Good Reads for March, 2016

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of throughly-vetted, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be celebrations of Apple culture, profiles of Apple executives, speculation about future products and services, or some combination of the above. All I know is, you’ll need to bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • While it all sort of fizzled out, coming to a rather lacklustre conclusion, the ongoing battle between the FBI and Apple raised enough eyebrows for further scrutiny. But Apple’s position of respecting civil liberties by enforcing encryption on its devices and the FBI’s request for assistance under the All Writs Act may have only been half the story — beneath the surface, perhaps there was something bigger at stake. Unlike what the FBI were claiming, this was about more than just one device.

But the San Bernardino attack changed the dynamic, ratcheting up tensions that had simmered ever since Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations that the U.S. was collecting Americans’ personal data. Law enforcement officials had long warned that stronger encryption would eventually shut out criminal investigators. Now they had a case with national security implications they could use to press their argument that Apple had gone too far with iOS 8.

  • A profile of Apple CEO Tim Cook, against the backdrop of the Apple and FBI story, frames Cook as the “forgotten favourite son” of a small town in Alabama. It details the story of a boy who understood the differences between the Alabama Governor at the time and President Jimmy Carter, the only openly gay leader of any Fortune 500 company, and now, one of the main proponents of customer privacy in the face of ongoing government surveillance.

Cook’s experiences growing up in Robertsdale – detailed by him in public speeches and recalled by others — are key to understanding how a once-quiet tech executive became one of the world’s most outspoken corporate leaders. Apple has long emphasised the privacy of its products, but today Cook talks about privacy not as an attribute of a device, but as a right — a view coloured by his own history.

  • The numbers surrounding the App Store are pretty incredible. There are very few storefronts that cater to an audience of billions, and to date, Apple has paid over $40 billion to developers since the App Store began. Here’s the thing, though — very few apps make sustainable money. Developers throw out the “innovate or die” mantra a lot, but for some companies, like US-based Pixite, the App Store giveth, and the App Store taketh away.

For all but a few developers, the App Store itself now resembles a lottery: for every breakout hit like Candy Crush, hundreds or even thousands of apps languish in obscurity. Certain segments of the app economy remain vibrant — ludicrously profitable, even. Apps for massive social networks, on-demand services like Uber, and subscription businesses like Netflix and Spotify remain in high demand.

  • April 1st, 2016 marked the 40th anniversary of Apple, and I saw a tweet earlier today which makes Apple one of the younger tech companies out there. Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gasée explains the three Apple eras, stating that we’re currently in the Apple 3.0 phase under the leadership of Tim Cook, and that the Apple today doesn’t lack the challenges it needs to keep things interesting. Oh, and Apple has also published a playlist of music from ads over the years on Apple Music.

In the past 40 years our personal computers have, of course, become immensely more powerful and convenient, but the roots of our interest in personal computing haven’t changed. And, against many odds Apple, has become a giant, world-spanning, immensely rich company.

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