At 3/25 Event, Apple Prioritizes Its Services – & Users’ Privacy
The overflow crowd at Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif. burst into applause when early on in the event, CEO Tim Cook made a promise about the company’s services philosophy. He vowed that the roster of new offerings Apple was about to describe would be “private and secure.”
What followed was a blitz of service launches capped with the appearance of creative luminaries such as Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. But more on that later.
Here’s a bullet-point synopsis of what services were launched, announced, or amended from earlier iterations:
Apple News+: A $9.99-a-month subscription service (with the first month being free), available immediately in the U.S. and Canada, and elsewhere later this year, that would unlock the content of 300 magazine titles, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. The publications would feature “live” moving covers and other transformative technologies optimized for iOS- and Mac OS-based devices. Personalization of content, along with its nature being kept private from the ground up – Apple says it will not allow advertisers to track users – were emphasized.
Apple Pay: Cook said that Apple Pay was already accepted by 70 percent of U.S. merchants and would be in more than 40 countries by year’s end. The payment method, already accepted as a way to pay for entry on buses and subways in six cities worldwide, would be available for use by public transit riders in Portland, Ore., and, later this year, in New York City and Chicago.
Apple Card: The company’s own credit card, built into the Apple Wallet app and designed to reside on the iPhone as other credit cards already do, Apple Card, is to be issued through Goldman Sachs and supported by Mastercard’s Global Payment Network. Apple says it will not keep track of what was bought, where, and what was paid, and that the issuer will not sell the user’s data to third parties. Use of the card dynamically rebates the user a percentage of every purchase in cash back to the tune of two percent. A physical card will be issued for use where Apple Pay is not accepted; a thing of beauty in itself, it’s made of titanium and etched only with the card user’s name – and (for extra security) no card number, CVV code, expiration date or signature. However, that information is accessible in the Wallet app for when it is needed by the card holder. Each transaction is authorized with Face ID or Touch ID and a one-time security code. It is to be available this summer.
Apple Arcade: Most popular among the downloads from the App Store are games. Apple claims iOS is the largest gaming platform in the world with nearly 300,000 free and paid games at present. To capitalize on the one billion game downloads already realized, it will bring out this fall in 150 regions worldwide the Apple Arcade subscription service, which it says is the first game subscription service for mobile, desktop and living room. It will feature 100-plus new, original games at the outset that can be downloaded and played offline as well as via streaming. Ad-free, the games will not collect data on the player without the player’s consent; the subscription gains access for all family members.
Apple TV/Apple TV Channels: Via a software update in May, Apple TV will be available on Macs this fall. The company will also bring Apple TV into smart TVs shortly, first to Samsung sets, with Sony, LG and Vizio set to follow. The Apple TV Channels service will provide an ad-free free trial of on-demand HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, and CBS All Access content; advanced machine learning technology will accumulate knowledge about viewing habits and then help viewers find new content. Again, Apple promised that it will not share personal information collected.
Apple TV+: Apple’s subscription streaming service initiative, due out in the fall, will include exclusive and original shows – hence the appearance at the event by Spielberg, who said Apple and his Amblin Entertainment enterprise would re-boot the “Amazing Stories” ’80s Spielberg-produced series. Also among the celebrities on hand to tout their content contributions to this initiative were Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell (“The Morning Show”). Even Big Bird got in on the act, announcing Sesame Workshop shows that would be tailored to teaching coding to children.
Winfrey was the last celebrity in the veritable parade of names, there to promote her two documentaries for Apple TV+ – works in progress on the topics of sexual harassment in the workplace and mental health.