First Click: Tim Cook brings a knife to a cloud fight

June 3rd, 2015


Tim Cook is trying to carve a division in the industry by once again taking shots at Google, this time singling out its new Google Photos service. Casey Newton already dissected the speech but one quote is worth repeating here (emphasis mine):

“You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose.”

This statement, in my admittedly cynical opinion, is FUD — an effort to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Cook and co. might truly believe it, but this is a thinly veiled lobbying effort to make us question the very business model of its competitors. It’s not as in your face as Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign, but it’s undoubtedly a calculated message — Apple executives don’t shoot from the hip when speaking in public on the company’s behalf.

Cook’s words are meant to sow suspicion because trust is vital in the fight for the cloud. On one hand, you have businesses like Facebook and Google that profit from an advertising-based business model (the "you are the product" camp), and companies like Apple that profit largely off of hardware sales (the "you are the customer" camp). In other words, you can trust Apple with all your data but not Google or Facebook.

Fact is, Apple is behind on web services. Its highly successful strategy of using iTunes software to create a digital hub in the home sold a lot of Apple hardware. But it also left the company woefully ill prepared to provide cloud computing in the post PC era. iCloud continues to stumble forward like a neglected toddler. Birthed as .Mac in 2002, it awkwardly transitioned into MobileMe (remember iTunes Ping in 2010?) before completely embarrassing itself with the "celebgate" scandal of 2014.

People who want privacy — that truly want it — should fight for it. Nobody’s questioning that. But many will sacrifice a sense of privacy for a better or more convenient experience.

Let me share an anecdote that illustrates values vs. convenience. A college friend of mine was what you’d call a "rabid environmentalist." She also liked to refinish old furniture because it supported her green values. However, when she struggled for hours to strip paint from a chair using citrus juice, she turned to highly toxic dissolvers that worked in minutes, not days. Convenience won. For her, the chemical solution was better even with the risks.

Arguably, Google Maps is better than Apple Maps, Gmail is better than Apple Mail, Google Drive is better than iCloud, Google Docs is better than iWork, and Google Photos can "surprise and delight" better than Apple Photos. Even with the risks.

If Apple truly cares about our privacy then it should stop talking about how important it is and start building superior cloud-based services we want to use — then it can protect us. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

Five stories to start your day

  1. Tim Cook: Silicon Valley's most successful companies are selling you out

    Apple CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his disdain for online services that ask you to trade highly personal data for convenience — a trade that describes most big advertising-supported technology companies. But last night, in some of his strongest comments to date, Cook said the erosion of privacy represents a threat to the American way of life. Cook spoke at a dinner in Washington, DC, hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which honored him as a "champion of freedom" for his leadership at Apple.

  2. President Obama signs bill curbing NSA powers into law

    President Barack Obama has signed the USA Freedom Act bill into law, reinstating the Patriot Act's controversial Section 215 but curbing some of the NSA's broad surveillance powers. The bill was passed by the Senate earlier today following a political standoff. Although the House passed the bill last month, the Senate only was able to pass it one day after the Patriot Act's provisions expired, following a major debate where several proposed amendments to the Freedom Act were shot down.

  3. Skype crashes — and won't stop crashing — if you send it this message

    It's a bad time for messaging apps. Just a week after it was discovered that a tiny string of characters can disable Messages on the iPhone, a similar bug has been found that takes out Skype. Receiving a message on the Microsoft-owned platform containing the characters "http://:" was reported to crash the software when running on Windows, Android, or iOS, although Skype for Mac and the touch-optimized Skype for Windows 8.1 are reportedly unaffected.

  4. Dell is bringing the borderless Infinity display to its 15-inch XPS laptop

    The delightfully borderless Infinity display that Dell introduced on the XPS 13 this year is moving up in size class. As part of a sneak preview of upcoming Windows 10 hardware here at Computex Taipei, Microsoft showed the new Dell XPS 15. The only things we know about this new laptop so far are that it has a razor-thin bezel, like its smaller sibling, and that it's going to be among the wave of hardware refreshes that will accompany Windows 10 in the latter half of this year.

  5. Amazon introduces free delivery for items weighing less than a Bag of Chips

    Retail giant Amazon will now offer free shipping in the US on a range of small and cheap items without requiring customers place a minimum order. Called "Fulfillment by Amazon Small and Light," the new service — detailed by Bloomberg yesterday — allows customers to place orders for items that weigh no more than 8 ounces (230 grams), with delivery taking between four and eight business days from a new shipping hub in Kentucky. Previously, buyers would need to place an order worth $35 or more, or have an Amazon Prime subscription to qualify for free shipping.

Fight of the day

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