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Some Thoughts on Apple’s Services Event:


Apple is clearly solidifying the  prefix branding for its new products. (The “i” days are long behind us now.)

At the same time, they seem to be introducing + as a suffix. (Suddenly, Teleprompt+ feels ahead of its time.)

tv+ actually gets both.

How long before we just get +?

Seriously. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Come up with one monthly figure. Admittedly, it would be high. Probably a three or four hundred bucks or so. For that, you get everything Apple does: iCloud, News+, Apple Music, tv+, Arcade, and so on. And you get one each of the latest iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, which you can trade in once a year for the newest models. Might sound crazy, but I’d probably jump on that.

Apple is well on its way to becoming a bank at this point. Might as well be handling the financing for its products, while greatly simplifying it my payments to the company into one simple bundle.


To be honest, this is one of the things announced yesterday that I’d probably not bother trying, if it were just me. I haven’t read paper magazines in years. I get plenty of news in my News app without having to subscribe to any publications.

But then they revealed the $9.99 price covered your whole family, and that changed the math for me. Others in my household are avid magazine subscribers, and they pay for a few newspapers. Might as well pay the ten bucks and take advantage of being able to read all that material myself, while sharing it around to the entire household.

The News App isn’t perfect, but it’s not a bad reading experience. There are definitely some improvements I’d like to see (such as bookmarking magazine articles to read later) but it’s early days. I’m confident the app will improve over time.

Meanwhile, I’ve already read two or three 3000+-word articles from a few magazines I haven’t perused in years. I had forgotten the joy of long-form, well-sourced and edited investigative journalism. It’s a wonderful respite from the fast food of most news web sites. And it’s a great distraction from toxic social media.

I have a feeling I’m going to be doing more reading in the coming months than I’ve done in years.


I’ve been shopping for a new credit card lately, anyway. I love my little credit union. But the biggest problem I’ve been having lately: my card keeps getting compromised. Four or five times in the last few years alone. And I’m not the only one. Credit card theft is totally out of control.

The bottom line is that handing over your card number to several web sites, or swiping at terminals all over Manhattan from day to day is a security nightmare. I love Card’s emphasis on Apple Pay. No one gets my number. And even the physical card doesn’t show the card number or CVV. So if it’s misplaced, you just shut it off and get a replacement. (You likely won’t even be interrupted from using Apple Pay while you wait for the new physical card.) No yearly or international fees is a big plus. The variable interest rates look like they can get way too high (if your credit sucks) but they start at 13%, which is—not terrible. My current interest rate is lower than that, but here’s the thing. I don’t plan on carrying large balances on this card. Getting back 3% of all my Apple purchases every year alone would make it worth getting this card just to use it at Apple Stores.

I’ve never been able to find one airline that offers flights to all the various places I travel. So saving up frequent flier miles via credit card offers is usually an exercise in frustration, anyway. I much prefer good old-fashioned cash rewards.

And all the cool software for clarifying your purchase history, payment options, and so on, is a breath of fresh air in an industry that frankly needs disruption.

At this point, my purchasing decisions are starting to depend on whether or not Apple Pay is accepted, anyway. The added security of not giving a merchant my actual number is that valuable to me. If you don’t take Apple Pay, I’m looking for alternatives. So I don’t think it’ll be long before most of my purchases are done exclusively via Apple Pay, anyway. Heck, even the MTA transit here in New York is supposed to accept Apple Pay by sometime next year. (But I won’t hold my breath.)


When I heard the rumors that Apple’s video service would “include channels like HBO and Showtime for an extra $10 fee” I knew that couldn’t be the whole story. Apple wouldn’t muddle their brand by tying it in with other providers.

Channels is, of course, separate from Apple’s own streaming service entirely. We don’t have pricing info yet, but if Apple offers me HBO for $10 instead of the $14.99 I’m paying now, great. If it ends up being the same price as HBO on its own, I’ll just keep my HBO where it is.

As far as the Apple TV app is concerned, I’m torn. On one hand, so many of these services have such total crap apps (and remarkably, they get worse with every new version) that an alternative UI is very welcome. In theory, the idea of putting all my shows and movies into one place sounds like an improvement over having to remember which service has a particular movie or show.

But then there’s Netflix. Netflix is never going to allow its content into the Apple TV App. And it’s never going to offer its content as an Apple TV Channel. Netflix has all the leverage in that relationship. So Netflix, which I watch quite often, is going to remain siloed for now, partially defeating the purpose of the Apple TV app.

Meanwhile, I have my doubts as to whether the Apple TV App can actually improve the process of finding what I want to watch on all the other services. Mostly because I find the current Apple TV app pretty useless.

I do like the emphasis on Up Next. But in a multiple-person household, where several people are watching different shows, things can fall apart quickly. At least Apple doesn’t seem to be making the mistake of pushing their own content in my face when all I want to do is pick up where I left off yesterday. So far. (I imagine the release of tv+ might change that a bit.)

I do wish Apple would let you create separate viewing accounts for all family members, so that different shows and movies wouldn’t cross-populate Up Next.

For now, I’m remaining cautiously optimistic that most of what I want to watch will either be easy to find in the Apple TV App, or it’ll be in Netflix, which has one of the better apps, despite its many flaws.


The presentation may have been a bit awkward to watch on TV (I’ve heard that it was much better to see it live.) But I have to say, given my only exposure to Apple shows prior to this was the dreadful Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, I was pleasantly surprised with the new lineup. I think the shows they described for the initial lineup are interesting, at least. I have no idea if most of them will suck or not (most likely, many will) but every description of a show I heard (with the exception of the Sesame Street show, since I don’t have kids) sounded like something I’d at least try to watch for an episode or two. Compare that to the latest crop of shows on Netflix, and I have to say, it sounds like Apple is recruiting some real talent, and could end up with a higher batting average than people would expect from a brand new service.

Doing 100% original content is a risk. But given their pull in the industry, their rather large cash war chest, and their hardware income, I think Apple has a good chance long term of funding great shows and competing with other streaming services that have no other income sources. If they loosen up that reputation of meddling a bit and let their creators have a bit more freedom, they could end up being the place people want to take their content first.

Most importantly, the shows Apple has revealed so far all have a different feel to them than most of what’s on Netflix right now. I’ve joked several times that Netflix should rename itself “The Murder Channel.” Just about every show on it involves dead bodies in one way or another. (Even the comedies.) I’m not opposed to a little violence now and then. (Game of Thrones is great television.) But after a while, you just get bored of the same approach to everything. If tv+ turns into a place where creative work that otherwise might get a pass elsewhere can thrive, then that’s a good thing for everyone.


I don’t play games much, so this is probably not for me. But the fact that Apple is paying up front in exchange for exclusive rights to games is very interesting. I wonder what it will take to propose a game to Apple? Will you need to submit a proposal? Do you need to be a well-known studio? Can finished games offer to be placed into Arcade as an alternative to the App Store, or will it remain invite-only? And will the payout to game developers be enough to keep this alive? Who knows?

Just seeing Apple take an interest in games at all is nice, though. Given the history of Apple and games, I can’t say I’m totally optimistic. But maybe they’ll get it right this time and create something good.

Arcade also gives some insight into why Marzipan is important enough for Apple to release before it’s fully baked.

After all, once you start a game, does it really matter if it’s a “proper” Mac app? A game takes over your whole screen and creates its own UI. So having a simple way to ensure all Arcade games work equally on macOS, iOS, and tvOS is a no-brainer.

Other apps can follow later, as Apple improves Marzipan. But it’s clear now that Apple didn’t want to push Arcade back another year just so our social media and utility apps could be ported over in a cleaner fashion.

On the whole “Not Quite Shipping” part

I understand the criticism that so many of these things will not be released until later. News+ was ready immediately. Card is coming this summer. Arcade and tv+ are coming in the fall. It made the whole event feel more like a Google presentation than an Apple one.

But here’s the thing. AirPower jokes aside, does anyone think Apple isn’t going to ship all of these announced services? Arcade and tv+ clearly require macOS 10.15 and iOS 13. That’s when Marzipan proper will ship. So they couldn’t be released until fall, regardless. Meanwhile, so much had been leaked about tv+ already that they had to go ahead and announce it early. Thousands of people are involved in that service. Keeping secrets is out of the question. Might as well introduce it officially on your own terms.

For Card, I can’t see Apple having an event in the middle of the summer other than WWDC; I also can’t see them announcing Card at WWDC. So if they wanted to give it stage time, why not bundle it into a larger “Service-themed” event a few months early? Makes sense.


As a stockholder, I can’t help but be excited about these service offerings. Oprah said it best: “A billion pockets, y’all.” Indeed. If Apple can convince one percent of its iPhone customers to buy into at least one of these services, they will be raking in the dough. And that’s a good thing, for those of us who don’t understand how business works. Because an Apple that keeps growing its revenue can afford to continue innovating.

If you have grown your audience about as far as you can take it, it only makes sense to increase the revenue you get from your current customers wherever possible. So long as you are offering good things to your customers for that extra money, they will only become more loyal to you over time.

This doesn’t mean that Apple is going to “become a services company.” The hardware is not going anywhere, as is evident from the many hardware announcements made the week before this event. It just means Apple is expanding its definition of what creating a great customer experience is and reaching further into more aspects of our lives than before. If they make some extra money doing that, and the services turn out to be great, then how could that be a bad thing? If some of the services crash and burn, so be it. No real harm done.

If the worst thing I can say is that my credit card will get compromised less often, I’ll read more great long-form writing, and I have some new TV shows to watch come fall, I think the event was a pretty big success.