eXtensions - Friday 15 July 2022
Friday Notes: Apple and Wall Street; Toxic Uber, and Fallout for Apple
By Graham K. Rogers
I was expecting top see the updates on Friday (they did not appear), but the chances of early next week are high. Update releases close to the Q3 2022 financial report would still be almost 2 weeks away. There are likely to be other OS updates as some of the features are integrated across platforms. With iOS 16 and the new macOS there will be a lot more of these new features. For example, the new System Settings (renamed from System Preferences) in Ventura, is outlined on MacWorld by Roman Loyola.
That was followed the next day by AAPL: Apple: "Why our inter generational account resumed buying""; and then "Ignore the temptation to buy Apple"". Later Wednesday, there was "Apple rises even as report indicates it has ended consulting agreement with Jony Ive," which, although positive, shows a lack of understanding about how the company has been run for the last few years.
A further article on Apple, left me confused: "Citi cuts estimates on Apple, citing 'macro woes' but offers 5 reasons to buy shares", which sounds to me like backing both horses. The macro woes were perceived supply chain problems: demand and supply.
Earlier that day there was a note on another site about the Apple car, which does not have a steering wheel. During testing this hit a couple of kerbs and just missed a jogger. At least they are not bursting into flames like other electrical cars a point which was also made by The Macalope: Apple tends to test its products before release. And Apple is testing to see just what problems exist - under strict guidelines - before anything hits the market place.
With the Q3 figures soon to drop, there are reports from (supposedly) independent research groups on sales figures. By all accounts (except one) sales of Macs have been going quite well, but as Jonny Evans (AppleMust) writes, "Something doesn't add up in the latest PC sales data." He was alerted to this oddity by a report in Patently Apple which suggested that this sort of discrepancy had not been seen before. There will be minor rounding differences, but the larger differences here are open to some questioning.
Gardner are reporting figures that seem to be on a par with expectations with 8.6% of PC sales, but IDC shows a figure of 6.7% and "reckons Apple's share fell 22.5% since 12-month ago." Evans has gone through the numbers and the IDC figures don't add up properly. He also notes that revenue from chipmaker TSMC is on track, and that usually has some relationship to Apple's output. A further comment was put out by Patently Apple when a 3rd survey, from Canalys, was released putting Apple quite low with the number of shipments, but showing that all the major vendors had reduced growth for the quarter. Perhaps related to these figures (and certainly likely to reflect Apple's results) is a report (MacDaily News) that TSMC profits rose 76% compared with the same quarter last year.
Articles began to appear soon after about the lobbying at Brussels and how Neelie Kroes may be in line for some investigation (Jennifer Rankin, Guardian), but in the light of Brussels waking up to the lobbying risks, it struck me how the EU had looked at sources outside Apple and Google when making decisions about their proposed new legislation to control US tech giants. Both the EU and CMA (UK) had input from companies opposing Apple, particularly Epic, which the CMA report mentions over 30 times. While the UK report accepted their evidence, any comments from Apple were dismissed and this happened several times: they did not readily accept Apple's input.
It would also seem that the US, EU and UK have not taken into account the opinions of several security experts Patently Apple including, "Gen. Michael Hayden and John Brennan, the former CIA directors, along with Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence and NSA director." It was known that Epic Games also spoke at length to Margethe Vestiger's investigation, but it might be useful (in the Uber context) to understand just how these meetings were conducted.
The Guardian explains that when he met their team, "He opened two suitcases and pulled out laptops, hard drives, iPhones and bundles of paper. He warned it would take a few days, at best, to explain everything he knew" (Guardian) That amount of documentation must have taken quite a while to collect. It may be that MacGann was gathering the evidence for more than a couple of years, either as a form of insurance or intending to make a splash all along.
There will be much denial and debate in the coming weeks. "A spokesperson for Kalanick said it would be false to suggest he ever "directed illegal or improper conduct." The documents, the reporting, and what I have read in Super Pumped does not support this. The sense I have, particularly from the book, is that the whole operation was aggressive from top down. A sense from the Guardian documents is how untouchable Kalanick felt he was.
A particularly important insight revealing his arrogance comes from a meeting at Davos with Joe Biden (then VP). I saw this in some of the comments in the early Guardian reports (Monday), but it was repeated on Tuesday: The Uber files reveal that Kalanick fumed when he was kept waiting by Biden, texting other Uber executives: "I've had my people let him know that every minute late he is, is one less minute he will have with me."
MacGann says, "I am disgusted and ashamed that I was a party to the trivialisation of such violence." As he was one of the main architects and operators of some of the events this seems as hollow as those Tory MPs vying for the position of Prime Minister, all calling for change, when they were the same ones supporting the previous incumbent. By releasing the documents, MacGann has made an attempt to put himself on the side of the good guys, but even if this is a Road to Damascus moment and the scales did fall from his eyes, he still carries the weight of responsibility.
Meter taxis and other cars in central Bangkok
She does explain how there has been some recognition and that both court decisions and legislation is bringing change to how these services are regulated. As I mentioned in my first comment on the Uber message release, in Thailand there is work being done on a "new law that regulates such services, the companies and the apps that are used. Company personnel need to be approved, while the pricing is also strictly under control. The proposed law and its pricing structures were described to me as firm but fair."
In Ireland (part of the EU) it is reported that a top Uber figure suggested finding something "amazing" for Shane Sutherland, an Irish European Commission official (Naomi O'Leary, Irish Times). It is also reported that, althouhg it launched illegally in Australia, and was aware of this, "fiercely lobbied governments to legalise its lucrative Australian operations": Launch first, establish a loyal customer base, lobby for laws to be changed; a playbook it used worldwide (Ben Butler, Guardian).
Meter taxis and other cars in central Bangkok
Cash was the lubricating medium. Uber had plenty and the main purpose of this was to gain influence. For example, "Carlo De Benedetti [La Repubblica; L'Espresso], to help gain access to the then prime minister, Matteo Renzi, when legislation affecting the taxi market was being considered in early 2016." The influential German publisher, Springer, was "interested in a small (ie $5m) media plus cash for equity deal" with the key being influence in Germany and Brussels (EU). At a meeting near Munich, "Kalanick indicated he would like Rothermere [Daily Mail], as an Uber investor, to use his political influence to help." Viscount Rothermere has since sold his stake in Uber.
Like Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein was the tip of the iceberg and there is has been a toxic culture at Uber for many years. Removing Travis Kalanick may have begun a change, but in Uber's case the aggression may take a lot more to remove. Apps used by Uber gave an unusual insight into how its customers behaved. The amount of data collected, even after Apple clamped down, was critical to giving the company an advantage, while spying on drivers, and customers alike. For example there are questions concerning how Uber knew that Sir Peter Hendy, who was Transport for London (TfL) commissioner used the app: "The files also reveal how a senior London employee used a surveillance tool codenamed "Heaven" and "God View" to track the journey of a colleague. The app allowed Uber staff to monitor movements of people travelling in an Uber vehicle" (Rob Davies and Rowena Mason, Guardian).
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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