Start Up No.1336: Apple ARMs for the future, Hey makes hay, iOS14 lets defaults go, more on TikTok v Trump, Wirecard unravels, and more


It’s a mink, and you can give it Covid-19, and it can return the favour. CC-licensed photo by Conrad Kuiper on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Still not elite. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Farewell Intel: Apple’s Mac processor switch explained • Digital Trends

Alex Blake:

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Will Apple Silicon chips be as powerful as Intel processors?
This is a difficult question to answer, largely because few consumer companies have brought out ARM-enabled computers. One exception is Microsoft, which released the Surface Pro X with an ARM chip, claiming it offered three times the performance-per-watt of the Intel-based Surface Pro 6. The processors in Apple’s iPhones and iPads are ARM-based, too, and surge ahead of the competition. While this is not a direct comparison to Mac processors, it is encouraging nonetheless.

Added to that is reporting from Bloomberg, which claims Apple’s internal testing has shown its upcoming Apple Silicon chips outperforming Intel equivalents, especially in graphics and artificial intelligence, all while consuming less power. That was affirmed by Apple at WWDC, where it revealed its new chips aim to combine top-level performance with minimal power consumption levels. Indeed, that is exactly what Apple claimed was the motivation behind the switch.

As this is still a relatively unknown area, however, we will have to reserve judgment until we can review an Apple Silicon-based Mac. Apple did demo some of these chips’ performance in a Mac running on an A12Z Bionic processor, the same one used in the recent iPad Pro. In Final Cut Pro, the Mac was able to play back 4K video clips with live effects applied, as well as three streams of 4K ProRes footage.

Will my apps be compatible?
In a word, yes. Microsoft had to warn customers that some of their apps may not be compatible with the Surface Pro X. Apple seems confident it will not suffer the same fate, however. It says it already has many apps — such as Microsoft Office apps and pro-level apps from Adobe — ready to go from day one, as well as its own in-house apps, from Notes to Final Cut Pro.

There are a number of tools Apple is using to convince developers to make transition native apps over to Apple Silicon. Apple says a new version of Xcode will allow developers to bring Intel applications over in just a few days, using a new application binary called Universal 2 that works for both Intel and Apple systems.

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Apple’s using a clever method of pre-translation (when the app is downloaded) and on-the-fly translation (when the app is run) to make the old apps run. Its experience from its previous two (!) processor transitions and separate OS transition has taught it how to get big developers on board. First hardware arriving before the end of the year. If it’s a Pro laptop, that will give developers an incentive to do the transition work there.

And the developer hardware is indeed a Mac mini, $500 (£480 in the UK) for a short-term rental.
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Apple approves Hey email app, but the fight’s not over • The Verge

Nilay Patel:

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Basecamp isn’t done with the fight. The company has submitted a new version of Hey that meets the strict letter of Apple’s rules but clearly defies their spirit: the company will now offer iOS users a free temporary Hey email account with a randomized address, just so the app is functional when it is first opened. These burner accounts will expire after 14 days. Hey is also now able to work with enterprise customers, as Apple initially took issue with the app’s consumer focus.

Hey has not adopted Apple’s own in-app payment system or allowed users to sign up for its full, paid service through the iOS app. Instead, users will still need to subscribe by going directly to Hey’s website.

It remains to be seen whether these changes will thread the needle to Apple’s satisfaction, but Basecamp is clearly betting that Apple will have to allow future versions of the app now that it does something on launch. “We’re going to take Phil [Schiller] on his word here,” Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson tells me. “The chief complaint was that ‘you download the app and it doesn’t work,’ even though lots of apps work like that.”

“We’ve seen David’s tweets and look forward to working with you on a path forward,” Apple’s App Review Board wrote to Basecamp last week. “This update has been approved.”

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Limited-time accounts… that’s clever. It would at least give you the opportunity to try it.

Patel’s summary of the story so far takes 12 points, covering quite a lot of ground. Still, a truce for now.

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iOS 14 will let you change your default email and web browser apps • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:

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As part of iOS 14’s new features, users will be able to switch their default app preferences for the first time. Details are scarce currently, but one of the slides in the WWDC presentation featured a block that announced users will be able to change their default browser and default email app. This is a long-requested feature, as iOS 13 and prior versions of the operating system will always direct taps on links to Safari, and new emails start in Apple Mail.

The default app options arrive as Apple faces increased scrutiny from antitrust bodies about having monopolistic control over the App Store.

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This wasn’t even announced, as such; it’s a little block in one of those “and lots of other things” slides. Clever, though: at the pace that antitrust investigations move, this will have been in place for ages by the time any decision is due.

We await news on the App Store, of course.
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What’s Facebook’s deal with Donald Trump? • The New York Times

Ben Smith:

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Facebook has always had a keener ear to the right side of Washington than much of Silicon Valley, directed in part by Joel Kaplan, a Zuckerberg friend and former Bush administration official who is Facebook’s vice president of global public policy. But it began focusing intently on winning over the conservative media in the spring of 2016, when Gizmodo alleged that the content moderation on the short-lived Trending Topics product on Facebook “suppressed conservative news.” A right-wing apparatus that had spent decades claiming bias in the media turned its sights on the tech giant. And Mr. Zuckerberg gave them the response they’d always hoped for — he shut down the product, welcomed his critics to meetings and signaled that he shared their concerns.

The next year, Mr. Trump continued to push the norms of truth and civility, and the social media platforms began reckoning with their broader misinformation and harassment problem. That set him on an inevitable — and to his supporters, welcome — collision course with the new gatekeepers. Mr. Trump’s dependence on Facebook as an advertising vehicle — he spent $44m on the platform in 2016, and is expected to far exceed that this year — means that he needs the company as much as it needs him. And, as Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel, and Cecilia Kang reported in May, Mr. Zuckerberg increasingly embodies his company.

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But in the scale of things, $44m isn’t a lot of money for Facebook, which takes billions every quarter. He could refuse political advertising altogether; Facebook would hardly notice the difference in revenue. I wonder if after November things will change on this. Zuckerberg says he thinks politicians should be allowed to advertise because that levels the field. But it doesn’t, and never has. It’s toxic because of the microtargeting that Facebook enables.

And the irony is that his head of PR is Nick Clegg, who was undone in 2015 by microtargeted adverts in the southwest of England run by the Conservative Party against the Lib Dems, which Clegg had led in coalition for the previous five years with the Conservatives. Facebook’s PR guy who stands up for its political advertising lost his last job because he was screwed over by Facebook’s political advertising.
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Did TikTokers and K-pop fans foil Trump’s Tulsa rally? It’s complicated • The Washington Post

Travis Andrews:

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Writer Parker Malloy also put the blame on the campaign. “You’re giving way too much credit to people on social media and not nearly enough blame on Trump’s failure of a campaign for this one,” she tweeted. “The actual story is that the campaign used to be able to count on massive crowds to show up wherever he went, and figured that this first rally back would be a huge hit. I sincerely doubt they were making decisions based on RSVPs.”

Daniel Radosh, a senior writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” tweeted that “the campaign promoted signing up as a signifier of support, which probably got a lot of Trump supporters to request tickets who never really had the commitment to follow through. The same way people RSVP for Facebook events as a Like.”

It’s impossible to know — and irresponsible to speculate — exactly how much influence the TikTok and K-pop fan campaigns had on the actual attendance of the event without seeing every single request receipt. But a few factors suggest that the prank may have at least partly inflated the predicted numbers.

Entry was not ticket-based, but first-come, first-serve, so there were infinite “tickets” available. “They emailed their entire campaign list the Tulsa invite, which also helps explain why a million people signed up. People click buttons,” former Obama administration official Tim Fullerton told The Washington Post. “As someone who has done this before, it’s something that happens.”

Instead, Fullerton said, the online movement probably “made it seem like there were more people interested than they thought, which probably means [the Trump campaign] did less to drive people to the event.”

The idea of organizing online to overwhelm a system with requests or reviews is nothing new. Fans or detractors have long grouped up to flood IMDb with reviews of movies that haven’t yet been released as a means of supporting or diminishing them. K-pop fans recently clogged racist hashtags with funny GIFs, rendering them useless. And, indeed, Trump’s critics have often inundated social media with images of empty seats at his rallies.

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Also worth reading: the NYT reporting Trump’s anger at the many, many, many, many empty seats.
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Wirecard’s end, beginning in China? • PYMNTS.com

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roughly $2bn is unaccounted for in a story that continues to unfold with the German payments processing company at the center. 

Just where the money went, if it was ever there in the first place, remains a mystery. Auditors have refused to sign off on Wirecard’s results. The stock price as of this writing on Monday (June 22) was down roughly 40 percent, and has plunged roughly 90% year to date. 

As Bloomberg reported Monday, at least one lender is mulling writing off roughly $90 million lent to Wirecard, and would not extend the line. The lender, the Bank of China, is one of more than a dozen commercial banks that all told have lent $2bn through a facility to Wirecard. That may pose a mortal danger for Wirecard. After all, extending the terms of the $2bn facility would require unanimous consent from the banks — and that united front, clearly, seems to be fraying. And if one bank refuses to go along, the borrower typically has to repay the loan in its entirety.  

Bloomberg noted that there has not been a final decision by the Chinese bank, and reports state that  most of the banks are eyeing extending the lending agreement. 

The “will they or won’t they” nature of the story spotlights the fact that much is up in the air. Because Wirecard did not release its audited annual results (for 2019) last week, the loans could be called in.

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The FT has been following this for 18 months, ever since a whistleblower told it that there was accounting fraud around third-party businesses in Singapore and Dubai. Wirecard said there was nothing to see, move along.
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Microsoft is shutting down Mixer and partnering with Facebook Gaming • The Verge

Tom Warren:

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Microsoft is closing its Mixer service on July 22nd and plans to move existing partners over to Facebook Gaming. The surprise announcement means Mixer partners and streamers will be transitioned to Facebook Gaming starting today, and Microsoft will no longer operate Mixer as a service in a month’s time.

Microsoft has struggled to reach the scale needed for Mixer to compete with Twitch, YouTube, and even Facebook Gaming which has led to today’s decision. “We started pretty far behind, in terms of where Mixer’s monthly active viewers were compared to some of the big players out there,” says Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of gaming, in an interview with The Verge. “I think the Mixer community is really going to benefit from the broad audience that Facebook has through their properties, and the abilities to reach gamers in a very seamless way through the social platform Facebook has.”

Microsoft is partnering with Facebook to transition existing Mixer viewers and streamers over to Facebook Gaming in the coming weeks. On July 22nd, all Mixer sites and apps will automatically redirect to Facebook Gaming.

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So you chose to announce it on Monday evening just as Apple was announcing its move to ARM? You really wanted people to know about it, then.
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People probably caught coronavirus from minks. That’s a wake-up call to study infections in animals, researchers say • The Washington Post

Karin Brulliard:

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The minks on Dutch fur farms first got sick in mid-April, showing symptoms ranging from runny noses to severe respiratory distress. They had caught the novel coronavirus from human handlers, the government later said, and soon farmed minks appeared to have passed it back to two other people, in the world’s first reports of animal-to-human transmission since the pandemic began.

The Netherlands has since culled more than 500,000 minks from 13 infected fur companies. The goal of the grim task, set to continue until the farms are virus-free, is to snuff out the possibility of the animals becoming a reservoir for the virus that causes covid-19, which could stymie efforts to end a pandemic that has killed nearly half a million people worldwide.

Some researchers say that although the chances of that happening appear minimal, the implications are too grave to dismiss. In a commentary published Thursday in the Lancet Microbe, researchers at University College London called for widespread surveillance of pets, livestock and wildlife. Studies on animal susceptibility have been small, limited and, in the case of pigs, conflicting, they wrote.

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Conflicting pigs! And mink and cats. It really would be a hell of a thing if cats turned out to be a reservoir in which the virus can mutate and reinfect humans.
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Winnipeg grocery store owner says numerous customers have been victims of Bitcoin scams • Winnipeg Global News

Marney Blunt:

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A Winnipeg grocery store owner is sounding the alarm over scams involving Bitcoin, after many of his customers were victimized.

Husni Zeid has put a large sign on the Bitcoin machine in his Food Fare store on Lilac Street, warning customers of phone scams involving the cryptocurrency. “A lot of people are getting phone calls saying that they have to transfer the money to Bitcoin regarding CRA; we’ve had Manitoba Hydro as well,” Zeid told Global News.

Zeid and his staff say it’s happening multiple times a week. “Yesterday (a) mom was in here and she said she gave all her savings to them and she was just crying. It was heartbreaking that she fell for it; it was sad,” employee Aura Morissette said. “And all she kept saying was ‘I have kids. (It) was awful.”

The Food Fare employees have also taken it upon themselves to help prevent customers falling victim to the scams. “As soon as we see someone (using the Bitcoin machine) and they’re on their cell phone, we always sort of interject just to make sure they’re not on the phone with (the scammers),” Morissette added. “Usually they are.”

Zeid says he’s fed up with it, and wants to get the machine out of his store. “It’s to the point where it’s (so) frustrating I’m making calls to the Bitcoin machine owner to remove the machine,” he said.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, several types of extortion scams involve the scammers demanding Bitcoin as payment, and they often become threatening or try to play on emotions.

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Not clear from the story whether it’s the machine itself that’s the scam, or whether it’s people who are somehow being extorted, or what. But sure, getting the machine out would simplify stuff.
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What comes after Zoom? • Benedict Evans

He’s been thinking about what happens to video apps, and apps that contain video:

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There’s lots of bundling and unbundling coming, as always. Everything will be ‘video’ and then it will disappear inside.

An important part of this is that there seem to be few real network effects in a video call per se. You don’t necessarily need an account to join a call, and you generally don’t need an application either, especially on the desktop – you just click on a link in your calendar and the call opens in the browser. Indeed, the calendar is often the aggregation layer – you don’t need to know what service the next call uses, just when it is. Skype needed both an account and an app, so had a network effect (and lost even so). WhatsApp uses the telephone numbering system as an address and so piggybacked on your phone’s contact list- effectively it used the PSTN as the social graph rather than having to build its own. But a group video call is a URL and a calendar invitation – it has no graph of its own.

Incidentally, one of the ways that this all feels very 1.0 is the rather artificial distinction between calls that are based on a ‘room’, where the addressing system is a URL and anyone can join without an account, and calls that are based on ‘people’, where everyone joining needs their own address, whether it’s a phone number, an account or something else. Hence Google has both Meet (URLs) and Due (people) – Apple’s FaceTime is only people (no URLs).

Taking this one step further, a big part of the friction that Zoom removed was that you don’t need an account, an app or a social graph to use it: Zoom made network effects irrelevant. But, that means Zoom doesn’t have those network effects either. It grew by removing defensibility.

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The way that Skype had become a last-choice in the pandemic has been amazing. I have a Skype account, but only really use it when I need to call a landline and record it. Zoom has, aha, zoomed ahead.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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