Emergency SOS Goes Live on iPhone and Buffett Goes Big on TSMC

The Daily Observation Deck Feature

Emergency SOS via Satellite goes live, news around Apple partner TSMC, and communication about not being communicative.

Emergency SOS via Satellite Goes Live

We should have known Monday that Apple was going to activate Emergency SOS via satellite for the iPhone 14 line on Tuesday. When word hit that Apple CEO Tim Cook was going to be on “CBS Mornings” showing off new technology in Apple’s latest phones, and knowing that the emergency service was going live this month, we should have known that Apple was going to activate Emergency SOS via satellite for the iPhone 14 line on Tuesday.

Still, I didn’t see it coming. And still it happened.

Apple issued a press release Tuesday announcing the service’s activation. According to the company, “iPhone 14 users [in Canada and the U.S.] can now connect with emergency services when cellular and Wi-Fi coverage are not available…” with the service reaching France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK next month.

Not only will the service let people send up an emergency signal, Apple says users who “want to reassure friends and family of their whereabouts while traveling off the grid,” can “open the Find My app and share their location via satellite.”

If you want to try the service out, you could go get lost in the wilderness, though no one actually suggests that. Instead, a piece from Engadget points users of the various iPhone 14 models to a demo mode for the feature. The piece says folks who want to try it out “need to navigate to the Emergency SOS section of Settings to find the Demo.” If it’s a feature you think you might need, the site actually suggests trying the demo, since you’ll want to have some idea of what you’re doing before your life depends on it. “If you’re using demo mode,” Engadget says:

…you won’t be connected to a real emergency services agent or relay center — the company’s system will navigate demo users to a server that sends canned responses. This prevents people from overloading actual call centers.

Plus, no need to drive however many miles to go off the grid. 

As previously stated by Apple, Emergency SOS via satellite “will be included for free for two years starting at the time of activation of a new iPhone 14” model. One assumes that means starting Tuesday for people who’d already had an iPhone 14. No word yet on what the eventual cost will be.

Apple Offering M1 MacBook Pro Discounts to Small and Medium Businesses

With a downturn expected for Mac sales this quarter, Apple is turning to business to boost sales. On the September-quarter earnings call, Apple CFO Luca Maestri said that the Mac is in for a really tough compare this quarter. This quarter a year ago “had the benefit of the launch and associated channel fill of [the then] newly redesigned MacBook Pro with M1.” With no new Macs between now and year’s end, sales of the the Mac this quarter will come in well below sales this time last year. 

Of course, it stands to reason that the company will do what it can to boost sales, hence the businessy-business push. The Mac Observer has word of a decent discount for small business buyers willing to buy in bulk. According to the promotion’s terms, small to mid-size businesses that buy between five and 24 M1 MacBook Pros can get the machines at an 8% discount. Go 25-or-more and they’re looking at a discount of 10%. The offer is good for any combination of the machines through 24 December.

If you’re wondering how to take advantage, the best bet might be calling Apple, or hitting up the company’s business site. A piece from Bloomberg on the promotion says:

Sales employees were recently informed of the deal and have begun reaching out to businesses that Apple has prior relationships with to gauge interest.

So… I guess you could wait by your phone. Otherwise, you could try the “Contact Us” button at apple.com/business. 

It does not sound like a bad deal, unless what you want is the soon-to-be very latest. While the move may boost sales, TMO says it’s also possible that Apple is trying an out-with-the-old-ahead-of-the-new move. The report speculates that “Apple might be preparing for the launch of new Mac models featuring the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips in early 2023.”

Berkshire Hathaway Invests $4.1B In TSMC

It’s important to remember when certain things were new. The first time you met your life-partner… the first time you heard a piece of music… your first really good cocktail, maybe. Holding on to that first-time feeling gives us a certain appreciation. But can we please stop treating technology as “new.” 

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has invested over $4B in processor-maker to the planet TSMC. 9to5Mac highlights a Reuters report on the investment. The site quotes Reuters, saying:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) said it bought more than $4.1 billion of stock in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, a rare significant foray into the technology sector by billionaire Warren Buffett’s conglomerate.

9to5Mac points out that Buffett was light on Apple before 2016. Prior to that, he saw Apple as a technology company and it was hard to predict the company’s future. According to the piece:

The turnaround came when Buffett said he stopped focusing on Apple as a tech company, and instead just viewed it as a consumer brand with incredibly high brand loyalty.

This makes sense. Buffett invests in real estate and railroads — backbone type of holdings. And he has put over $4.1B into TSMC. 9to5Mac says:

Buffett normally likes to play safe in his investments, repeatedly explaining that he prefers investing in boring companies rather than exciting ones, and generally avoiding the tech sector for that reason.

And he has put over $4.1B into TSMC.

There are two parts that I personally find fascinating: First, he’s making the investment at a seemingly perilous time. 9to5Mac says the Berkshire investment “comes at a time when Taiwan’s independence is at considerable risk from China…” At the same time, tension over Taiwan may be cooling just a tiny bit. A piece from the Mercury News highlights a meeting this week between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the piece: 

…despite China’s recent saber rattling, [President Biden says he] does not believe “there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.”

Not that China’s totally relaxed. The Mercury News goes on to say:

Xi, according to the Chinese government’s account of the meeting, “stressed that the Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations.”

So, in the midst of geopolitical (though perhaps cooling) tensions over Taiwan, in a time of downturn for consumer electronics, and remembering that he’s not huge into the unpredictable, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has invested over $4.1B in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. 

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Or… day after tomorrow, maybe.

Cook: Future Apple Processors Will Be Sourced from Arizona

Tuesday was a big news day for TSMC. A few hours after word of Buffett’s big bet on the company came word on some of the company’s future wares. A piece from Bloomberg (via Yahoo! Finance) says Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated that at least some future processors will come from a plant in Arizona that’s set to start production in 2024. Though he does not seem to have uttered the letters “TSMC,” TSMC is building such a plant in such a place, plus the company is Apple’s production partner for its A-series and M-series processors.

While word is only going public now, Cook reportedly made the comments last month while barnstorming Europe. During “an internal meeting in Germany with local engineering and retail employees,” Apple’s CEO is said to have said:

We’ve already made a decision to be buying out of a plant in Arizona, and this plant in Arizona starts up in ’24, so we’ve got about two years ahead of us on that one, maybe a little less…

The piece points out that one of Apple’s former processor partners, Intel, is also building a plant in Arizona that is also set to come online in 2024. Kind of makes one wish Cook had said the letters “TSMC,” but — seriously — he very likely meant TSMC. Almost definitely. 

Probably. 

If you’re wondering why European workers would care about a plant in Arizona, it’s probably less about where the plant will be than where it won’t. The emphasis of the meeting seems to have been on keeping eggs in various baskets. After pointing out that “60% of the world’s processor supply comes out of Taiwan,” Cook said, “Regardless of what you may feel and think, 60% coming out of anywhere is probably not a strategic position.” Playing to the crowd at hand, the CEO said, “I’m sure that we will also source from Europe as those plans become more apparent.”

Developers Get Beta OS Builds for Apple Kit

The developer beta march marches on. AppleInsider ran two stories on five OS builds seeded to developers on Tuesday. The first said members of Apple’s developer program got access to beta-three of iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, tvOS 16.2, and watchOS 9.2. The second was smaller in scope, saying that the same crew had access to build-three of macOS Ventura 13.1. 

I said “five OS builds,” but I guess it was technically seven. The piece on the Ventura beta said Apple had also released macOS 11.7.2 and macOS 12.6.2 Release Candidate betas. The site figures those will include patches for vulnerabilities and other bugs.

Federighi Acknowledges Lack of Feedback for Public Beta Testers

Here’s kind of a funny story: You can’t get feedback as a member of Apple’s public beta program, but you can get feedback on not getting feedback. The only time I participated in Apple’s public testing program was to get my hands on what was coming next in terms of operating systems. Apparently though, there are some who take the feedback and trouble-tickets part seriously. Some like MacRumors reader Kieran. They apparently wrote to Apple VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, expressing frustration that Apple doesn’t “listen to user feedback and suggestions…” 

But there are just so many blessed testers. The problem, as expressed by the exec, is “literally millions of people participate in [Apple’s] betas, and many, many, many of them want to provide feedback to help influence Apple’s products.” Conceding Kieran’s point, Federighi said:

I agree that the current approach isn’t giving many in the community what they’d like in terms of interaction and influence… We haven’t yet figured out how to achieve that in a practical and constructive way. We’ll keep thinking…

You can’t get feedback as a member of Apple’s public beta program, but you can get feedback on not getting feedback. Kind of funny.

tvOS 16.1 Bug Robs 128GB Apple TVs of Half Their Storage

News of a strange bug for the 128GB models of the latest Apple TV. MacRumors highlights a report from FlatpanelsHD that says some of the devices think they only have 64GB of storage, not the full 128. According to the report:

Once the ‌Apple TV‌ surpasses 64GB of used storage, the user is presented with the following message when trying to download a new app: “The app can’t be installed because there isn’t enough space. Delete one or more apps or manage your storage in Settings.”

There is enough storage. The device just doesn’t think there is. The piece says the latest beta of tvOS 16.2 does not fix the issue. That said, it’s unclear whether that’s the latest public beta or the developer beta that hit Tuesday. Whatever the case, a software fix seems likely. In the meantime, “Delete one or more apps or manage your storage in Settings,” I guess. 

Apple TV+ Adds ‘Free’ Workplace Comedies in Conjunction with Return of ‘Mythic Quest’

You know that thing Apple did with the Sidney Poitier documentary and the Jennifer Lawrence film Causeway? That’s starting to look like a thing. 

When the Poitier doc hit Apple TV+, Apple put a few of the actor’s other films up to view at no additional cost for a limited time. When Causeway premiered earlier this month, Apple put the four Hunger Games movies and Silver Linings Playbook — all of which starred Lawrence — up to view at no additional cost for a limited time. Now, the Cupertino-streamer has made a less connected though very interesting move around one of its returning series. Apple 3.0 highlights a report from Neil Cybart’s Above Avalon. That has Apple TV+ celebrating the season-three premier of the workplace comedy Mythic Quest by making a number of workplace comedy films available to view at no additional cost for a limited time. 

The move is reminiscent of the oft heard call to license old shows and films to beef up Apple’s library, though Cybart argues that this is not that. “Instead of shifting Apple TV+ away from an original content strategy,” says Cybart, “Apple is using licensed content to help push its original content.” By his reckoning: 

It’s an incredibly smart strategy that shows Apple isn’t afraid to kick around new ideas in an effort to improve Apple TV+. Given the lack of a press release from Apple on the effort, we can also probably conclude that company is still experimenting to see what works best.

Tim Cook’s Full CBS Interview Available Now

And finally today — as mentioned yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s interview with “CBS Mornings” aired Tuesday morning. As mentioned earlier, the CEO used the time to highlight the launch of Emergency SOS via satellite, which we totally should have seen coming. 

That’s not all he talked about though. A piece from AppleInsider says the CEO also talked about user privacy. It’ll probably please you to know, he’s still for it. Cook says Apple believes:

…in getting the very bare minimum level of information that we need to provide somebody a service and we see privacy as this issue that is the issue of the century.

Other topics addressed included hiring through tough economic times, and whether Apple’s likely to kick Twitter out of the App Store. Apple is not, provided moderation on Twitter doesn’t go the way of the dodo. 

You can catch Cook’s entire interview on the “CBS Mornings” Twitter account. 

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Warren Buffet doesn’t invest in fads. This used to mean he didn’t invest in tech, though between his Apple holdings and the $4.1B he’s invested in chipmaker TSMC, he’s pretty deep in tech at this point. So — what does that mean for technology? Daily Tech News Show host Tom Merritt joins me to trip down memory lane and peer into tomorrow. That’s all today on The Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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