Jun 23, 2020

Axios Login

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Today's Login is 1,528 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: Making sense of the Mac's transition to Apple chips

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Though Apple's announcement that it will move the Mac to homegrown chips was long expected, the company has now filled in the blanks for when that shift will start, how long it will take and what developers must do to get ready.

Between the lines: Apple laid out the shape of its chip transition and lined up its key partners Adobe and Microsoft — but some observers say the company didn't fully explain how the shift will benefit developers and consumers.

Driving the news:

  • CEO Tim Cook said Monday that the first Macs powered by an Apple-designed processor will arrive before the end of the year, though the full transition from Intel-powered machines will take two years.
  • Apple announced several ways for developers to get their apps to run on the new chips, including tools to create apps that run on both chips and a translation engine that will allow apps written for Intel processors to run (albeit more slowly perhaps) on Apple-powered Macs.
  • Cook also said Apple will support Intel-powered Macs for years to come, noting that several such machines have yet to be introduced.

The big picture: Apple has perhaps more experience shifting its platform than any other tech company.

  • It has made two big processor shifts, going from Motorola to PowerPC processors in 1994 and from PowerPC to Intel, starting in 2005, as well as a major operating system shift from classic MacOS to the Unix-based MacOS X in the early 2000s.

One key lesson Apple seems to have learned is the importance of working with major partners early on, something it didn't always do in the past.

  • Monday, Apple showed Microsoft's Word and Excel running on Apple chips, as well as Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom.
  • Adobe also has Premiere running on Apple chips, CTO and strategy chief Abhay Parasnis told Axios.

That matters because, unlike simpler apps which need only be recompiled to run on different chips, more work is needed for complex programs, especially graphically demanding ones like Adobe's.

  • "It's a lot of work," Parasnis said, while also praising Apple for providing both more advance notice and needed technical support.

Yes, but: Apple's move from PowerPC to Intel came after years of lagging performance. Everyone saw it needed to be done.

  • This time around, the benefits to Apple are clear: cost savings, greater control of its destiny and the ability to more tightly integrate its hardware and software.
  • But it's less clear what consumers and developers will gain.
  • "Before developers lift a finger, they should ask themselves what they get from making investments to change any of their code," said Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead.

Be smart: The chip shift is part of a larger coming together of Apple's mobile and desktop ecosystems, a process that has been under way for some time.

  • Apple suggested Monday that iOS apps will run natively on the new Macs. (A tool called Catalyst lets developers port iPad apps to the Mac, but it will be easier post-transition.) So, while Mac developers face a bumpy transition, those writing iOS apps just got a new market.
  • The new macOS, dubbed Big Sur, also brings over other features from iOS, including similar notifications and visual elements.

What's next: Mac buyers who need a computer over the next year face a tough decision. Historically, neither the last models on an old architecture nor the first machines on a new one have proven to be great buys.

2. Apple makes concessions to developers, regulators

While not heavily touted by Apple on Monday, the company made several moves designed to address some key criticisms leveled by developers and antitrust authorities in recent weeks.

Why it matters: The moves likely won't end all the grumbling or stop regulators in their tracks, but they might turn down the heat for Apple over charges that it is increasingly behaving like a monopolist.

Driving the news: At its developer conference, Apple announced it would:

  • Allow customers for the first time to set a different email program or web browser as the default option on the iPhone.
  • Enable the HomePod speaker to work with streaming services beyond the company's own Apple Music.

Apple is also making some changes in how it handles disputes with developers:

  • In most cases, Apple will now not hold up bug fixes even when it has found an app violates its rules.
  • Developers will also have a process to challenge whether an app violates a specific rule, as well as to challenge a rule itself.

The big picture: The moves come as Europe has launched an antitrust probe and the chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee has criticized the company.

  • They also follow a very public spat with Basecamp over Hey, a new email application.
  • That dispute also appears to have reached a detente, with Hey agreeing to a limited free trial in an effort to remain in compliance with Apple's terms.
3. Tech firms blast new visa restrictions

Tech companies reacted quickly and negatively Monday to news out of the Trump administration that it is extending a ban on entry of those with visas through the end of the year. Among those speaking out against the move are Facebook, Amazon, Google, Intel and Twitter, along with several tech trade groups.

The big picture: The Trump administration argues that visas like the H-1B widely used in the tech industry are responsible for taking jobs that American citizens could fill. Tech companies say they rely on these visas to fill positions with skilled workers from overseas when they've tapped out the American workforce.

Details: The new restrictions will go into effect at 12:01am tomorrow. They will remain in place through the end of the year, which will likely prevent many new H-1B visa workers outside of the country from entering the U.S.

  • Axios' Stef Kight has more on the restrictions, which also cover a range of other work visas, here.

What they're saying:

  • "Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America's economic recovery puts America's global competitiveness at risk." (Amazon)
  • "America is a nation of immigrants and our economy and country benefit when we encourage talented people from around the world to live, work, and contribute here." (Facebook)
  • "Imagine if Real Madrid or Barcelona could only hire players from Spain. They probably wouldn't be the best in the world anymore. This is what the new executive orders will do to American technology companies." (Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn on Twitter)

The other side: Trump's proclamation extending the visa ban claimed that, between February and April, "more than 20 million United States workers lost their jobs in key industries where employers are currently requesting H-1B and L workers to fill positions." L visas allow companies to transfer employees working overseas to U.S. offices.

Reality check: There is no relationship between widespread job losses across the U.S. economy thanks to the pandemic and related lockdowns and the tech industry's use of H-1B visas.

  • Also, the specific jobs the tech industry seeks to fill with visa holders are unlikely to be filled by the millions of workers idled across so many U.S. industries.
4. Trump tests Twitter's line

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter on Monday opted not to take down or flag a tweet from President Trump that baselessly tied mail-in ballots to voter fraud and foreign election interference, Axios' Kyle Daly reports.

The big picture: President Trump continues to test tech platforms' willingness to crack down on misinformation he spreads on his social media accounts, a dynamic that will likely intensify as the election approaches and he seeks to raise doubts about potentially unfavorable outcomes.

Driving the news: Trump railed against mail-in voting in a series of tweets Monday, claiming that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others" and maintaining, "Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history."

  • It's unclear what inspired Trump's claim about foreign countries printing ballots, and there has never been any link established between mail-in voting and widespread voter fraud (or indeed any record of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. at all).
  • Trump himself has repeatedly voted by mail in the last three years.

Twitter declined to flag the tweets as election-related misinformation, as it had an earlier series of Trump posts, because Monday's postings didn't level any specific accusations about election officials' processes on handling voting or mail-in ballots, a company spokesperson told Axios.

  • Twitter did create a "Moment" aggregating tweets that debunked Trump's latest claims.

Trump's posts also appeared without being flagged on Facebook, which has taken a broadly more permissive approach than Twitter to Trump's inflammatory messages.

Our thought bubble: Testing the boundaries of acceptability on social media is a win-win for Trump's grievance politics. Either platforms give him a pass and let him spread misinformation unimpeded, or they crack down on him, fueling his claims that they're trying to silence him and other conservatives.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Lesbians Who Tech's (Not IRL) Pride Summit continues online.
  • Web Summit's Collision is taking place online this week.
  • Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference continues.

Trading Places

  • Slack has hired former Dell Boomi executive Steve Wood as VP of developer platform, reporting to chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua.


6. After you Login

You haven't really seen a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos until you've seen a dog join in the action.