Tales From the Orchard: Apple Just Made Safari the Good Privacy Browser

 

By Lily Hay Newman of Wired.com

APPLE ANNOUNCED A slew of new software features at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including an augmented reality upgrade and animojis that can stick out their tongues when you do. But the company’s latest desktop and mobile operating systems contain a more subtle, yet more radical, innovation. The newest version of Apple’s Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook.

The next version of Safari will explicitly prompt you when a website tries to access your cookies or other data, and let you decide whether to allow it, a welcome step toward explicit choices about online tracking. Safari will also make a dent in defeating the so-called “fingerprinting” approach, in which marketers use publicly accessible information about devices—like the way they’re configured, the fonts they have installed, and the plug-ins they run—to assign them an individual, trackable ID. In macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Safari will scrub much of this data, exposing only generic configuration information and default fonts. The browser will also stop supporting legacy plugins. The idea is to make your Mac indistinguishable from millions of others, muting the fingerprinting effect.

“Data companies are clever and relentless,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said on Monday, explaining why Apple pushed to add these features. The company calls the set of tools “Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0,” and they feature WebKit changes, like eliminating a 24-hour grace period that gave trackers a day of cookie access.

The new version of Safari will also help improve password hygiene by offering to generate, autofill, and store strong passwords. It’s a well-intentioned approach, although one that can be problematic depending on how it’s deployed. The browser will now also audit password reuse to try to discourage people from using the same password for multiple services—a crucial way consumers can reduce their risk of being impacted by data breaches.

The antitracking features continue Apple’s assault on ad tech; last year’s Safari update prevented video and audio from autoplaying, and the then-nascent Intelligent Tracking Prevention Webkit tool worked to identify and block tracking cookies. This year’s updates, though, take things a step further by significantly expanding the tracking techniques Safari can block or warn users about.

Apple’s not the only company to toughen up its browser against privacy and security menaces. As with Chrome’s Do Not Track mechanism, Apple seems to have based some of the new Safari protections on research from Mozilla, which offers its own protections in the Firefox browser. In February, Chrome also started offering native ad-blocking measures to bring more comprehensive protections to users based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. There are also browser plugins like Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and Adblock Plus to help stymie various tracking techniques. But Apple’s efforts in Mojave and iOS 12 appear to be the most prominent and comprehensive yet.

Though the new privacy mechanisms will potentially hinder all sorts of tracking, Apple specifically called out Facebook’s massive ad network—which is known for employing an array of user tracking strategies, like its ubiquitous “Like” buttons. In one of the slides depicting an example of how Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 will work, Apple’s Federighi showed a Safari page open to Facebook with a popup notification reading “Do you want to allow ‘facebook.com’ to use cookies and website data while browsing ‘blabbermouth.net’? This will allow ‘facebook.com’ to track your activity.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from WIRED for comment, and the platform is certainly not the only large ad network incorporating these techniques. But it’s a prominent player that has received extensive criticism for letting a variety of user data tracking tools run rampant. The company’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos noted on Twitter that it doesn’t seem like the new Safari will block tracking pixels or Javascript components, which are notorious for being exploitable as trackers or by bad actors for malicious activity.
Stamos seemed more focused on blasting Apple’s attempt to single Facebook out, but it’s true that this generation of Intelligent Tracking Prevention will inevitably have limitations. It’s difficult to fully block online tracking methods without also eroding website usability, and different privacy initiatives have approached dealing with this conflict in different ways.

“The consent popups will be a big deal to people. It’s more visual so you know that they are attempting to track you versus it just happening in the background silently,” says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. “I guess the real test will be how well these measures work and how advertisers and trackers will react.”

Google and Firefox already offer plenty of solid ad-blocking and antitracking mechanisms, and offer a host of other features that may make them more desirable than Apple’s browser. But if privacy matters most to you, it might be time to give Safari a try.

What’s your preferred browser or method for protecting your privavy online? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: Apple confirms WWDC 2018 keynote livestream

At WWDC 2018, Apple will show us the future of iOS and its other platforms.

 

Didn’t get manage to grab a ticket to WWDC 2018?

Don’t worry. Apple will still give you a front row seat to the keynote on June 4th.

Apple confirmed this afternoon that it will provide a live stream of the WWDC 2018 keynote on its website, the WWDC app, as well as on Apple TV. Even if you’re not a registered developer, you’ll still be able to watch.

Press invites for the June 4 keynote were sent out today. Cult of Mac is on this year’s guest list, so we’ll be live blogging all of the action from ground zero at the San Jose convention center. Apple didn’t provide a live stream of its event in March but did upload the video of it later in the day.

 

What to expect at WWDC 2018

WWDC 2018 is expected to include the unveiling of iOS 12, macOS 10.14, tvOS 12 and watchOS 5. Other rumors have suggested that Apple may unveil new hardware such as new MacBook Pros, or possibly an iPhone SE 2.

Developers that aren’t able to make it to WWDC 2018 will also be able to watch the engineering sessions later online and through the WWDC 2018 app.

What do you hope to see at WWDC 18? Sound off in the comments below!!

Tales from the Orchard: What would Steve Jobs think of today’s Apple?

 

Originally posted on ZDNet

Steve Jobs was never one to leave anyone in any doubt as to what was on his mind, and thanks to hundreds of hours of keynotes, speeches, and interviews, we can get an insight into what he might think about the current state of the company he founded.

 

Still no next big thing

“One more thing…” — Steve Jobs

No quote excited Apple fans than this one. Those three simple words launched a number of world-changing Apple products.

 

Lack of focus

“Focusing is about saying ‘No.'” — Steve Jobs

The iPhone started out as a simple idea — a device that reinvented the smartphone. All a buyer needed to do was decide how much storage capacity they needed — 4, 8, or 16 gigabytes — and they were an iPhone owner.

Jump forward a decade and buyers are faced with eight different iPhones in numerous storage capacities and finishes.

 

AirPods

 

“The problem with Bluetooth headphones is that it’s not just recharging your iPod, you have to recharge your headphones too. People hate it. There are quality issues — the bandwidth isn’t high enough, and even if it does get there some day, people don’t want to recharge their headphones.” — Steve Jobs

While there’s little doubt that Bluetooth is now more than capable of delivering crystal clear audio, Apple’s solution to how to charge the AirPods would have no doubt upset Jobs. Not only do AirPod owners need to pop the AirPods into a case to charge, they also have to remember to charge up the case itself!

Dongles, dongles, and more dongles

 

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” — Steve Jobs

Apple is clearly on a mission to simplify its Mac lineup, and one way it wants to do that is by eliminating as many ports as possible and standardizing on a single port where possible, as it has done with the new MacBook Pro.

Problem is, while one port might work for the iPhone and iPad, when it comes to a computer it’s a real pain, and it forces many users to carry with them an array of different dongles and accessories (such as this Satechi Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 combo hub) in order to be able to get work done.

Dumb solutions to simple problems

 

“You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog s— for frosting.” — Steve Jobs

Apple employs some of the smartest people on the planet, and the company is capable of doing wonderful things.

But it’s also come out with some howlers. For example, the battery case for the iPhone that has a charging indicator on the inside where you can’t see it. Or a rechargeable mouse that has the charging port on the bottom. Or a rechargeable pencil that has a tiny cap that’s easily lost.

These are just the sort of design howlers that you don’t expect from Apple.

Bogged down iOS

 

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs

When the iPhone was unveiled a decade ago the operating system (then called iPhone OS, the iOS name didn’t appear until 2010) was sleek and simple. Everything was a couple of taps away and the user interface was intuitive and a snap to use.

Fast-forward a decade and things have changed dramatically. While iOS 11 retains some of the look and feel of the early iPhone OS, Apple has bolted on, shoehorned in, and otherwise added to the mobile operating system so much that the once elegant and streamlined platform has become a kludgy and awkward mess.

Notification panels and popups litter the interface, gaining access to often-needed features now require users to memorize a number of different gestures, and the Settings app is now a mess to rival the Windows Control Panel at its worst.

Siri is still so dumb

 

“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” — Steve Jobs

Apple acquired the technology behind its Siri voice assistant back in 2010 and integrated the technology into the iPhone 4S in late 2011, and since then it has spread from the iPhone to the iPad and the Mac.

But over that time Siri has gone from being “Wow!” to “Meh.” Put Siri in a room with Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now and you quickly discover just how dumb and gimmicky Siri actually is. The voice recognition is poor, and the range of things you can do, and the flexibility to ask questions in a natural way, is very basic compared to other voice assistant offerings.

Apple’s massive R&D budget

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” — Steve Jobs

Apple’s R&D budget has increased over tenfold since the iPhone was released in 2007, and yet the company hasn’t come up with anything that comes close to the success of the iPhone.

Apple Pencil

 

“Who wants a stylus. You have to get ’em and put ’em away, and you lose ’em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.” — Steve Jobs

I know many would argue that the Apple Pencil is more than a stylus, but many of problems with the stylus — finding it, putting it away, and losing it — haven’t really been solved by Apple.

The iPad’s rapid decline

 

“What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes.” — Steve Jobs

The iPad was Apple’s plan to disrupt the tablet market and put a stepping-stone between the iPhone and the Mac. And it looked like it would work. But in seven years sales have gone from showing strong growth initially to hitting a peak a few years back to now a rapid decline.

It could be said that the problem with the iPad is that consumers and enterprise buyers have lost interest in tablets, and that it’s only natural that sales would tank. But in that case how has Apple managed to keep Mac sales strong in the face of horrible PC sales, or managed to return the iPhone to growth?

Evolution over revolution

 

“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes.” — Steve Jobs

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of incremental, evolutionary updates from Apple, ranging across hardware and software, but there’s been little in the way of revolutionary changes. Certainly nothing that compares with those big gambles that Apple took while it was under the leadership of Jobs.

Following, instead of leading

 

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” — Steve Jobs

Apple used to look forward, but now the company feels like it is increasingly looking sideways at what its competitors are up to, in particular the premier Android device maker, Samsung.

Samsung has a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” attitude when it comes to hardware, and over the past few years we’ve seen Apple take a similar approach, especially with the iPhone. Some of these moves have been successful (for example, it’s clear that there was indeed a pent-up demand for larger and more expensive iPhones) while others have flopped (the iPhone 5C springs irresistibly to mind here).

 

Share your favorite Steve Jobs comments in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard:Apple’s iOS 11.4 update with ‘USB Restricted Mode’ may defeat tools like GrayKey

The iOS 11.4 beta contains a new feature called USB Restricted Mode, designed to defeat physical data access by third parties — possibly with forensic firms like Grayshift and Cellebrite in mind.

 

“To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must connect an accessory via Lightning connector to the device while unlocked — or enter your device passcode while connected — at least once a week,” reads Apple documentation highlighted by security firm ElcomSoft. The feature actually made an appearance in iOS 11.3 betas, but like AirPlay 2 was removed from the finished code.

The change blocks use of the Lightning port for anything but charging if a device is left untouched for seven days. An iPhone or iPad will even refuse to sync with computer running iTunes until iOS is unlocked with a passcode.

USB Restricted Mode may be intended to impose a seven-day window on when digital forensics specialists like Grayshift can break into a device, at least using any simple techniques. Those firms will often employ a “lockdown” record from a suspect’s computer to create a local backup of iPhone data, skipping passcode entry.

iOS 11 already has some restrictions on lockdown records, namely automatic expiration, and full-disk encryption that renders them useless if a device is rebooted. The 11.3 update shrank the life of iTunes pairing records to seven days.

ElcomSoft suggested that connecting a device to a paired accessory or computer could extend the Restricted Mode window, and centrally-managed hardware may already have that mode disabled.

“If the phone was seized while it was still powered on, and kept powered on in the meanwhile, than the chance of successfully connecting the phone to a computer for the purpose of making a local backup will depend on whether or not the expert has access to a non-expired lockdown file (pairing record),” ElcomSoft elaborated. “If, however, the phone is delivered in a powered-off state, and the passcode is not known, the chance of successful extraction is slim at best.”

The exact details of the hacking techniques used by Cellebrite and Grayshift’s GrayKey have been kept secret, so it’s possible they may still work after iOS 11.4 is released. The companies could however resort to more extreme methods to get at data, such as removing the flash memory from the devices, copying them, and using the copies to attack the password.

 

What do think of Apple’s move to thwart hackers and the FBI? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: How Apple Killed Innovation

 

 

 

By Simon Rockman of Forbes

Mobile World Congress 2018 was strange. All the innovation was in the network side, handsets have become boring. While those touting 5G were talking about network slicing, full duplex radio, millimetre waves and massive MIMO, the handset folks seemed to think a better camera, smaller bezels and painful emojis were in some way special.

Phones were not always like that. Back before Barcelona it was the 3GSM, which those of us on What Mobile Magazine called the Cannes Phone Festival. Each handset manufacturer had something new and exciting. Maybe it was the 8810, Razr or P800, all fabulous innovative phones. Sometimes it was the N-gage, V.box or Serenata. At least they tried.

But somehow there is the Orwellian myth that Apple invented the Smartphone. Indeed there was a recent BBC radio documentary charting the need to de-tox from smartphones which said ‘now the country which invented the smartphone is working on the cure’. I did a triple-take. Was the BBC saying that Apple invented the smartphone? It was, so Radio 4 was wrong, but America did invent the smartphone, it’s just that the SIMON was an IBM invention. So the BBC was right, but didn’t know it. SIMON was the first ever smartphone, with predictive text and a touch screen 13 years before Steve Jobs sprinkled marketing fairy dust over an overpriced 2G phone with severe signalling problems, broken Bluetooth and the inability to send a picture message.

Nothing in the iPhone was something which hadn’t been seen before, it’s often seen as the flagbearer for the devices we have in our pockets, and maybe it was: Apple showed that marketing was more important than technology. The mobile phone industry is suffering the consequences, not only has Apple sucked all the revenue out of the rest of the industry it imposes huge technical challenges by ignoring standards.

I work at a mobile network which doesn’t sell Apple products and yet we’ve had to spend a huge amount of time and money making sure that our customers don’t get corrupted messages when they are sent from an iPhone.

We went from a world of bars, flips, clams, sliders and rotators each with a design language where you could spot the manufacturer from styling cues to a world of two designs. Phones that looked like an iPhone and phones that looked like a Blackberry. Now all phones are just black rectangles.

Apple charges operators through the nose. It’s taken all the portal revenue and now no-one makes any money out of devices so there is no fundamental research done. It all comes down to what Qualcomm and MediaTek tell the manufacturers to make. Testing phones is hard, very, very hard and it’s about to become many times more difficult with 5G where the complexities of mmWave testing mean you can’t use cables and all testing has to be done over the air in an expensive-to-rent anechoic chamber.

So everyone plays it safe.

 

It’s not like the ideas are not out there. Plucky Brit start-up Planet Computers has built the Gemini  , The gestating Monohm Runcible , and there are some amazing concepts like the Arcphone which is inspired by the Motorola Razr.

Just googling ‘concept phone’ will bring up a swathe of ideas.

But there is hope. Not just in the form of small companies doing interesting things. Indeed not even in that hope. Planet are very unusual in shipping a product the vast majority fall by the wayside.

The hope comes in the death of the smartphone. You see smart is escaping. It will no longer reside in the one device you stare at but become omnipresent. One trend at Mobile World Congress was increased virtual assistants. Samsung will be there with a dedicated Bixby device, T-Mobile wants you to shout “OK Magenta”, and Telefonica has announced commercialisation of its product. All this follows on the heels of Alexa and her friends. And people like the devices.

As your cooker, television and bath all become smart there is less need for the single smartphone.  What is the phone today will become something else and we’ll go back to the time when phones were used for voice.

Such generational changes are normal, when I started in the analogue mobile phone industry the dominant, unassailable handset manufacturers were Motorola and NEC. It became Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola. The belief that the status quo of today with a dominant Samsung and Apple is to fail to remember the future. Peak Apple? Maybe not yet, but we are well past peak innovation and the disruption can not come soon enough.

Tales from the Orchard: Apple’s Cook to Meet With Trump Amid U.S.-China Trade Tensions

 

 

 

By Mark Gurman of Bloomberg.com

-Cook attended Tuesday’s state dinner for France’s Macron
-Apple CEO has urged China and U.S. to settle trade differences

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday as the company looks to head off a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China.

The sit-down between Cook and Trump will take place in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon and be closed to the press, according to the president’s official schedule released by the White House.

The Trump administration’s decision to pursue tariffs on as much as $150 billion in Chinese goods has stoked trade tensions with Beijing that could affect Apple’s business in Asia. The company’s sprawling production chain is also centered in China.

Last month, Cook told attendees at a conference in Beijing that he hoped that China and the U.S. could resolve their differences on trade.

“The countries that embrace openness do exceptional and the countries that don’t, don’t,” he said. “It’s not a matter of carving things up between sides. I’m going to encourage that calm heads prevail.”

A trade war could place Apple in the Chinese government’s cross-hairs. A Communist Party newspaper last month listed the iPhone maker among the American companies that would be “most damaged” if a trade war erupted.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after regular business hours.

Cook was among the guests on Tuesday evening at the first state dinner of Trump’s presidency, a formal fete for French President Emmanuel Macron. The Apple chief was accompanied by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment and government affairs and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama.

What do think of Tim Cook’s extracurricular activities? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: Apple should open a university that’s free for everyone

Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. It’s time for Apple to help out.

By Scott Galloway of Wired.com

Apple’s ability to create low-cost products and sell them at premium luxury prices has landed them with a cash pile greater than the Russian stock market and the market capitalisation of Boeing and Nike combined. The big question is whether Apple has an obligation to spend this enormous pile of cash? And, if so, how?
My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.

The company has roots in academia and its brand foots really well with creative services and education. But, ultimately, I also think this idea is an enormous profit opportunity.

How can Apple make it tuition-free as well as profitable? It needs to “flip” the current funding model, by making it tuition-free for students and by charging companies to recruit there. At the moment, companies go to universities and think of them as their giant HR departments. The reasons are obvious. Universities are great at screening applicants, picking smart people, ensuring they can work in groups and that they are emotionally stable. Universities aren’t in the business of educating, as much as they are in the business of granting credentials to its students. Apple would be very good at attracting the best candidates. And in exchange for access to those students, corporates would be willing to pay a lot of money.


Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. So we need to flip the model and put the costs of education on to the corporation. Apple could also deploy a bidding system, similar to what Google and Facebook do in advertising, where corporations bid to have first access to the very best students.

Apple is already 60 to 70 per cent there. It has the brand and it would attract incredible applicants. What makes a quality school? Sure, it’s the faculty, but mostly it’s the brand’s ability to attract the best and brightest. As long as the best and brightest apply to your programme, you’re going to have the best and brightest faculty.

As long as you have the best and brightest faculty, you will have the best recruiters showing up, who will pay the most. And as long as you have the recruiters who will pay the most showing up, you get the best and brightest applying.

Apple would immediately get several million applications. Or enough applications where they can have an outstanding faculty. And then, by offering free tuition, they can place competitive pressure on my colleagues to start offering tuition at a lower price.

This is desperately needed because currently we have this cartel that makes OPEC look cuddly and socially conscious.



I work with one of the best faculties in the world – and I think two-thirds could leave and not be missed. Now, does that mean they should be fired? No. But does it mean that they should be making as much money as they do, without the same competitive pressures that everyone faces in the marketplace? Of course not. This just translates into outrageous tuition fees which kids finance with debt. Which means they get houses later; which means they start families later; which means they take fewer risks – it’s a drain on the economy.

So, I think a healthy dose of this tech-inspired efficiency and competition would be a great thing for academia. Today, we currently have the wrong attitude. We turn away people and take pride in our exclusivity. It’s like a homeless shelter bragging about the people it doesn’t let through the door. The whole mentality is screwed up.

Apple Stores could be used as campuses for the Apple University. The stores are in highly dense, populated areas; they’re not used after hours and they’re already starting to give some classes.

Alternatively, what if Apple had taken their space ship and turned it into a university? What if they said it was a university from the hours of 6pm to 10pm? And what if they said that three per cent of its 150,000 employees that have credentials as being the best and brightest in the company become the adjunct professors in this university?

With Apple’s profits, I believe it could start the equivalent of the University of Texas, the University of California or the Michigan state system – but ultimately, I think it could start the largest free-tuition system in America. It would be good for society, it foots to their brand and I think it would be wildly profitable. What it would really come down to, to make all of this work, is execution.

As told to WIRED consulting head Tom Upchurch

How do you feel about an Apple sponsored university? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: Apple Business Chat has the enterprise talking about iMessage Apps

 

By Daniel Eran Dilger of AppleInsider

Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced the App Store. While its first titles were mostly games and novelties, soon major businesses began to recognize the power of mobile apps, shifting major investment from desktop PCs and web apps into iOS. This year, Apple is inciting new enterprise investment in iMessage Apps with Apple Business Chat–billed as an interactive, personal way to connect with customers while respecting their privacy.

 

Support the way users already communicate

 

Apple Business Chat enables customers to contact companies for personalized support using the familiar iMessage app. Just like personal chats, a user can initiate a conversation on their iPhone and resume the discussion on their Mac, iPad or even Apple Watch. They can get notifications when there’s a response and can communicate in rich detail, such as sending a photo or other attachment.

Unlike a phone conversation, users don’t have to wait on hold or navigate through a voice-first bot conversation. Unlike the web, users don’t have to search their way through a company’s marketing or support forums to just find an answer or get help with an order.

Business Chat also puts an emphasis on privacy: users don’t have to log in via Facebook to share a huge profile that includes everyone they know, their political orientation and all their other personal details; nor do they surrender contact information that signs them up for tons of future, unsolicited offers and spam.

One of the more interesting things about Apple Business Chat is that it involves a custom development platform. Leveraging the work delivered in iOS 10 for iMessage Apps, Apple enables companies to build interactive features that can present a choice (such as selecting a product or scheduling an appointment) or handle an Apple Pay transaction.

Some critics scoffed at iMessage Apps when Apple announced the platform with the release of iOS 10. But for the enterprise, Apple’s new chat messaging platform allows them to easily build dynamic ways to interact with their clients (such logging into an account, or performing some other task that is easier to do in software than it is to explain in words or communicate by voice; Apple’s initial example was an app for airline seat selection) using the same iOS development tools they already use to create client-facing or internal apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

While Apple Business Chat can also be used in Messages on a Mac, there is no support in macOS for iMessage Apps (which are generally iOS app extensions). That may change if Apple incorporates the ability to execute iOS code on Macs (as it is expected to soon enable).

Apple loves development platforms

Apple likes custom third-party development for its hardware because it builds a valuable ecosystem that makes its products more attractive (think Photoshop on the Mac, or Instagram on iOS). By owning and managing the development platform, Apple can also shape users’ experience.

In the early days of the Macintosh, that allowed Apple to introduce a revolutionary leap in software sophistication with its Human User Interface Guidelines that made Mac applications consistent, intuitive and easy to learn. When it introduced iPhone, its new iOS platform similarly reshaped how apps appeared and behaved to enable Apple to deliver another radical leap in mobile computing.

Apple’s initial value-add for the Mac platform was ease of use and graphical aesthetics. More recently, Apple has focused on graphical performance (the buttery smooth animations of OS X and iOS) as well as data security and privacy (turning on encryption default and limiting ad tracking and third party access to your personal data) in a world of malware and surveillance advertising.

Apple Business Chat leverages companies’ existing customer support infrastructure (their internal customer contact centers and the Customer Service Platform they already use) and integrates these with its own iMessage platform. It doesn’t require companies to radically change how they provide customer support, but instead enhances their customer interactions with a design that’s easy to use, efficient, secure and designed with privacy in mind.

Business Chat with an approach like Apple Pay

Consider the difference in Google’s approach to messaging, which began with trying to inject ad messages into email, then trampled user’s data privacy with Buzz, then introduced a complex communications platform with Wave that it expected everyone to learn, then attempted to copy Apple’s simplicity and appearance with Allo without the same interest in privacy or encryption (because it wanted to read users’ messages).

Apple’s success with iMessage adoption stands in stark contrast to Google’s various stabs at communication initiatives. Apple’s iMessage is designed as a product seeking to be attractive, valuable and useful to its audience. Google’s efforts were all attempts to create a product for itself which it could use to monetize users.

A similar contrast can be seen between Apple Pay and Google Wallet; Google hoped to push banks out of the way to establish itself as the account for users’ transactions. Apple’s approach was to work with banks to offer a secure, private way of making payments using the accounts individuals’ already had.

Apple Business Chat takes a very similar approach to Apple Pay, requiring minimal changes from companies while adding value to the interface they present to their customers. And it integrates with Apple Pay to enable seamless, secure transactions right within a support session.

Apple Business Chat partners

Apple is already working with a series of major Customer Service Platforms, including previously announced partners LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance and Genesys, and more recently adding InTheChat and Zendesk.

By leveraging the support of CSPs, Apple can launch its vision for enhancing how customers get support much more easily than if it were trying to build out a competing business outside of its core competency. Support from those partners is being expressed in the same way iOS developers talk about the App Store in glowing terms.

Salesforce pitches its LiveMessage CSP service to businesses as a way to “delight your customers at a fraction of the cost of voice support” on its website, which highlights its partnership with Marriott using Apple Business Chat.

Meredith Flynn-Ripley, VP of Messaging at Salesforce, noted that, “Consumers today are five times more likely to message with family and friends than call them–and they expect to communicate with brands the same way.”

Flynn-Ripley added, “Salesforce is the leader in delivering conversational messaging within the world’s number one Service platform and we consistently hear from our customers that they want to connect with their customers in new ways. We’re thrilled to add support for Apple Business Chat to Service Cloud and provide new, easier ways for our customers to bring messaging directly into their CRM.”

Caitlin Henehan, the VP and GM of Zendesk Chat, similarly stated, “Zendesk’s integration with Apple Business Chat Beta will allow customers to engage with businesses on a much more personal level through Messages. Companies will be able to provide timely responses and interact on the channel that is familiar and accessible to the consumer.”

Robert LoCascio, the founder and CEO of LivePerson (which handles integration for Discover, Lowe’s and Home Depot) offered the statement, “What we’re seeing is a tremendous shift to conversational experiences, and it’s top of mind for many CMOs.”

Genesys highlighted a report by Garner which claimed that, “by 2019, requests for customer support through consumer messaging apps will exceed requests for customer support through social media.”

Apple Business Chat is like Siri with a real person helping

Apple Business Chat integration with Nuance–the original technology partner behind the launch of Siri–highlights the combination of “live agent” bots and live chats with humans that companies can use to handle incoming chat requests from customers.

Nuance calls its virtual assistant “Nina,” as describes it as “designed to deliver an intuitive, automated experience by engaging customers in natural, human-like conversations for a more efficient contact center operation.”

If a customer needs more help than Nina can provide, the chat can be routed to a real person. That’s an approach Facebook attempted with its failed M general-purpose chat-bot, until it realized that it could not actually handle the range and depth of the wide-open questions it was getting with purely automated systems.

Apple’s Siri similarly conveys (problematically) that it can answer anything users can ask, making it easy to disappoint users who have complex tasks they want to speak out to a computer, only to realize that there are constraints on what can be expected of such a system.

Apple Business Chat greatly narrows down what a person will be asking and then directs those questions to a specific company, making it much easier to handle incoming tasks and, if necessary, elevate complex questions to a person who is already familiar with handing that nature of requests for the company. It can even start the conversation with interactive, web-like navigation to further narrow down what a user wants to do.

Currently, if you ask Siri a question about TD Ameritrade or Marriott, you get a dumb response that’s not much more useful than a Magic 8 ball. In the future, Siri could connect with known Apple Business Chat partners to initiate a conversation that’s handed off to an expert.

While Apple’s current state of Siri is frustrating enough to avoid using for anything but the simplest of requests, the plumbing Apple Business Chat is building out could provide an ecosystem of customer support partners that dramatically increase the value of Siri without being confined to voice-only conversations.

A verbalized request to Siri–followed up by a combination of text or voice chat through Apple Business Chat, augmented with the interactivity of iMessage Apps that can tap into your calendar, send you to Maps, recommend an App download or set up an order with Apple Pay–offers a picture of the future of smart communications that Apple is building for its customers. It’s a lot more realistic than the wide-open promise of Siri by itself, or the premise of voice-first ambient computing in general.

Apple has some advantages to build upon with Siri, including its support for a broad number of languages, an intent to build security and privacy right into the design, an ability to go beyond just voice interactions, and deep integration with the devices people already broadly use: iPhones, Car Play and Apple Watch. Expect to hear more about the future of Siri, iMessage Apps and Apple Business Chat at WWDC18.

 

What do you think about Business Chat? Tell us in the comments below!

Tales From the Orchard: Police use Apple Watch health data as evidence in murder case

 

 

By Johnny Lieu of Mashable

Your smartphone knows plenty about you, and it’s that health data that’s apparently been key to solving an Australian murder case.

In September 2016, 57-year-old Myrna Nilsson was found dead in the laundry of her Adelaide home. 

According to ABC News, her daughter-in-law Caroline Dela Rose Nilsson told police that a group of men had invaded the home and attacked her mother-in-law. 

Bound and gagged, Caroline Nilsson said she didn’t see the attack. But in March, police charged her with murder following an analysis of the victim’s Apple Watch, with accusations the story was fabricated.

According to the report, prosecutor Carmen Matteo told Adelaide Magistrates Court the watch’s activity and heart rate measurements indicated an attack occurred at 6:38 p.m. and that the wearer had “almost certainly” died by 6:45 p.m.  

“If that evidence is accepted, it tends to contradict the accused’s version of an argument occurring between the deceased and these men outside the laundry for a period of up to 20 minutes,” Matteo said.

Caroline Nilsson told police she emerged from the house straight after the attack at 10 p.m. to call for help. If the Apple Watch data is accepted as evidence, Matteo said this would be more than three hours after the attack occurred. Magistrate Oliver Koehn refused bail based on the prosecution’s case, and the matter will return to court in June. 

It’s another instance where fitness data has been crucial to criminal cases. Back in 2017, Connecticut man Richard Dabate was charged with murdering his wife, after Fitbit data on the victim showed inconsistencies with Dabate’s account of the crime. 

In a German case earlier this year, fitness data off an iPhone was used as evidence against a man accused of murder.

How do you feel about your smartwatch possibly testifying against you in court? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

Tales from the Orchard: With these patents, Apple could win the next major platform war

 

By Helen Edwards and Dave Edwards of Quartz

The next stage of the platform wars may be in health.

Despite being one of the most regulated sectors, where change is driven as much by law as by technological advances, the big tech giants are active. Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway are teaming up to form an independent healthcare company for their employees in the United States. Alphabet’s Verily is moving into health insurance. And to consolidate, traditional healthcare giant Cigna has announced (paywall) it is buying pharmacy benefits firm Express Scripts.

While the same rules for platform domination will likely apply—adoption that builds on network effects aided by the power of Big Data and increasingly sophisticated AI—only one company already has a popular health-tracking device on sale that is essentially a supercomputer that’s always on your body.

The Apple Watch continues to grow its sales, which it doesn’t disclose but are already presumed to be in the tens of millions annually; one report suggests that Apple sold more watches last quarter than Rolex, Omega, and Swatch combined.

And the pipeline suggests that Apple has even more plans for its smartwatch.

At the end of February, Apple was awarded a patent for an Airpod-style charging case that can hold a watch but also a number of bands. This isn’t just a fashion accessory; the bands in question are “smart bands,” electronic devices in their own right. The reason you’d want more than one band might be because Apple might think that the next generation of medical devices will be for conditions that need more than one physiological measure—such as blood pressure and blood glucose for managing diabetes or glucose intolerance—and that measuring these body signals will not be possible in a single wearable.

(These bands aren’t fantasy—a company called AliveCor already offers the first US FDA-approved electrocardiogram reader for Apple Watch called Kardiaband, which may also be able to detect high potassium levels in the blood.)

Last year, Apple was also awarded a patent for a very clever way of measuring blood pressure with a Watch, where you can hold the Watch against your chest and a controller is configured to process output signals from an accelerometer. It detects when your blood-pressure pulse is propagated from the left ventricle of your heart, detects when it arrives at your wrist, then calculates a pulse-transit time that is then used to calculate your blood pressure. The accelerometer is dead in the middle of the band, not in the body of the Watch. This makes us think that there’s not much else that can go in that band, except perhaps a battery and maybe some colored lights.

Another area to speculate on is what else Apple may be thinking of monitoring. In the US alone, there are 115 million people who suffer from some form of pre-diabetes, diabetes, or hypertension. Many people actively monitor their diabetes through physiological monitoring of blood glucose with a finger prick test. Blood-glucose measurement through non-invasive means is a significant challenge and no one has figured out a reliable way to do it accurately.

But rumor has it that Apple is on the case. This is a very tough technical challenge that people have been trying to solve for decades. We suspect that Apple’s case patent may be an indicator that it will not be possible or desirable to use one band for both blood pressure and blood glucose, or anything else for that matter, for at least the next decade. So you might not be monitoring everything all of the time but you may be easily able to switch out charged smart bands that are fashionable and conceal that you are being monitored.

Apple needs the Watch to win the health-platform wars. They know you’ll want to preserve your privacy by being able to disguise what you are monitoring. They know you’ll want to be able to effortlessly store and connect because you will be required to supply all the data to your doctor, insurer or employer. They know that anything less will feel like the monitoring—and hence the condition—has taken over your life.

We think that only Apple can make medical surveillance bearable, much less cool. Which makes an Apple Watch, smart bands, and a case that does it all, an essential purchase. At that point, the Watch system is a lot more than just a $400 watch and the market isn’t just consumers—it’s employers and insurers who figure out the new economics of health as a platform service. The overall market for watches is likely smaller than phones but Apple’s competitive advantages in design, technology, and data security could give it a significantly higher market share in watches.

This is especially true for insurance company buyers who will be focused on effectiveness and security much more than price. If Apple emerges as the safe purchase for corporate buyers, the Watch could be the next big thing that investors have been looking for since the iPhone.

 

What do think of Apple tackling the Health Industry? Tell us in the comments below!

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