Apple Addressed Spotify’s Claims



Recently, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. Yesterday, Apple posted a statement titled “Addressing Spotify’s claims”. I suspect this will not be the end of the argument between Spotify and Apple.

Apple started by giving a brief history of the iTunes Store and the App Store. After that, Apple begins making a case against Spotify. To be clear, I am personally not on the side of either one of these companies.

What Spotify is demanding is something different. After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem – including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers – without making any contributions to that marketplace. At the same time, they distribute the music you love while making ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians, and songwriters who create it – even going so far as to take these creators to court.

Here are a few key points from Apple’s post:

  • We’ve approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.
  • When we reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 support on several occasions, they’ve told us they’re working on it, and we stand ready to help them where we can.
  • Spotify is deeply integrated into platforms like CarPlay, and they have access to the same app development tools and resources that any other developer has.
  • We found Spotify’s claims about Apple Watch especially surprising. When Spotify submitted their Apple Watch app in September 2018, we reviewed and approved it with the same process and speed with which we would any other app. In fact, Spotify Watch app is currently the No. 1 app in the Watch Music category.
  • Apple claims that Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.
  • The only contribution that Apple requires is for digital goods and services that are purchased inside the app using our secure in-app purchase system. As Spotify points out, that revenue share is 30 percent for the first year of an annual subscription – but they left out that it drops to 15 percent in the years after.
  • “The majority of customers use their ad-supported product, which makes no contributions to the Apple Store.”
  • “A significant portion of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carries. This generates no App store contribution but requires Spotify to pay a similar distribution fee to retails and carriers.”
  • “Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.”

Personally, it seems to me that Apple and Spotify are having a disagreement that does not appear to be something that will end soon. I would not be surprised if the result of this spat causes Spotify and Apple to part ways.


Facebook Had and Outage and No one Cared #1352



Facebook had the biggest outage of its history and no one seemed to care. In my opinion, everyone’s mental health probably improved during the outage. More worrisome is the new cell phone location data proposal of the FCC that will pinpoint your location to within 3 feet in buildings and everything that does not come with any additional privacy rights. I talk about my household shipping concerns and what I have been up to in investigating the shipment of my gear and personal effects out of Hawaii.

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Spotify Filed Complaint Against Apple with European Commission



Founder and CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, posted “Consumers and Innovators Win on a Level Playing Field” on the Spotify Newsroom. In it, he announces that Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC).

Daniel Ek starts by pointing out that his goal for Spotify is to reimagine the audio experience by giving consumers the best creativity and innovation they have to offer. For that to be a reality, his belief is that companies like Spotify must operate in an ecosystem in which fair competition is not only encouraged, but guaranteed.

It’s why, after careful consideration, Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory. In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience – essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition.

Here are some key points from Daniel Ek’s post:

Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple’s payment system, including upgrading from our Free to Premium service. If we pay this tax, it would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music.

If we choose not to use Apple’s payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify. For example, they limit our communication with our customers – including our outreach beyond the app. In some cases we aren’t even allowed to send email to our customers who use Apple. Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades.

Here is what Spotify is asking for:

  • Apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions – including Apple Music.
  • Consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
  • App stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit customers.

It will be interesting to see what the European Commission decides. If Spotify wins, it could open up the opportunity for other app makers, who are not pleased with Apple, to file their own complaints.


Your Flickr Photos May Have Been Used for Facial Recognition



It has become common for people to post selfies, and photos of friends and family, online. Professional photographers who use models may post their photos in an online portfolio. Unfortunately, photos that include people’s faces are being used without permission by researchers who want to create facial recognition algorithms.

NBC News reported that, in January of 2019, IBM released a collection of nearly a million photos that were taken from Flickr and coded those photos to describe the subject’s appearance. According to NBC News, IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition.

I personally feel that there are a lot of ethical problems with what IBM has done. The most obvious one is that it didn’t ask the photographers if it could use their photos.

A company as large as IBM has the money to pay photographers for the use of their photos. Stealing other people’s art is wrong. IBM is also big enough to hire a few people to get consent forms from the people who are in the photographs.

Another ethical problem is that facial recognition software is controversial. It evokes a “Big Brother is watching you” kind of feeling. Personally, I would feel disgusted if my face was used to train facial recognition software.

In July of 2018, the ACLU tested Amazon’s facial recognition tool (called “Rekognition”). It incorrectly matched 28 members of Congress, identifying them as other people who have been arrested for a crime. False matches could result in police arresting the wrong person.

NBC News reported that IBM said Flickr users can opt out of the database. However, NBC News discovered that it’s almost impossible to get photos removed.

Now would be a good time to make your Flickr and Instagram accounts private. Don’t let grabby companies steal your photos and use them in an ethically questionable algorithm.


Twitter Launched a Prototype App Called twttr



Twitter announced the launch of twttr, a prototype app that will allow users to test out new features before those features go live. The purpose of twttr is to enable users to advise Twitter about how to make conversations easier to read, understand, and join.

Those who want to apply to the Twitter Prototype Program can fill out an application form. There are three questions to answer. What kind of device do you primarily use to access Twitter? What primary language(s) do you speak and write? What country do you live in? Twitter will send an email to people who filled out the application form.

To me, the twttr prototype app sounds like a way for Twitter to beta test new features. I’m familiar with video game companies allowing players to opt-in for the opportunity to be invited to alpha test, or beta test, upcoming expansions. This is the first time Twitter has attempted to obtain user feedback before launching a new feature.

TechCrunch points out that twttr was Twitter’s original name. TechCrunch reported that the app will focus on conversations. It will have a different format for replies, with a more rounded chat-like shape. Different types of replies will be color-coded to designate those from the original poster and users you personally follow.

Here is an opportunity for Twitter users to have their thoughts and opinions about a new feature be heard by Twitter. Those who opt-in to twttr, and are invited, will be able to shape upcoming features. Personally, I’m considering checking this out and providing feedback regarding accessibility.


It’s Show Time #1351



Apple is having an event that is entitled “It’s Show Time” which can only mean that it is going to be a media event surrounding Apple TV and there news division. We will likely also get to see details on upcoming iOS releases. Well my travel schedule continues but I should be home for a few weeks. But as I look at the calendar sometime between May 20th and May 24th will be the last live video show from Hawaii. I expect the shipping container to be there at some point around those dates. Then 4 to 6 weeks downtime before we resume live video podcasts in Michigan. So time is quickly approaching for the move to begin.

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All microUSB cables are not the same



This is a salutary warning to all geeks out there….even with all the year’s of experience, it’s still possible to make a rookie mistake and forget that all microUSB cables are not the same.

Last week at work, I needed to present an Android tablet screen via a data projector. The tablet only had a microUSB port, so connecting up directly via HDMI or VGA was out of the question. I’d have to mirror the tablet screen to a PC and then show the PC screen on the projector. WiFi wasn’t available to the PC, so it needed to be a wired connection but fortunately I had a drawer full of USB A to microUSB cables. I connected the Samsung Tab S2 to my PC and got on the with the job.

The wisdom of the Internet suggest that AirDroid was the one to try, so I signed up for an account, downloaded the PC software and installed the app on the tablet. Could I get the tablet to mirror to the PC? Not a chance!

Back onto the Internet, I then discovered that the Samsung tablets have an app for this called Flow, which doesn’t need rooting or developer access. Brilliant. I chucked AirDroid out the window, downloaded the complementary PC software….only to find that it’s for Windows 10, not Windows 7. This isn’t going well.

A bit more research and I further find that Flow’s predecessor is SideSync. There’s an app in Google Play, there’s a download for Windows 7…this is it, sorted….Nah, still doesn’t (expletive deleted) work.

I’ve been at this for hours and at this point I start to blame ActiveDirectory policies but it’s time to go home so I take the S2 home (leaving the USB cable) to see if I can get it to work on my personal laptop. And of course, it works straightaway.

At this point, the penny drops. It’s the bleeping USB cable. The one at work is a “charge only” cable whereas at home I’ve a proper “sync’n’charge” cable.  I’ve wasted half a day because I forgot that not all microUSB cables are the same. Back in work the next day, it’s time for lessons learned and I get the scissors out. Useless pieces of junk.

To paraphrase a European politician, there’s a special place in hell for companies that bundle charge-only cables with their products to save a few pennies.

And Samsung’s SideSync did the job perfectly. Thumbs up!