Washington Wading In on Apple

The Daily Observations

DoJ may be gearing up for an Apple fight, the House wants to name and shame tech CEOs, and a dazzling, depressing trailer from Apple TV+.

WSJ: DoJ Stepping Up Pace on Possible Antitrust Action Against Apple

The Justice Department has ramped up work in recent months on drafting a potential antitrust complaint against Apple Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

That is according to a piece from the Wall Street Journal (via Apple Stocks). According to Mr. Moneypaper, talk such as this has been happening since 2019, though the DoJ is said to have kicked it up a notch. That includes “more litigators now assigned to the case and new requests for documents and consultations with companies involved,” according to unnamed people said to know something about something. 

Items to be addressed include: 

  • Whether Apple favors its own apps over competing third-party apps
  • Whether iOS operates in an anticompetitive way, favoring Apple products such as AirTag over third-party products such as Tile
  • Whether the DoJ’s top antitrust person, Jonathan Kanter, should be allowed to play

So far, Kanter has been blocked from taking part in any proposed action against Apple. That’s because, before joining Justice in late 2021, Kanter worked with such clients as Spotify, Tile, and the astroturfed lobbying body Coalition for App Fairness. Seems reason enough to keep Kanter at arm’s length, though the Journal says he was recently cleared to work on a case against Google. The search giant argued that he should be recused, having represented clients who’d brought suit against it. 

It’s unclear how the decision would go on an Apple case, though the Journal’s secret peeps say he is likely to be involved in an Apple case — assuming there is an Apple case. The Wall Street Journal says:

The current steps taken by the department would make it possible to file a lawsuit as soon as the spring, but the process could be delayed or the government could still decide not to pursue a legal challenge, the people said.

House Judiciary Subpoenas Big Tech CEOs Over Alleged Content Suppression

On the more showy side, another piece from the Wall Street Journal (via Apple News) says:

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan has sent subpoenas to the chief executives of five large U.S. tech companies, demanding information on how they moderate content on their online platforms.

Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Amazon’s Andy Jassy, and Apple’s Tim Cook all got the less than golden tickets. Kind of weird to not hear “Twitter’s Elon Musk” in that list, huh?

The Journal says:

The queries are part of House Republicans’ plan to scrutinize communications between the Biden administration and big technology and social-media companies to probe whether they amounted to the censorship of legitimate viewpoints on issues such as Covid-19 policy that ran counter to White House policy.

Could also be about getting attention. Who knows. 

The report says Representative Jordan:

…[has] asked the companies to produce documents and communications by March 23 that show any communication between them and the executive branch of the U.S. government relating to moderation, deletion, suppression or reduced circulation of content.

A spokesperson for Microsoft told the Journal that the company has “started producing documents, are engaged with the committee, and committed to working in good faith.” At the time of publication, none of the other companies had responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Norwegian Banking Coalition Calls on EU to Force Open NFC on iPhone

Apple’s problems are not limited to the U.S., of course. According to a piece from AppleInsider, the “coalition of banks that formed Norwegian payment app Vipps wants to see antitrust action taken against Apple” by the EU or Norway or… somebody. According to AppleInsider:

The European Union held a closed hearing over Apple’s alleged antitrust behavior on Tuesday, (…) following it, Norway firm Vipps says that it wants to see decisive action taken against Apple Pay.

Specifically, “Vipps says that the EU should now force Apple to allow access to its NFC technology,” according to the report.

While the EU has released no findings from the hearing, the piece does a bit of reading between the lines. Vipps is believed to have been in the room where it happened. The fact that they came out of the hearing a bit snarly “may indicate that Apple was persuasive in its presentation.” For its part, Apple appears to have offered no comment on the hearing, nor on the Vipps demands.

Former Swedish Foreign Minister Joins Apple Advisory Board

In the wake of worldwide attention on Apple, the Cupertino-company’s added an interesting advisor. Another piece from AppleInsider says: 

Ann Linde, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sweden, is joining an advisory board within Apple to contribute to analyses of international issues.

It’s unclear on what she’ll be advising exactly, though reports say members of the body are experienced across “politics, civil society and business.” For its part, the Swedish government has set limits on Linde’s involvement. Given her former ministerial role, her government says she is prohibited from:

…using and/or conveying information about such individual cases, processes and issues that Ann Linde has acquired as a minister, and which are not available to a wider circle.

Big Sur Update Fills in the Blanks in Safari Favorite Icons

If you’re a Big Sur user missing the icons for Safari favorites, get ready to be happy. MacRumors says Apple this week released macOS Big Sur 11.7.4. Mostly, it seems, it fixes an issue its predecessor broke. According to the piece, Big Sur 11.7.3:

…introduced a bug that prevented icons from showing up in the Safari Favorites section. Spaces where icons normally appear were blank, making it difficult to see which sites are in the Favorites section at a glance.

This fixes that, so… three cheers.

Apple TV+ Releases Trailer for Near-Future Enviro-Drama ‘Extrapolations’

And finally today, a trailer that’s as dazzling as it is depressing. Apple TV+ issued a press release Wednesday, with words and a trailer for “Extrapolations.” Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller, Kit Harington, Daveed Diggs, Edward Norton, Diane Lane, Yara Shahidi, Matthew Rhys, Gemma Chan, and David Schwimmer, all turn up for — maybe the end of the world? 

Plenty more stars, actually. The cast is huge, as is the undertaking. Quoting the press release:

“Extrapolations” is a bracing limited series that introduces a near future where the chaotic effects of climate change have become embedded into our everyday lives. Eight interwoven stories about love, work, faith and family from across the globe will explore the intimate, life-altering choices that must be made when the planet is changing faster than the population. Every story is different, but the fight for our future is universal. Are we brave enough to become the solution to our own undoing before it’s too late?

Sort of the antidote to the optimism that is “Ted Lasso.” You can catch the trailer now on YouTube. The first three episodes of “Extrapolations” hit Friday, March 17. They’ll run one-a-week after that, with the series ending on Friday, April 21. Likely not coincidentally, that is the day before Earth Day. 

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts and I talk about not talking about politics, and avoiding such news while also delivering it. Also — Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is out with a new headset rumor — one against which we are powerless. Hear it all on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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