Apple’s agenda should scare you
Last week, Apple held their 2016 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Like always, it was a smorgasbord of updates to operating systems and apps, developer fandom, and hooplah over Siri’s special powers (now she’ll work across devices!).
Cue the applause.
However, I had this weird problem when I went to stream the keynote. You see, Google Chrome was blocked from being able to watch the event. The website told me I needed to be in the Safari browser on a Mac or iOS device (i.e., iPhone or iPad).
I thought nothing of it at the time; except, “Well, this is inconvenient.” But really, why should I care? I simply switched to Safari and then streamed every remaining second of it. My mind spit out whatever I was doing beforehand in favor of all things Apple. I was jacked in.
But in that moment — that blip of inconvenience due to Apple’s desire to withhold information from any Android or PC user, something distasteful festered. My head kept picking at it like a stubborn cuticle. It felt uncomfortable to be forced to switch. Why should I need to? There’s something arrogant about it. Apple was a pioneer in technology; surely, they knew how to present the keynote address across multiple browsers, right? The intentionality felt hostile — a confrontation to openness in the Internet Age.
The cost of being a user
Many people have talked about Apple as a “walled garden.” What they’re implying is that the company is protective of their devices, operating system functions, and who can play in the iOS world. For developers and consumers, the effects have pros and cons. Apple’s devices are more secure, but they’re also more expensive.
You’ve got to pay up to belong, but membership has its… privileges. The devices are beautiful and the operating system is solid. But paying up – in more ways than one — is quickly becoming Apple’s specialty. For starters, their devices have some of the largest margins in the industry. As most of the hardware industry has dwindled, Apple’s pushed on to become one of the largest companies in the world.
Now, their financial acumen goes beyond the machines they manufacture. About two years ago, the company made moves into the financial industry with Apple Pay. It used to be limited to restaurants, groceries, gas stations, and other retailers that accept plastic credit cards. Those retailers employed Near-Field Communication (NFC) devices that could then accept iPhones and Watches via Apple Pay. Users could rid their wallet of the extra plastic in the process. How easy!
You’ll pay for updates to Apple Pay
This year’s WWDC contained a little nod to Apple Pay in the form of a button that could be placed on websites that accept credit transactions. They dubbed it, “Apple Pay on the Web.” This new button would take the place of filling out forms and spending countless hours of your life punching in 16-digit numbers, expiration dates, CVV codes, full names, addresses, phone numbers, your blood type, your cousin’s maiden name, and your favorite fruit.
Apple’s making a value proposition. Essentially, they’re saying, “We know you value your time. That’s why we’ve created an ingenious solution that’ll solve the hassle and time it takes to shop online.”
Behind this “solution” is a masterclass in consumption. First, Apple Pay will only work with Macs; at least, to start. You’ll need a Mac running Safari. As always, Apple’s computers have a large profit margin built in. That means you’re paying a hefty amount over comparable systems just to pay for things online (are we noticing a consumption loop here?).
Second, Apple is pairing Apple Pay on the Web with iPhones. That phone is going to cost you, as well. Heck, a new iPhone costs about $700 off contract. The phone will be used to “confirm” transactions — press your thumb (or any other digit of your choosing) to your TouchID sensor. Et voila! You’ve purchased… something.
Third, all this “innovation” is to help you consume, to pay more, to think less, to spend more time mashing your thumb against a sensor. It’s made for businesses more than consumers. And while it’s awesome to have autofill forms, instant transactions, and secure payments, shouldn’t we weigh the potential costs of this so-called progress?
Reduced friction = increased spend
The convenience of online retailers contains a risk for some spenders: reduced friction. Friction occurs when you rub your hands together — feel that heat? Friction is the reason I’m burning so much gas in my car, too. Just read the company’s description about Apple Pay:
Customers love the simplicity of Apple Pay, and you’ll love the increased conversion rates and new user adoption that come with it.
Apple Pay for the Web will reduce time spent critically making important decisions that directly affect your wallet. Will you spend or save today? Even more, the method continues to encourage the Apple-everything mindset in the face of lofty price points. They’ve created a system to reduce friction for a small subset of the population — those that can pay up to have at least two Apple-branded products at all times.
Today, I see a modality that shouldn’t be encouraged. For Apple, by Apple. They’re creating a world where nobody else can play; unless, you’re an Apple owner, then you’ll pay.
Another one of the Apple trappings is in the digital media. We have small kids and are building our classic Disney library, a number of which have digital copies. If we ever decided we didn’t want an Apple TV anymore, I don’t know what would happen to that media. I love having it on the iPad for long travel without having to pack up tons of discs, but we will likely always have an iPad just so we can keep the convenience of movies on the go. A 10 hour drive with a three year old is so much more enjoyable if she has movies and games, and we’ll pay and keep paying for that luxury.
> Another one of the Apple trappings is in the digital media. We have small kids and are building our classic Disney library, a number of which have digital copies. If we ever decided we didn’t want an Apple TV anymore, I don’t know what would happen to that media.
Have you not heard of Disney Movies Anywhere? You can sync your Disney purchases with iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, and Microsoft Movies & TV. Bought Star Wars on iTunes and want to watch it on an Android tablet or Xbox? No problem at all.
Mark Vaske says
Kirk beat me to DMA, though I will add that Netflix also has exclusive streaming rights for Disney titles which may be an alternative through purchasing each movie on any one platform.
The obviousness of Apple’s financial agenda has always been one of the most alarming things for me, and by the looks of this it is just continuing.
I much prefer the freedom (and cost effectiveness) of other systems (no particular brand allegiance either, although Samsung have probably been the pick of the Android bunch in recent years which is why my current gear is from them).
What also gets to me about Apple Pay is that it came very late to the party – android phones with NFC payments (and compatible visa payments from banks in the UK) were around before the 2012 Olympics, but a lot of people just didn’t seem to be aware of it.
This article is pure garbage. Apple’s event stream using HLS (http live streaming). It was developed by Apple, but it is an open standard. Instead of blaming Google for not implementing this open standard, you attempt to vilify Apple? Really??
Also, you use ApplePay if you already have an iPhone. It doesn’t cost you extra. This article is very misinformed and attempts to put a ridiculous spin on reality.
Sam Lustgarten says
This is an important comment. Wish it was a little softer delivery, but hey, I can’t always get what I want.
HTTP live streaming is a great software initiative. But Apple has not continued to advocate for its use and development. Apple’s reasons for making software “open” are not always for public good, but to get public feedback in their own protocols for their own development. That’s sort of a twisted viewpoint on open web standards.
And you’re right. If you own an iPhone and a Mac, Apple Pay for the Web won’t cost you another dime.
Mary Lohmeyer says
I have always found Apple to be over-rated and too pricey, not to mention too proprietary. Anybody that knows how can fix and upgrade a pc/Windows or Linux device but Apple stuff has to go to the Apple shop or a store that has geeks certified by Apple. I can fix and upgrade my own pc, thank you!
The brand is supposed to personify cool, hip and progressive but since I don’t give a spit about that, I go with plain old fashioned pcs and with Android devices. Almost all Android apps are free.
I bought a refurbished LG w/Android Lollipop 5.1 and it seems to work fine for me. I don’t need the latest, priciest thing. I only need something that works.
I have two nice cameras for taking pictures (a Nikon and a Canon) and I really prefer that to phone photography. My Nikon is recent enough that it can upload via wi-fi or USB to Instagram or other such web sites. I also have Photoshop and a whole load of wonderful filters such as Topaz, so who needs the in-camera apps on a phone camera?
And the hackers have gotten wise to Apple and it’s being more secure and more and more bugs are aimed at that OS.
Mark Vaske says
I disagree. Yes there is definitely some platform streamlining but there’s a few things missing in your argument. The keynote is free to watch on YouTube soon after the HLS livestream, though Apple doesn’t use YouTubes proprietary implementation of live streaming and instead use their own (technically open) live streaming solution (though I see you question the motivations Apple has for making open sourced software as only for their own benefit). Every company streams on their own format (Google, Facebook, Twitter, popular blogs) and each one of them makes open source code to strengthen their respective platforms. It would be foolish not to!
As for why Apple Pay is proprietary and (currently) requires an iPhone, it is more about security than it is about speed. Using your iPhone with a built in secure enclave chip to store payment information locally and a second factor of authentication via Touch ID is why that device is required (just as it is for the Apple Watch). Future Macs will more than likely add Touch ID and a secure enclave chip of their own rather than store some of the most sensitive and personal information somewhere that is accessible to those with ill intent. In a world where identity theft and consumer data breaches are all too common (you and I don’t even hear about most of them because they’re on too small a scale to be reported) this is an important implementation for consumer data protection! Every company should be building these secure systems but most are too cheap to show any regard for consumer data protection in the least (I’m looking at you ATMs and Target cash registers using Windows XP). This costs banks, companies, and consumers billions of dollars!
But why not use an “Open Web” standard to easily and securely authenticate web based payments? Well because the open web hasn’t figured that out yet. Instead we have more proprietary systems like PayPal, Amazon pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Venmo, Square, Stripe (the list goes on and on). Most of these track your purchases and sell that information to advertisers on top of taking their percentages per transaction. The “open web” has come a long way but browsers still have areas where proprietary code is used. Believe me, I deal with it daily. Sometimes web applications and pages are built for IE and it’s proprietary frameworks, or for Apple’s open source WebKit or proprietary features built into Safari. Sometimes pages and web apps are built on things that have been implemented in plugins made specifically for Chrome or Firefox, or sometimes software features that are in “pre standard” status that have only been implemented in a few browsers, as browser makers move at different speeds to add upcoming standards.
So, does Apple Pay add value to the Apple platform and reward customers that live on that platform? Absolutely, adding valuable convenience features to your platform make your customers more loyal, because leaving your platform means leaving behind certain conveniences. You may choose to do so if giving up some of those conveniences lets you leave behind parts of the platform you dislike in favor for a platform you deem a net gain, but you can be sure that Apple, as well as every other tech company, is constantly scrambling to build lock in via unique functionality to impress customers. Apple has long used control of their hardware and software as a major differentiator; they tout it constantly. It is an advantage that makes them money because of features that they can add like Apple Pay that require both parts of the technology to implement rather than relying on a third party OEM or software maker. Certain protocols will never be able to be “Open” if they require both the hardware and software components because very few hardware components become a ubiquitous standard (and aren’t available in devices built before that standard became ubiquitous). And those that do age and evolve and usually require new hardware (which isn’t about consumerism, its about refining and improving hardware capabilities). And we aren’t even in the stage where standardization of this sort of technology has been considered, because there are few companies even implementing it at this point. Even the new card security measures requiring updated terminals and chip and pin cards that were supposed to be implemented last October do not have a single standard, and many of those are not yet fully functional if they are even in place.
Finally, your concern about the removal of friction, I definitely agree that it removes friction. But I don’t know that I agree that the friction it is removing enables or prevents consumers from purchasing goods. If you are at the stage where something is in your cart and you are going to checkout, you are probably beyond the point at which you are going to change your mind about making a purchase. While digging out a credit card and entering around 50 – 100 characters in a form (which is often already negated by this information being saved in a browser or merchants autofill function) may provide you a small amount of time to change your mind, most people probably won’t. I don’t recall ever leaving many checkout pages incomplete (though cart conversion rates are definitely a thing). If I make it to checkout, I intend to purchase as I would assume most people do. I would argue that it is in the moments before this that people need to have better planning and self control. Though the internet has made the speed at which someone can purchase a good blindingly fast, it is still on the general consumer to spend their money wisely. Expecting capitalists not to be capitalistic is unrealistic.