Apple and Big Tech’s product launches are now just sideshows

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Apple and Big Tech’s product launches are now just sideshows

Hello, and welcome to the Wednesday edition of  the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech.

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This week: For Tim Cook and Apple, it’s Lights, Cameras … Sideshow!

Tim Cook, Apple Headquarters

Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple Headquarters

Apple/Business Insider screen capture

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the latest iPad you may have enjoyed Apple’s “Special Event” on Tuesday. But to me, Apple’s big event was mainly a sign of how the scripted product launches that Big Tech relies upon to control the news cycle are increasingly impotent.

It’s not all bad. As my colleague Avery Hartmans noted, the abbreviated, online-only product launch is preferable to the bloated in-person events of years past.

But I think there’s something else going on too:

Now that tech is at the center of the biggest political and geopolitical dramas, product launches have become sideshows that can’t compete with the main event. 

And yes, there’s the fate of TikTok, caught in the middle of the US-China tech cold war, which continued to play out in real time on Tuesday while Apple streamed.

larry ellison donald trump

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Win McNamee/Getty Images

Even Apple — at its own product event — couldn’t escape the regulatory clouds hanging over its business.

  • Spotify, a longtime critic of Apple’s App Store policies, took issue with the new Apple One bundle, which gives consumers Apple’s streaming music and TV services for $14.95 a month. Spotify, which sells its streaming music service for $9.99 a month, accused Apple of abusing its dominant position to unfairly package and promote its services. 
  • And Apple immediately raised eyebrows with the launch of Fitness Plus, its new fitness app. That’s because it will compete dozens of other small companies who make training and live workout classes, and who can only reach Apple users through Apple’s App Store (and by paying Apple a 30% fee on any revenue). As Julie Bort points out, Apple is competing with its own customers — on its own turf, with home-field advantages.
  • To be honest, it’s surprising that Apple went forward with the Fitness Plus announcement at this time, given the war against its App Store practices that Epic Games is waging.

Of course, this may have felt like a sideshow because Apple’s event on Tuesday did not feature the new, highly-anticipated iPhone. For that, you’ll have to wait until October, when Apple is expected to have another event to introduce its first 5G iPhone.

The iPhone launch is certain to generate a lot more excitement than this week’s event. But no matter what the new iPhone can do, and no matter how much hoopla Tim Cook and company bring to the table, Apple will be addressing a different audience — one with a less friendly view of Big Tech and with many other, bigger issues to focus on.

Facebook is easily bouncing back from boycotts

kim kardashian selfie

Getty Images

Kim Kardashian West has stopped posting to her Instagram and Facebook accounts to protest Facebook’s failure to stop the spread of misinformation on its platforms. But she’ll be back tomorrow. It’s a one-day boycott.

And remember that advertiser boycott of Facebook that started in July? Well, they made their point and now Facebook VP Nicola Mendelsohn affirms on Bloomberg TV that marketers are coming back to their favorite platform. Mendelsohn says the big brands have returned because they’ve seen the strides Facebook has made removing hateful content on the platform — except, of course, that notorious Kenosha militia post, or the post by a politician in India’s ruling party calling to shoot Muslim immigrants.

The Facebook executive did note that the company was successfully weeding out 95% of the bad stuff. Maybe for big brand marketers, that’s good enough…

Recommended Readings:

Meet Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, the ‘statesman’ who’s spent 2 decades quietly reinventing the $1.6 trillion firm’s relationship with Washington, DC, and other Big Tech titans

Requests for sexual favors and unwanted touching: A new survey finds women in tech still report high rates of harassment three years after the #metoo movement

A leaked document and FCC filings show Amazon is working on a new industrial monitoring service called ‘AWS Thor’ that can predict when machines will break down

Popular spreadsheet app Airtable is now worth $2.5 billion after a new funding round that its CEO says will make it a stronger competitor to Microsoft and Google

Not necessarily in tech:

Former employees of Tanya Zuckerbrot’s popular F-Factor diet say she fat-shamed colleagues and policed their eating, causing terrified staffers to snack in secret

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it. 

— Alexei

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