, yeah. At [unintelligible 00:29:51.29]

I would put you in the early adopter camp, right? Or the early majority, at least.

It’s probably early majority, yeah.

Yeah, yeah… Which is terrible it’s so many years later. I’ve been using Apple Pay for a while, and I think the reason why I don’t need more is because I – I don’t know. I just don’t know why. I literally don’t know why I don’t use it anymore.

I’m not socially conditioned to do so. I’m socially conditioned to reach for my wallet and grab a credit card and swipe it. I’m not socially conditioned to hold my phone up to the thing. And because it’s not universal, I’m like – I don’t wanna ask somebody if they accept it, because then I feel like a d-bag, you know? I don’t know, it just feels socially awkward. And then the cashier, sometimes they don’t – like, when I’ve tried it, it’s like they don’t know what I’m doing; or they do, but they’re looking at me like that… I don’t know, it just feels weird, because it’s not the way everybody is doing it.

So what you’re saying is it’s not cool.

No, it’s not that it’s not cool, it’s that it’s socially awkward at this point for me.

Well, that’s not cool.

Okay, then it’s not cool.

[laughs] Yeah.

It makes me feel less smooth than smoother… The whole point being I’m trying to smooth out a process. That being said, when I do use it…

It’s easy.

It is fast. And I think, “Oh, good thing I crossed the social weirdness and tried this, because hey, it was a lot faster.”

I think I would use it - and I have used, or let’s say actually I do use it - in places that make that process smooth. For example, when I go to Whole Foods, it’s natural there because they are already asking me to get out my phone to scan my prime membership, to get my discount. So I’ve already got my phone out, and to take the next step and pay with Apple Pay is a no-brainer.

Have you ever used the watch?

I haven’t used the watch yet.

See, again, with the watch - I feel like it would be not cool, because I’m not sure how to do it with the watch, and I’d be fumbling around… I think you’re supposed to hold the crown, but I’m not 100% positive.

I have no idea…

Do you know what I do know how to do? Get the credit card out of my wallet and swipe it through a thing, so I’ll just keep doing what I know.

That’s right.

[00:32:08.16] But it is cool it’s being added to transit, especially if you’re trying to get onto the subway real fast, and you’ve just got your watch on… And it’s not like someone’s standing there watching you, and it’s socially awkward; it’s just faster and easier. I think that’s cool.

What’s cool too is Portland and Chicago and New York City - these are the places they’re launching in in the U.S. These are all cities that their inner cities totally rely upon public transit like that… So you’ve got lots of people probably wasting lots of time recharging, charging, getting new cards…

I remember when I went to Seattle… We spent so much time in line to get a one-time use card to take the metro, or whatever it was. We probably spent 25 minutes in line with our son, who needed a nap… We were traveling parents, basically; it was terrible.

In a world where you’ve got Apple Pay, you’ve already got the necessary thing and you’re swiping and you’re moving along. If that was a thing there, we would have been on our way. We literally stood in line for like 25 minutes to get a one-time-use card that cost us like $4 to do the travel. It was just terrible.

You almost sound like the movie theater guy there… “In a world, where you have Apple Pay…”

That’s right.

Let’s talk Apple Arcade. This was for me the most exciting part of this event, and the coolest thing talked about, and the one that left the most question marks, because… Coming this fall, no pricing info - come on, y’all, tell us what’s going on here. But a subscription gaming service for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV etc, synchronized across that, and it’s specifically for the indie game devs who have been making amazing games for iOS and haven’t been making amazing money for iOS, because the ones who make all the big money are the free-to-play dinging you for in-app purchases over and over again games… Not the ones that are truly great games.

So Apple has come out and said “We are backing the development”, so they’re actually partnering with specific small-game developers, they’re financially backing the development of these games. They all come as part of a subscription package that’s called Apple Arcade, and it looks like it’s gonna be really good. I’m pretty excited.

That one – I can’t recall the name; I was trying to write the names down and watch at the same time, but the Japanese name (I believe it was Japanese), where they actually build live sets, real sets for the games, they take photographs and they do 3D art on top of the real photos - that to me is the kind of thing that I can see Apple backing, and for once, the kind of game I wanna play, where there’s so much richness in how the games develop, not just the gameplay… You know, to go to that kind of length as an artist, to think through that, and to just use these small world sets - that to me is just super-awesome.

And that’s what really sets these games apart, is their art. Previously, for a little while you could make a good living on the app store, making an amazing game like – is it Monument Valley? I’m just losing words…

That’s one of the ones they mentioned in their list…

Although I feel like I got the title slightly wrong, but…

Monument Valley is right.

I’ve got Stardew Valley in my head; that’s a game on Nintendo Switch… Or Alto’s Adventure. Games like these. But it’s just gotten harder and harder with so many – they said 300,000 games in the App Store? And so much riskier. Pretty much coming out with an awesome game, putting two years of your life into it, and charging $4.99 on the App Store - that worked back in 2010 and 2011, but it just doesn’t work anymore. There’s way too much risk. These are like starving artists, the people who continue to invest in the platform and do these amazing games…

[00:36:09.24] So it’s really cool that Apple has taken the risk off of the developers, and hopefully they’re financing them upfront, as they work on these things. I think it’s going to really leave a – I don’t know if “legacy” is the right word, but it’s gonna produce a lot of these awesome games, and I’m super-excited for that.

Also playable offline too, which is kind of getting into some of the features part of it. No ads, no other purchases are required, as you mentioned, playable offline… So you don’t have to be connected to the internet to play. I assume you can do that. It’s like airplane mode. “Hey, I’m in airplane mode. I can’t play this game because it requires some sort of communication.”

Privacy, again, was in the feature set. I don’t know what they said about that, I just wrote it down; I’m like, “That’s amazing.” I guess they’re not watching what games you’re playing, I don’t know… What did they say around privacy?

Yeah, basically everything is on the device; they’re not sending anything back up. There’s no ads, there’s no tracking, there’s no in-app purchases…

Family sharing again, that’s amazing…

Yeah. The only problem is what’s this gonna cost, and when is it gonna be available? They’re gonna launch with 100+ new and exclusive games… So it’s interesting timing here, because Google just announced their game subscription Stadia service, which is somewhat like a merge between a Twitch competitor and a Steam competitor… Interesting stuff going on there, but everybody trying to get into the games market, and it seems like Apple has mostly ignored or just kind of let it be on iOS, and now really embracing it. I hope they come up with an actual controller for the Apple TV, because then games would be cool on Apple TV…

…but no pricing. So what’s it gonna cost…?

Well, I think that’s really interesting, what you mentioned there, because the controller, the game platform to compete with is Nintendo Switch, in terms of how mobile it is… And what they’ve said in this experience was that you can play a game on your Mac, stop playing on your Mac and go to your iPhone or to your iPad or whatever and pick up right where you’ve left off… So it’s very much like what the Switch is trying to do, except for they’re missing, as you mentioned, that hardware, which is the first-party controller. And if they – I don’t know if there’s any patents around the way the Switch works, but if they can essentially replicate what the Switch does with an iPhone, and let that be the platform, I think that’d be pretty cool.

You’ve gotta imagine there’s plenty of patents around it, but yeah, absolutely…

Something’s stopping them.

Yeah, for sure.

One thing it did say though was it’s a miracle for game developers.

That’s what the Japanese fella, who’s doing the – one of the developers said that, right? It wasn’t like Apple called it a miracle for game developers; it was an actual game developer that said that.

Right. Because they were in a market where they had to compete with free…

Exactly.

And as you mentioned, pouring so much into a game, they can’t not charge something for it, because they have to have some sort of guarantee that they’ll succeed, and their pricing model is also based upon how many they think they can sell… So all of those economics really hinder these indie developers.

Well, they absolutely do. And as a person who enjoys these games, and goes on the App Store and looks at games, and has the means to buy a three-dollar-game, a five-dollar-game, heck, a ten-dollar-game - pretty much whenever I wanted to, I could do that. Financially, I wouldn’t miss my rent or my mortgage… I still don’t really buy that many games for the phone, because there’s no try before you buy; even though it looks great, the reviews are great, I don’t love just sitting there and reading reviews… And then you just kind of pay that four bucks before you know if you’re really gonna love it. So even the person who is a consumer of these kinds of things, I don’t buy very many of them. Maybe one or two a year. And I’d love to play more games on my phone… But if I had a subscription that was just always on, and just auto-bill me every month, I wouldn’t think about it twice; and I had complete access to all these games.

I think they’re gonna not only make more money as game developers, they’re also gonna be having, I believe, more people playing their games than are now, which ultimately as an artist that’s what you want - people benefitting from your work.

[00:40:38.18] Right. What I see happening here is Apple now developing subscription services around marketplaces. That’s what they did with News - it’s a marketplace (for a lack of better terms) for distributing and consuming news; now they layered on a subscription to it. Same thing with Arcade. Arcade is essentially a subscription service laid on top of the existing app store, which was a marketplace. Same thing with Apple TV is happening there… I think that’s an interesting business model to establish a platform, a marketplace, and then find ways to curate the best of the best, and in this case in particular, potentially back the best, or back the best like they’re doing here. We haven’t really talked about Apple TV+ yet, but that’s the same thing they’re doing there - they’re literally throwing lots of money into this.

I think one piece that hasn’t been underscored enough is exclusive - it’s what they said about Apple Arcade; these are games you can’t play anywhere else. This is content on the future Apple TV+ that you can’t watch anywhere else.

Yeah, absolutely. I start to think about these things - we see Amazon making similar moves, Google… All of the big tech companies are making these moves, and a lot of these moves are anti-competitive, in many ways. You create a marketplace and then you wait and watch what’s successful, and then you create a service around successful things in that marketplace. That’s kind of shady, in my opinion, and I think probably in the opinion of legislators, as things continue to advance… Not all sunshine and rainbows. That being said, it is consumer-friendly. It’s not great for business competition, but it is consumer-friendly, at least in the short-term. Same thing with a lot of the moves that Amazon makes… So I just wanted to throw that in there.

I do think the exclusives are really what they’re going after, and with Apple TV+ this was probably like the second half of the event - basically them strutting out Hollywood star after Hollywood star who are on board, partnering with Apple, to make exclusive content for Apple TV+, which is another subscription coming this fall, which I believe they also did not announce any pricing around.

They didn’t announce any pricing around it, but they say “It’s more than entertainment, it’s cultural.” That was what Tim Cook said about Apple TV, and Apple TV+ in particular.

I think it was pretty interesting, the fact that in traditional fashion, they didn’t just say like “Hey, here’s so-and-so from within Apple…”, not that it’s a bad thing, but like “Here’s legit stars from this world of Hollywood that have and are investing.” Spielberg was the first person out. That’s pretty amazing. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell - they came out, and… I love the way he was even self-deprecating, and his humor; it was pretty cool, the way they even came out… Very similar to Saturday Night Live, or something like that, where they were just sort of themselves, in their character.

What’s funny is I heard the description of the Morning Show - that’s the show those three are doing on Apple TV+. I just heard the description a few weeks back, and I was like, “Meh. Okay.” But then I saw Steve Carell and the two of them on stage - Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston - and I thought “I wanna watch this show. This is a show that I actually do wanna watch.” I think for me at least it was effective as an advertising platform. For what these exclusive cultural things are, it looks like some pretty decent shows that they’re putting together.

[00:44:27.18] Yeah. The Morning Show reminded me of Newsroom, which was on HBO. Andrew Sorkin I believe it was… I don’t know if that’s his name or not, but Sorkin for sure is his last name.

But it’s not Andrew.

Amazing writer, phenomenal with dialogue. Just a phenomenal writer…

Aaron.

Yeah, that’s right.

Aaron Sorkin.

That’s right, sorry. I knew it was Sorkin though. And that show was amazing… Not that this has to be a repeat of that, but I was sad that it was just a three-season show. I wanted more, badly. I would have punched the wall for more, or something like that. I wanted it bad.

[laughs] I did enjoy that show. I like Aaron Sorkin quite a bit. I think this one will be –I think Steve Carell was kind of in character there. I think it’s going to be that with a little more of a comedic bend, like maybe merge Newsroom…

Like Anchorman?

Well…

Not that far, huh?

Maybe not that far. I would say if you merged The Office with Newsroom, you got the Morning Show.

Because Jennifer Aniston - she can be very… I mean, of Friends she’s very funny as well. Reese Witherspoon has done a little bit of comedy… So I think there’s gonna be more lightheartedness. Newsroom was very serious most of the time…

Very serious.

Yeah. I hope it’s good. I think it might be.

The funniest side too is Steve Carell was in Anchorman.

That’s right. “I love lamp.”

I love lamp… [laughs]

Didn’t I just say that to you last week at some point?

Yeah, it was a good one. It was a good one.

And then they rounded it all off with Oprah…

You start with Spielberg, you end with Oprah.

That’s right.

That’s a pretty solid line-up at that point, right?

I don’t know really what to place this as… Is this a Netflix competitor? Or is it original content competing as – I’m confused.

I would think of it more like an HBO competitor.

Okay, that’s a good point. Yeah.

Because Netflix does have – I mean, it’s the similar production value of a Netflix original, but Netflix is just going so much for breadth. The shotgun approach. They’re spending way more money than everybody else. They have so many shows… If you pay close attention now, most of the stuff in my Netflix list is Netflix originals, and it’s like every single niche they’re gonna dive into and they’re gonna actually fund production… Whereas HBO is more like “We think everything we’re gonna do is a hit, we’re gonna put a lot of money behind them”, but it’s more selective, less breadth. That seems like what Apple is doing, kind of like picking one show in each category, versus just replacing all your television channels, like Netflix is.

Obviously, developers watch TV, so how do we round this back to developers? This one in particular. This seems the farthest away from – I mean, I watch a movie, you know…? There you go. That’s it.

[laughs] Do not subscribe to this, or you won’t have any time to write code. You will just be watching Oprah and Steve Carell, and these awesome shows, all day. You can’t develop anything, you’re right. I don’t know…

[00:47:43.00] You could split up the Apple TV announcements into what we’ve just talked about, which is the content, Apple TV +, and there’s also the Apple TV software. On that side, we see a few things going on… Remember there’s the Apple TV itself, the product, the hardware, which has the tvOS, so there’s the OS on which the apps run… Then there’s the Apple TV app that runs on that OS - that’s confusing - and that’s really where all the announcements in software happened today, was in the Apple TV app itself… And they’re really remaking it, in a certain degree stealing a lot of ideas from Netflix, by the way, with the Skip Intro and the trailers right there as you scroll, those kinds of things… And they’re expanding it beyond the Apple TV hardware. So coming soon the Apple TV app will be on your Roku, it’ll be on your Samsun Smart TV, it’ll be on your Amazon Fire TV Stick, which is very interesting.

So there’s some software side there… I’m not sure there’s moves that developers can consider with regard to that, unless you’re writing Apple TV apps, but…

Or I guess working for one of these… Yeah, exactly.

One thing they’re promising with the Apple TV app - and as you said, it is confusing, because you’ve got the hardware, and then you’ve got the app, and then you’ve got the actual OS, which… Whatever. And you did mention in our notes here that Netflix, of course, was limited, or not mentioned. All channels, essentially, you can jump from within this Apple TV app; you have control over all of your different subscriptions within this thing, versus having to jump from app to app to app to enjoy this content, which I think is pretty cool.

You know, the natural thing here is that in order to launch this sort of Apple TV+ move, it would only make sense for them to want to have the biggest and most widest distribution, so I’m really curious of the behind the scenes conversations that happen with Samsung and Amazon in particular, and maybe even Roku, because somehow they have to all play nice… And you’re essentially letting the enemy behind the gate, to some degree. I don’t know, is it a world where they can play nice together? I guess we’ll see.

Yeah, we’ll have to find out.

I hope so.

Or is it more like Game of Thrones, where everybody’s gonna end up dead at the end.

Well, the problem with this is we get into this “Everybody has to die in order to succeed”, like there has to be somebody at the top of the mountain, and everyone else has to be scurried along the hillsides, dead… And I just don’t think that’s the case. You want competition, but you also want tact, I guess, in your approach towards it. I don’t have to kill you, Jerod, in order to succeed… I don’t think. I sure hope not. Because if so, then we’ve got problems, bro.

Well, when you’re talking about people’s time and attention, and you’re talking about it at the scale that they are, Netflix wants all of your time and attention.

Apple is starting to want a slice of that. Amazon wants that. And Facebook wants it. So they really are playing a zero-sum game across these different areas of our lives, and it doesn’t seem like any of them are happy to only have your – we’re here to provide you the best mapping experience ever, and we’re just happy being the best map, or we’re here to be the best TV channel, or we’re here to be the best operating system. It doesn’t seem like any of the big players in our space – they don’t have any tact; they’re going for the zero-sum “We want it all”, and that’s… That’s interesting to watch. I do think it’s problematic on the long-term, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

[00:52:01.24] And yeah, having the Apple TV app on an Amazon Fire TV Stick, you can’t help but think “If I want access to all my Apple stuff, but I don’t wanna spend 200 bucks on the Apple TV, why wouldn’t I spend $20 or $30 on a Fire TV Stick and just use the app?” So it seems like in that regard they’re kind of shooting themselves in the foot on their hardware sales, potentially…

Well, I don’t think so.

…because why buy the Apple TV anymore, when you can just buy the Roku?

I’ve got two letters for you.

Well, actually two characters. 4K. That’s why. I don’t know if the Fire TV Stick – I don’t know it well enough to know if it does… That joke or that statement could fall flat on its face; somebody tell me if I’m wrong…

Keep talking and I’ll tell you while you talk here…

So I’ll back that up with “If it does do 4K…”

It does. I just found it.

…then I imagine the Apple TV might do it better because of the firepower behind the software, and the hardware behind it. Because it takes a lot of megabits per second to – it’s a high-resolution, high framerate, all that good stuff… I would imagine it takes a lot of processing power.

Well, the Amazon Fire TV Stick - on their homepage, it says “HDR. The most powerful 4K streaming stick.” So this is their $49.99 offering, literally one quarter the price of the Apple TV. Surely, we can go to Tom’s Hardware, or the Verge, or these different websites and find out which one actually works best and which one actually gives the best quality and whatnot, but I can’t help but think that Apple is losing in regards to this category… And moving their software onto the other devices seems like maybe a consolation that they’re losing.

Well, I think it’s kind of a smart move, because… I mean, I’ve got a Sony TV in my living room, and the operating system behind it is Android, highly Google embedded into it… But at the same time, connected to that TV I have an Apple TV. So I would potentially opt for the app, if the user experience was just as good, and it was speedy and not laggy, and that kind of stuff.

Now, the other thing with an Apple TV that we use a lot is - this is so cool; I don’t know if that many people do this, and if you do, I wanna hear about it… We went to Monster Jam about three weeks back, we took our son there; I don’t know if you know about Monster Jam. Do you know what that is?

Is it a monster truck rally?

It sure is. Amazing.

I guessed.

It’s a lot of fun. You’ve got Grave Digger, and my son loves this stuff, so he’s really into it.

Oh yeah, Grave Digger always wins, right?

Yes, and he’s actually really good, too. He’s a really good driver. So you’ve got these weird parents who seem to wanna record everything. Well, I’ve learned to record everything too, except–

To be weird as hell… [laughs]

…except that I’m not doing it like take photos of my son, it’s more like I capture our experience, and then I play it back… And as you know, you’ve seen my media room, upstairs. So I airplay – that same night of that weekend we’ll go back and we’ll relook at all of our photos, and our videos… That’s where I think an Apple TV really shines, because you can easily stream from your iPhone your photos, your videos, all that good stuff.

Yeah, airplay is awesome.

We get to spend the better part of an hour just re-sharing and re-enjoying those moments, and getting deeper into it. We were on the train at the zoo recently - I know this is going a little far, but this is super-cool… I pulled out my phone, recorded it, because I know we had fun in the moment, and it was too easy for me to stay engaged and be present; so I wasn’t not engaged and not present because I was recording… I just held up my phone and got what we got, and when we got back to the house, I was like “Dang, we can actually re-ride this train”, because I took the video of it, which was pretty cool.

[00:56:09.16] How long was that video? Like 30 minutes?

About two minutes. Two and a half minutes.

Oh, okay.

It was a little zoo train, nothing major. Just a quick lap around the zoo, maybe two and a half, three minutes.

Gotcha.

We got to see some city in downtown Houston, all that good stuff… You know it’s just like micro-moments that you can capture and replay. That’s where I think the Apple TV is a winner, to be able to cast stuff from my Apple devices. And even presentations - Heather does stuff at the house with Bible studies and whatnot, or her oil committee is coming in, and all that good stuff… We’ll put the presentation up on the TV, and she walks through it, super-easy. That’s what I love about the Apple TV’s - it gives you an ability to broadcast stuff; they’re not just simply consuming content, but also watching your own content.

Let me say two really quick things about this and we’ll call it a conversation… About the software specifically. We mentioned that they seem to be taking – we’ll be gracious and say they’re taking some cues from Netflix as user experience, and they’re building them into this central TV viewing experience on the Apple TV app. The big one is the Skip Into button, which is - let’s just face it - the best button that Netflix has ever added to their UI.

Oh, yeah.

So on the Apple TV right now - I don’t know if you watch Amazon Prime shows, but the Amazon Prime app on the Apple TV is not anywhere near as good as the Netflix app; and it’s not nearly as good as the Amazon Prime app on the iPhone, which is actually a pretty decent app. So the Amazon Prime app on the Apple TV does not have Skip Intro. So I guess my assumption - I’m not sure, but I think building this in at the Apple TV app level, and then having all these channels of which Amazon Prime is just a channel… I can still watch my Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from the Apple TV app - does that give me the Skip Intro button on other channels, that previously wouldn’t have had it? I hope so… How do they get that done? Because you’ve gotta have some metadata to get that done. So that’s a thought… I hope it does. That would make me very happy.

And then my last thought, talking about the Amazon Prime app, because we’re just software nerding out here for a moment…

Have you ever watched the Amazon Prime app on your phone?

Have you seen the X-Ray feature?

It is the coolest feature. At any point that you’re watching something on Amazon Prime on the Amazon Prime app on your phone, if you just hold your finger on the screen, it will show you who’s currently on the screen, the actors playing the roles…

And it’s dynamic. It changes as they walk on and off camera. It’s amazing. It’s the coolest little thing, because you see somebody and you’re like, “Hey, is that Burt Reynolds?” and you’re like “I’m not sure.” You hit that, and it’s like…

Sure, it is Burt Reynolds.

Yeah. And it says who he’s playing. Sometimes it’ll say the location where the scene was shot, stuff like that… So there’s all this little extra information that they surface when you turn on the X-Ray. It’s just a really neat feature. I don’t know how they accomplish it actually, because it’s gotta be metadata on maybe like a second-by-second basis, because it changes based on who’s currently on camera. It’s super-cool, check it out if you haven’t yet.

[00:59:52.21] I wonder if it’s a second pass on like, just a point Because you do this – it’s called tracking whenever you’re doing stuff in After Effects or whatever, you can mark an object and attach text to it, or an effect, or whatever; you can track a subject. So I would imagine, similar to the way they do camera technology, when you pull out your phone (even your iPhone), it’s got facial recognition, it can recognize the faces. I would imagine there’s probably some (like you said) metadata attached to that.

Well, that’s one thing I was thinking at first - maybe there’s metadata, but maybe there’s facial recognition that’s happening, computer vision, and when you pause it, it just scans the current image and matches them as fast as they can.

So you have to pause it to do that?

Well, when you do hold your finger over the screen, it stops the playback and shows you this overlay. Then you let go and it starts again. It’s like a modal - when you go into X-Ray mode, it does pause playback, and then you let go and it starts it again… Which is what you want anyways, because you don’t wanna be missing stuff when you’re reading about the location. So I thought maybe they’re doing the current screen, and they’re just really quickly applying computer vision to it, and then matching on what the metadata - maybe the cast metadata, with their face profiles, is part of the file, or something… I don’t know.

But then I started thinking, well, it actually even works when they’re facing sideways, or having a mask on… Things where this person’s barely even in the screen; how does it know this person that’s on-screen…?

Does it matter which content it is, meaning like is it Amazon content, or third-party content?

Good question. I think the one where I was really watching it - it’s an Amazon show.

That might be it then.

What’s the show…? The one with the Nazis and the…

Man In The High Castle?

Yeah, The Man In The High Castle. That’s the one that I was watching where I noticed it. And then Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it also worked, but those are both Amazon properties, so…

It could be an Amazon thing, but… You got me curious now what the tech behind that might be if it’s not the case. If it is content at large and they’re doing that, then I really wanna know… Because if you can’t see their face, how can you software-wise recognize…?

Exactly.

…unless you know scene-by-scene, or at least between takes (I don’t know) what characters are on the scene, you know what I mean? There’s probably some layer of that data, but to have it ubiquitous, to offer that feature to everything…

Yeah, and I should try it in a few different circumstances; I bet it would be Amazon-only, because I think there’s probably necessary metadata, but… Hey, how about this - if you do know how that works and you’re listening to this, or if you work at Amazon in the Prime area, or know somebody, we would love to learn how this works… This is a very cool thing. If it is computer vision, it’s a very cool use case, that kind of surprised and delighted me when I did it… Because you trigger it by accident. You trigger it by trying to pause the scene, and you’re like “X-Ray… What is this?” So we would love to learn more about it, and maybe bring somebody on the Changelog… Just the technical details of how that gets pulled together - I think it’s fascinating.

What’s a good takeaway for developers for these announcements today?

Just wait till the fall, it’s gonna be awesome. [laughter] Privacy is important, and we should all have our own little platform that we can monetize and create services on. [laughs]

Create marketplaces, and then curate services on top of those marketplaces. Boom. Go do that.

Boom. Go and do likewise.

Changelog

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