Tech News Weekly Episode 302 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

Mikah Sargent (00:00:00):
Coming up on Tech News Weekly, we kick things off with an interview from the information's Wayne Ma, about how Apple has suddenly started spending a whole lot more money on conversational ai, but how the company has actually been working on this for some time. Then I have my first story of the week all about the EU naming its gatekeepers and boy the Digital Markets Act. It's a tough act. Then we talked to Dan Morin of Six Colors about Apple's [00:00:30] upcoming September iPhone event, what we can expect, what we can maybe expect, and what we probably shouldn't expect before we round things out with a fascinating article from Vulture all about Rotten Tomatoes and how the system is maybe hacked from time to time to give favored reviews. All of that coming up on Tech News Weekly podcasts you love

TWIT Intro (00:01:00):
[00:01:00] From people you trust. This, this is Tweet.

Mikah Sargent (00:01:07):
This is Tech News Weekly episode 302, recorded Thursday, September 7th, 2023. EU names D M A Gatekeepers. This episode of Tech News Weekly is brought to you by Collide. Collide is a device trust solution for companies with Okta and they ensure that if a device isn't trusted and secure, it can't log in to your cloud apps. Visit [00:01:30] to book an on-demand demo today and buy bit warden. Get the open source password manager that can help you stay safe online. Get started with a free teams or enterprise plan trial or get started for free across all devices as an individual user at bit and buy linin. Experience the difference for yourself and check out brookline's new fall collection for bed and bath. Visit in-store or [00:02:00] and use code TN W for $20 off your online purchase of $100 or more, plus free shipping. Hello and welcome to Tech News Weekly, the show where every week we, or in this case I talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news.

I am your one host this week, Micah, Sergeant Jason Howell will be back. But until then, you are with me and I am very excited to kick off this show this week with an interview that [00:02:30] I actually had a little earlier on. I wanted to talk to Wayne Ma of the information about Apple's dabbling perhaps or maybe more than that in ai. So take a listen to this. All right, so I am really excited about this next interview because I have been thinking about what Apple and AI is going to mean for the company going [00:03:00] forward. Joining us today to actually talk about what we could see in the future from Apple and AI is Wayne Ma of the information was written. A wonderful piece about this. Hello Wayne.

Wayne Ma (00:03:14):
Hi, thanks for having me.

Mikah Sargent (00:03:16):
Yeah, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. So this is something that happened recently. I was at an interview show and there were some Apple execs, including Craig Federighi on stage, [00:03:30] and they kind of asked, okay, look, we're seeing all these companies doing chatbots and all sorts of different ai. Where is Apple in all of this? And so what we saw the execs talk about was, look, when it comes to ai, Apple's doing a bunch of ai. It's all behind the scenes, it's all the software. We've been doing this for a long time. And so then from that point on, heard that over and over again. If you are wondering about ai, well technically it's what powers [00:04:00] Siri technically, it's what the ML chips are. It's kind of a party line at this point. And so I was kind of surprised in hearing that the company has actually been working on this kind of AI that we're about to talk about for a while. So can you tell us about how long ago Apple started researching L L M based features and functionality? And then maybe explain how that specific kind of AI is different from something like the ability [00:04:30] for me to tap and hold on a photo in the Photos app and have it lift that thing out of the background.

Wayne Ma (00:04:36):
Sure, sure. So I guess at the very beginning, apple, even though chat G P T only came out last year, the research community that machine learning research community has known about that large language models that power chatbots like chat G P T for years. And in fact in 2020, OpenAI released G P T three and [00:05:00] that actually got the attention of lots of researchers, although not the general public. It wasn't until the November that happened. And so Apple laid the foundation for this by hiring the head of Google's AI in search in 2018. And so he said about to create this new organization called I ML that was separate from the software organization that was run by Craig Rigi. And he gave, apple wasn't known for AI ML research. A lot of people didn't like to do AI ML to Apple because they couldn't publish research papers.

And that was one way to further your career and [00:05:30] Google allowed that as well. And Apple's culture is that you work on things that ship, they don't spend a lot of time doing long-term research on things that may end up at dead ends, but Google was the opposite of that. There was lots of people at Google just working on things that may never feel a lot of day. And so the former head of Google AI search, John Ria, he's known as JG within Apple and Google, he set about to change that culture. They created this new org and [00:06:00] he created all these research teams and hired, he convinced, persuaded lots of people at Google to join in the effort to join him at Apple as well. And so by 2019, a year later, there were all the kind of chess pieces had been in place for Apple researchers to be able to look at these large language models. But at the time, of course, it was still kind of an emerging field. People weren't really clear what these things could do. And so the team was very small at the very beginning in 2019.

Mikah Sargent (00:06:29):
Understood. Okay. So [00:06:30] yeah, it kind of started out small, but they had their eye on the ball. We hadn't necessarily seen this externally. So I talked about them researching the features and functionality. And speaking of that, is Apple as far as you understand it, as far as what they seem to be working on internally, is Apple's aim to create a Siri version of the chatbots we're seeing everywhere? I know that Snapchat chatbot was not a very popular feature that launched. So is that where Apple's going with [00:07:00] this? How is the company working on implementing this conversational AI as they're calling it?

Wayne Ma (00:07:06):
Yeah, it's interesting. When Open AI's Chat, G P T came out, I thought to myself, oh, this would be perfect for Siri. But it turns out that people at Apple have been very dismissive of chatbots. They don't really see much use for them. And even prior to chat G P T, they were really interested in having users having back and forth conversations with Siri. They saw that as kind of like entertainment. Maybe some people liked it, but really they wanted to use Siri to get tasks [00:07:30] done. You ask the Siri question, it gives you the answer and you tell Siri to turn on a light, it turns on a light. That's really what they want Siri to be. The other issue is that Apple's very careful about its brand and it can't have chatbots hallucinating and being racist or aggressive with you. And that and even a very small thing could go viral if it happens anywhere in the world, anytime Google and Microsoft do care about this, but just not as much.

Right? I mean Apple's marketing, the reason why they're great at selling [00:08:00] products partially is because they're marketing. And so they've also always been very fearful of that and don't think they can control it. So really what they want to use these models for is to understand your language rather than to generate language. They want to understand what your intent is, what you're saying. So you tell the iPhone, set a calendar to this date while playing a playlist and emailing me a reminder all the while making sure to take a photo at this time, you can say four things at once [00:08:30] and now if they've trained a large language model to do this, it'll better understand what your meaning is and it'll be able to translate that into tasks that will help you get more work done on the iPhone.

Mikah Sargent (00:08:41):
Okay, that's very clever. I'll be honest with you, I didn't quite pick that out in reading through the piece outside of understanding that yes, they were focused on essentially using shortcuts app and the system as a means of interacting with ai, but the idea [00:09:00] that that gives the company the ability to kind of avoid any opportunities for a chat bot saying some stuff that it shouldn't be saying, that is very clever. And that's just something that I hadn't considered in Apple's attempts to not play around in that space. But yes, to just be able to understand your intent better and to turn it into a language that then the computer can understand and do what it needs to do, that is, that's fascinating. Now, one of the things that I think sticks out with [00:09:30] this, you talk about how Apple's focus on device processing, they love to use that as a selling point. There's privacy implications. And so knowing that my device is doing a lot of this processing is doing my face id, all of that is a selling point for the company. So could this be at odds with conversational AI and why is that the case for people who might not understand that?

Wayne Ma (00:09:57):
Yeah, currently it is at odds. And the reason why is because [00:10:00] these models require lots of data to train. And then once you've trained the models, the models are huge, right? I mean that's why they're called large language models rather than just language models. And so they can be tens of gigabytes if not more than a hundred gigabytes in size. And so they run on servers. And Siri ran like this at the beginning as well. When Siri first came out, you would say a query and then it would send it to the cloud and a server would process your query and then send back the task. [00:10:30] The main issue with that was performance, but also privacy later on as Apple got more deep into wanting to protect user privacy. So a couple years ago, apple started an initiative to actually move a lot of the Siri functions to your device and you can see what functions work on your device and our processed by the iPhone processor and a very small language model on the iPhone right now, if you set a calendar or ask for a timer or ask what time it is, you can actually turn on an airplane mode and you can still get responses you couldn't before.

But for [00:11:00] these large language models right now, they're so large that you really can't run them on a phone, you have to run them in the cloud. Shortcuts is an example of this. Shortcuts runs actually on the device. It doesn't use the server to trigger any actions when you add different apps together and stream 'em together into different tasks. But if they were to implement this in shortcuts, I think the big challenge is how would you do that and keep it on the device itself?

Mikah Sargent (00:11:23):
Yeah, that's going to be an interesting solution. Now we've seen many companies that have kind of popped up, [00:11:30] they've built businesses out of integrating with Open AI's, GT three and now GT four, and Microsoft, instead of creating its own large language model, decided to kind of tie its fate in with OpenAI. So when it comes to Apple and its experimentation and eventual product implementation with large language models, is the company creating its own large [00:12:00] language model? Is it using what's already available? Where does it stand in terms of all that? Especially if at first it was a little bit going, I don't know if people are going to want to do this, and I don't know if we as a company want to do this.

Wayne Ma (00:12:11):
I mean the company would never use someone else's language model, and that's because they want to control it. They want to actually, JG has been very public about how he feels like the data needs to be transparent. What is the data that you trained it on? And OpenAI and some of these other companies haven't really explained what the data was that they [00:12:30] used, and part of that is proprietary for them. So Apple wants to train its own models and they have trained their own model. They have a very advanced model called Ajax, G P T, that's been trained in the last year. And people within Apple believe it exceeds the capabilities of G P T 3.5, which is the model that powered the initial version of chat G P T when it was released in November. Since then, OpenAI has upgraded that to gbd four, of course. And so yeah, apple has its own model. It's not clear if that model is going to be the one that's used [00:13:00] for shortcuts and some of these other things, individual teams are siloed. Maybe they could train their own models as well, but at the end of the day, apple wants to do everything in-house and not rely on somebody else's

Mikah Sargent (00:13:08):
Work. That makes sense. And then in kind of reading through your piece, I did get the impression that we've got multiple teams within Apple working on these large language models working on this idea of conversational ai. And so I know the name Ajax, G P T is at the heart of at least [00:13:30] one of those teams projects. Are they all using Ajax, G P T? Are they all kind of experimenting in their own way with their own language learning models? Is your understanding of how it works internally right now with the different teams that are playing around in this space?

Wayne Ma (00:13:46):
Yeah, I think hx, G P T is basically the focus of this one team called Foundational Models. The foundational models team at Apple. And so the concept at least theoretically, is that that team creates [00:14:00] the advanced models and other teams use 'em. But at Apple, it's not very clear. At Apple, different teams are siloed from each other. There's always competing products. Even the iPhone had or the iPod had two different versions. The iPhone had two different versions that were competing against each other internally. And so it's very likely that multiple teams are training their own models of different sizes and capabilities as well. But from what I understand, hx, G B T is the most advanced model within the company right now.

Mikah Sargent (00:14:30):
[00:14:30] Understood. And then lastly, kind of a pullback sort of question, your article suggests that we could see some of these features at least in Apple's operating systems as early as next year, but we do see other companies that have some of this feature or some of these features and functionality already built in. They've already put that stuff out there. And so just I'm curious, from your general understanding of everything, how does it compare, [00:15:00] how does this approach compare to the other companies that have implemented this technology and is Apple doing its typical, sort of sit back and wait and try to do a better job in the space?

Wayne Ma (00:15:13):
Yeah, part of it is sit back and wait, but the main issue is that the entire culture and planning the software revolves around the release of the iPhone every year. So if something doesn't make it into the next version of iOS, it has to be pushed entire year to the next version. They don't have [00:15:30] major updates usually during the year. Everything comes in September with a new iPhone, so it's already too late to implement anything this year, especially given Apple's strict quality control standards and attention to detail and things like that. So the earliest you could see it would be in the next version of iOS in 2024 this year has been ruled out.

Mikah Sargent (00:15:53):
Yeah, makes sense. Well, Wayne, ma, I want to thank you so much for taking some time. Of course, everyone needs to head over to the information and read [00:16:00] this piece. It's really in depth well sourced and it's well worth your time. Of course, folks can head over to the information to check out your work, but is there anywhere else online that folks can stay up to date with what you're doing?

Wayne Ma (00:16:13):
No, that's about it. That's really on Twitter. I guess you can follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn. I guess that's where I post these articles, but if you want to read them, you'll have to subscribe.

Mikah Sargent (00:16:22):
Awesome. What is your Twitter handle?

Wayne Ma (00:16:25):
Oh, it's just my name Wayne Ma at Oh, perfect. W a y e m a.

Mikah Sargent (00:16:29):
Alright, [00:16:30] well thank you very much. We appreciate it and hope to see you again soon.

Wayne Ma (00:16:35):
Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Mikah Sargent (00:16:39):
All right. That was a great interview with Wayne Ma over at the information. And up next we are going to take a look at the latest in the eus New Digital Market Act update. The D M A has been around, but the updates to it. Now we've finally got some companies [00:17:00] in the sites of the eu, so we'll talk about that in a moment. But I do want to take a quick break to tell you about our first sponsor today. It's Collide who we're bringing you this episode of Tech News Weekly. Collide is a device trust solution for companies with Okta and they ensure that if a device isn't trusted and secure that it can't log in to your cloud apps. If you work in security or IT and your company has Okta, well then listen up because this is the message for you. Have you noticed that for the [00:17:30] past few years, the majority of data breaches and hacks you read about have something in common?

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That's K O L I D Now our thanks to Collide for sponsoring this week's episode of Tech News Weekly. Alright, so let's talk about the Digital Markets Act. This is the European [00:19:00] Commissions Act that is aimed at kind of trying to make sure that companies that are big tech companies don't have too much control over not only the end users but also for the businesses who use these kind of big tech companies as part of the business that they do. Okay, so the Digital Markets Act is trying to make sure that everybody gets a fair chance. [00:19:30] The EU itself says it is aimed at preventing gatekeepers from imposing unfair conditions on businesses and end users and that ensuring the openness of important digital services. Now here's what's new. The EU has been tasked with trying to figure out who is subject to this digital markets Act, who are the companies that they're calling gatekeepers?

And there are three [00:20:00] rules that need to be met in order for a company to be considered a gatekeeper. The size of the company and the impact on the internal market is one of those factors. So if a company achieves an annual turnover of at or above 7.5 billion euros in each of the last three financial years, or where its average market cap is [00:20:30] equal to at least 75 billion euros in the last financial year, then that is one criteria met. Secondly, it needs to have control of what they call an important gateway for business users towards final consumers. So basically if the company has a service that has more than 45 million monthly active users and of course is located in the [00:21:00] EU and more than 10,000 yearly active business users in the EU in the last financial year. So they're looking at both just end users like you or like me, and they're also looking at business users.

So for example, a publication that uses Facebook to put out their news articles would be a business user who is actively using the service. And [00:21:30] then last but not least, they have to meet this third criteria to be in an entrenched and durable position. So if the company has met the second criterion in each of the last three financial years, meaning that if it has operated with more than 45 million monthly active end users and 10,000 yearly active business users over the last three financial years, that means that the company's been around long enough that it does. So with that in mind, [00:22:00] that's a lot of money, right? That's many aaoo. And so that would kind of limit the number of companies. That's $8 billion in annual turnover and 80.5 billion. I'm going to US dollars now just to kind of compare in market cap. So that does limit the companies that are included as of yesterday, the commission [00:22:30] who is tasked with determining what companies count as gatekeepers have released those companies.

Alphabet, Amazon, oh, and Alphabet of course is Google's parent company, Amazon, apple by Dance, which owns TikTok Meta, which is the Facebook and Instagram parent company and Microsoft are the six quote gatekeepers according to the Digital Markets Act Commission. So [00:23:00] those six companies are having the sites set on them and those six companies offer what are called core platform services that all have now specific regulations and rules tied to them. So social networks including TikTok, which of course is by dance, Facebook, which is meta Instagram, which is meta, and LinkedIn, which is Microsoft Intermediation like Google Maps, Google Play, Google Shopping, which is Alphabet. Amazon Marketplace, [00:23:30] which is Amazon, the app store, which is Apple's app store and the meta marketplace, which of course is Facebook's meta marketplace ads from Google, Amazon, and meta browsers including Chrome and Safari, notably Chrome and Safari Chrome for Alphabet, safari for Apple.

What's not on there? Microsoft's Edge browser operating systems, Google, Android, Apple's, iOS, and of course Windows from Microsoft [00:24:00] Search is just Google search. So once again, binging is not on there. Video sharing YouTube from Alphabet and then messaging, WhatsApp and Messenger, which are both meta owned properties, notably iMessage not on that list. So there are a few that haven't made the list and they're are multiple reasons why this is the case. The commission is still working to determine [00:24:30] some of these outliers, so to speak. So it's not necessarily the case that we won't eventually see iMessage make it that we won't eventually see Microsoft make it. And in fact, Microsoft is currently under investigation with the rest of what's left off of that list. But if you're kind of curious, what happens next? Well, gatekeepers, the six companies I mentioned before have six months to comply with the full set of obligations [00:25:00] that the Digital Markets Act has put forth.

And then they're also going to give a compliance report, or excuse me, each of the six companies have to provide a compliance report showing how they have figured out the solutions. This is what they're doing to follow the Digital Markets Act. That needs to happen by March of 2024 for these six companies that have now been labeled as gatekeepers. However, there are two obligations that start from the [00:25:30] first day that a company has been designated as a gatekeeper. The gatekeepers are obligated to put in place a compliance function and are obligated to report on intended concentrations. So this means that they basically have to say, we recognize the compliance needs to happen and we are reporting on what we plan to do to make this happen. The commission, of course, is going to continue to monitor the implementation, [00:26:00] and if they don't implement the new fixes and they don't hold to these obligations, then come the fines.

And these fines are not small fines. I'll quote again from the Digital Markets Act, in case a gatekeeper does not comply with the obligations laid out in the D M A, the commission can impose fines up to 10% of the company's total worldwide turnover. So 10% of the money, [00:26:30] the turnover, and it can go up to 20% if the company continues to infringe on these regulations and obligations. This can go as far as to sort of empower even more remedies like telling a gatekeeper that they have to sell parts of their business off if they want to operate in the EU or completely banning one of these gatekeepers from acquiring any [00:27:00] other companies and adding additional services to the business. So very steep fines, very steep remedies as they're called in order to do this. Now, what this means in terms of what the D M A is going to have to do kind of boils down to some things we've heard of quite often.

One is that companies will need to make it or gatekeepers [00:27:30] will need to make it easy for you to uninstall pre-installed applications. And if you can't simply uninstall those pre-installed applications, the option to just not have them installed in the first place needs to be one of the implementations. Essentially. The idea here is that you have to be able to be provided the choice for what applications you want to use. Gatekeepers also will have to make sure, and this is on the business side, [00:28:00] that business users get access to all of the performance data whenever they're running ads and that developers are able to use dinging, dinging, dinging ding alternative in-app payment systems. So we've heard a lot about in-app payment systems being at the center of the problem with Apple's App Store, right? These companies are going to need to make sure that a developer can choose to use a different payment system from the one that's built in.

[00:28:30] And then interoperability options for Messenger systems. And that is where we go back to that core platform service seeing iMessage not on the list right now. This has been kind of an ongoing thing in the United States where Android users and iOS users don't have the same messaging system that Apple's iOS and iPad, OSS and Mac oss all use iMessage as the system and you can communicate with other iMessage [00:29:00] users in data packages that are different from how you do an S M S or an M M Ss. And so it will be interesting to see when the EU makes this choice to include iMessage potentially on the list, how that is going to impact the interoperability of iMessage going forward. Now, all of these companies have said, Hey, we hear the eu, [00:29:30] we're looking into it. We're going to see what's going on. Microsoft seems to be the most, their response according to the Verge has basically been, Hey, cool, we hear this and we are not only accepting this designation as a gatekeeper, but we also look forward to you investigating if our search engine binging our browser edge and our advertising services all need to be listed as part [00:30:00] of this compliance with the European Commission.

Google and Apple and Meta as well I guess have all kind of said, Hey, we are working with the EU to do what we can to make sure that this all flies according to the regulations. And we also are hoping that we can continue to offer great services even [00:30:30] if this is going to cause us headaches. So it's a little bit of a veiled way of saying we're going to do what we can to follow the letter of the law, we will be compliant, but we don't want to have to dive headfirst into these new regulations. And then what I found fascinating according to the Verge Bite dance has had a response that was a little bit more upset, we'll say, [00:31:00] according to the Verge, TikTok has said that they fundamentally disagree with the decision. TikTok has brought choice to a space largely controlled by incumbents.

And this decision risks undermining the DMAs stated goal by protecting actual gatekeepers from newer competitors like TikTok We're extremely disappointed that no market investigation was conducted prior to this decision and are evaluating our next steps. Ooh, [00:31:30] Soto's Bite dances displeased to say the least with this and we will see how this goes forward. So I'll quickly read through or not read through, but summarize some of the obligations that gatekeepers will need to follow through with and then we'll kind of leave it there. So end users will need to be able to uninstall pre-installed apps, we talked about that before, but also change default settings on their operating systems. So [00:32:00] be able to choose their own browser virtual assistance. The same thing if I don't want to have Siri or Samsung's, I don't even know what it's called these days, to be able to change that.

And so that way each individual will have the choice for what they want to use as their virtual assistant or their operating systems defaults. End users will need to be able to install [00:32:30] third party apps or use third party app stores instead of just the first party app Store. End users will need to unsubscribe from core platform services as easily as they subscribe to them. So if for example, you sign up for, I dunno, Google's storage solution and it's as simple as whenever you're setting up your phone, you just say yes and you log in, then it should be just as easy to say no afterwards.

[00:33:00] Gatekeepers will need to allow third parties to interoperate with the gatekeeper's own services. So again, we talked about that with iMessage and others, although iMessage is not currently listed so it's better to say WhatsApp provide the companies advertising on their platform with access to all of those tools. We talked about that early on. Allow business users to promote their offers and conclude contracts with their customers outside of the gatekeepers platform. So not requiring that they use [00:33:30] the gatekeepers own system as part of their means of getting in touch with their end users. So with Apple's App store, if you want to reach out to your customers and you have your customers reach out to you, it's all sort of facilitated through Apple and to have a third party way of doing that or a third party option for doing that is what they're saying there.

Provide business users with access to the data generated by their activities on the gatekeepers platform. So basically getting more access [00:34:00] to the information a ban on using the data of business users when gatekeepers compete with them on their own platform. So Amazon is a good example here or Google, I mean anything that offers, if I am a third party and developer and I'm making a calculator app, then Apple shouldn't be able to use the information of my users using my calculator app to improve upon their own calculator app, [00:34:30] a ban on ranking the gatekeeper's own products or services in a more favorable manner. So when I am doing a search in the app store for calculator app, if Apple's calculator pops up ahead of mine and it isn't a sort of natural revelation of Apple's own app, but maybe it shows up with a blue edge around it.

So to tap on it, a ban on requiring app developers to use certain of the gatekeepers services. So again, this is payment [00:35:00] systems identity providers in order to appear in app stores of the gatekeeper. So this was very simply the way that some app stores require you to use their in-app purchase systems, their specific services, and then a ban on tracking end users outside of the gatekeeper's core platform service for the purpose of targeted advertising without effective consent having been granted by the end user. So unless you're saying yes, you can track me when I'm not using your core services, then [00:35:30] you are not allowed to do so. So they have some time March of 2020, excuse me, March of 2024 to be able to get this in place, but then those steep fines will start coming. The EU has said we're aware that there are going to be some challenges brought against this.

They've already got that kind of prepared for as they look to see how these gatekeepers [00:36:00] that have now been named will respond. There's a great q and a that we'll link to as well in the show notes from the EU itself and it's kind of, or not q and a rather, but a F A Q that goes in detail about the latest for the D M A. So be sure to check that out if you want to learn more about where things stand with the Digital Markets Act and the European Union. Alright, up next we are going to get a preview of Apple's upcoming September [00:36:30] event. It's just around the corner, but first I do want to take a moment to tell you about our next sponsor, which is Bit Warden. It's the only open source cross platform password manager available anywhere anytime Security. Now Steve Gibson has even switched over.

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Learn more about ss o with trusted slash twit. At twit, we are fans of password managers every single one of us. So get started with bit warden's free trial of a teams or enterprise plan or get started for free across all devices as an individual user at bit That's bit [00:39:00] All righty, folks back from the break. And as you know, Apple's September event is just around the corner. You will be able to tune in live on Tuesday at 10:00 AM Pacific to watch Leo LaPorte and I provide commentary during the events and its various announcements, but joining us ahead of the event to give us a preview of what we can probably [00:39:30] expect is six colors own Dan Morin, welcome back to the show. Dan.

Dan Moren (00:39:36):
Good to be here. Micah, it's always a pleasure to talk to you.

Mikah Sargent (00:39:38):
Yeah, it's always a pleasure to talk to you too. So let's kick things off with what we can almost certainly expect to have announced at Apple's September event. The September event seems to happen every year and at every event Apple announces [00:40:00] blank, this is for you to fill it in.

Dan Moren (00:40:03):
Well, I like a good mad lib. That's a lot of fun. Every September event, well pretty much asterisk almost every, there's a new iPhone, so expect a new iPhone. It's that time of year, it's the time of year where you have to decide if you want to upgrade your iPhone to see what the new hotness is. This year, of course the iPhone 15, assuming that they continue their traditional numbering pattern, we're not expecting any change to that. But the iPhone 15 and a 15 [00:40:30] Pro are the most likely things to see at this event, what they will bring. There are still some questions about that, but there are a lot of rumors as well. You want to start with that or you want to talk about the full other things that we can expect to see a lot of places to go here.

Mikah Sargent (00:40:48):
There are a lot of places to go, oh, the places you'll go. And in fact, that is a good place to start though. Let's start with iPhone 15. We've got the iPhone 14 right now [00:41:00] and it comes in iPhone 14 and iPhone 14, pro variations with multiple sizes. Are we looking at the same thing this year where you've got the pro and the non-pro and then you've got two different sizes in each category? And then if that's the case, what are the changes that we can look forward to this year? Why would someone maybe make that upgrade?

Dan Moren (00:41:26):
So Apple has in the last few years worked on [00:41:30] a two year strategy with its models in the sense of the different assortment available. So for a couple of years we had the iPhone 15, a smaller version of that or iPhone, the standard iPhone, the iPhone Pro, a larger version of that. And then last year they swapped the mini phone for the plus phone. So there was the iPhone 14, the 14 plus, and then the 14 pro and the 14 Pro Max. Super fun and confusing. This year we're expecting that to operate on pretty much the same [00:42:00] thing since they seem to give it at least a couple of years to see how that model lineup sort of shakes out. So expect your 15 and your 15 plus to so the same sizes as last year along with the pro lineup that has the same sort of corresponding sizes in the 15 Pro and the 15 Pro Max.

As far as what you can expect this year, the big change that everybody's talking about is that after more than a decade Apple will swap out the lightning port that it's been using for charging data, transfer audio connections, that kind of thing in favor [00:42:30] of A U S B C port. Obviously that's going to cause a shakeup for some people in terms of replacing cables and accessories, but since a lot of people do have U S B C cables around, they're more of a standard. There is the advantage that maybe you already have these cables handy. Besides that, it seems like the dynamic island from the 14 pro line last year is going to make its way down to the standard iPhone as well. There's a couple other little changes along the way. The 15 PRO and Promax are expected to use titanium instead of steel for [00:43:00] that outer ring.

This has the biggest benefit of being lighter. Titanium is much lighter than steel, so that could make those phones lighter than they have previously been. And then on the higher end pro models, we're also expecting to see a new chip architecture using apple's most recent three nanometer process. So probably be dubbed the A 17 whereas the standard iPhone 15 models will get a 16 chip, which was in the pro last year. So Apple's now started to do this thing where they trickle [00:43:30] down their highest end processors from year to year rather than all of them having the same processor. And then the other question that's still floating around, there are rumors that the pro models will get a price increase as well around a hundred dollars. Unclear whether or not that's true, but that's sort of possibly in the offering.

Mikah Sargent (00:43:50):
Interesting. A price increase. Now this always leaves me wondering, from your understanding, from your experience, [00:44:00] are people aware of that price increase or as far as you've seen and experienced, is it the case that people are not buying these phones outright but are doing it through some sort of carrier plan or maybe even Apple's own iPhone upgrade plan? How much of an impact do you think a price hike is going to have on people's purchases of the latest phones?

Dan Moren (00:44:30):
[00:44:30] Well, since price hike seems to be, and again this is based on speculation, we don't know this for sure yet, but since it seems to be targeted at the pro phones, which are already the most expensive phones in the lineup, I don't think it will have as much of an impact for a couple of different reasons. One, as you allude, a lot of people use installment plans or upgrade programs, so they will still see an increase, but if it's more on the order of five or $6 a month, they may not feel like that hits their wallet as much. Second, by targeting the highest end phones, apple is making it to the point [00:45:00] where it's sort of guessing that the people who are buying these phones are already pretty financially comfortable buying these expensive phones. They're buying the pro phones, right? They're not buying the vanilla sort of iPhone 15.

And I think it's taking the gamble that people at that level aren't going to care about an extra a hundred dollars. Even if they do, it's like, well, there are cheaper phones available if you're buying something because you want that pro phone and you want the phone, that's the best phone that's out there. I think they, they're sort of taking the approach of thinking like, well, you'll pay an extra a hundred dollars to have that [00:45:30] if that's what's important to you. And I'm not sure they're wrong about that. I think the phones have done very well for Apple in their overall mix of the phone lineup so people will be aware of it. And I expect as always, there's probably going to be some grumbling, but I kind of expect it not to have a real impact on the sales of the phone.

Mikah Sargent (00:45:47):
Now, when Apple changed a charging port in years past, there was a lot of that grumbling, but this time around [00:46:00] a charging port change would shift the charger, the charging port, and the necessary cables into a place that would, I think in many cases, make it so that people have more cables than they have had before because a lot of other gadgets and gizmos have gone U S B C or have been U S B C for a long time. So I'm curious [00:46:30] in your crystal ball predictions, are we going to see a lot of grumbling about potential change to U SS B C and of course part of the reason for Apple potentially making this change? Again, this whole segment is a speculation segment, but part of this is because of requirements overseas for Apple to Apple, like every tech company to provide [00:47:00] U S B C charging as that is now the blessed port, but Apple doesn't operate from a position of weakness and so they are all about selling the change. So what do you think it's going to look like and sound like if Apple announces a U S B C port on the iPhone?

Dan Moren (00:47:24):
Yeah, so you're totally right. Apple is going to talk about how great this is. We saw with the iPhone seven, [00:47:30] remove the headphone jack and sell it as the most courageous decision anybody's made in the history of smartphones. I fully expect something along those lines again, and I'm sure they will downplay any impact that regulation had on this. And the truth is I'm sure the regulation played a part, but I don't think it was the only thing. I went back and was watching the introduction of the lightning port back in 2012, and one of the things that Phil Schiller who at the time introduced it mentioned was that this was a modern port for the next decade and it's been [00:48:00] more than a decade, so it's not exactly surprising. I mean we've talked about grumbling when there's been, they've changed the charging board before, but it's worth remembering they've only really done it once so far.

I mean, they went from a 30 pin dot connector, which debuted on an iPod back in 2003 to the lightning cable, and that lasted I think nine years. The lightning cable's been around even longer than that. So yes, people are going to grumble because they're going to have to change some cables. The blow is a little softer this time for a couple of reasons. One, as you mentioned, [00:48:30] a lot of people have U Ss B C cables from other devices they own because this transition has been in place across the industry over the last several years. Two, I think fundamentally people connect, physically connect their iPhone for fewer things. When the doc connector port changed to the lightning port more than a decade ago, people had speaker docs and accessories and things that plugged into their iPhones and their iPods, and in some cases they'd had those things going back to an older iPod and so they could just slot their phone in and it would be super convenient These days, [00:49:00] I think that's less the case.

Moreover, because we have different technologies for connecting to a lot of those things, Bluetooth, wifi, airplay, all these things have made life easier to the point where you don't really have to plug your phone into anything except basically to charge. And even in the case of Apple, they've also embraced the Q wireless charging standard and of course have rolled out their own MagSafe charging standard. And so those things, if you invested in MagSafe cables like a year ago or two years ago when you bought your iPhone or a QI charger that sits by your bedside, those things all still [00:49:30] work with the next phone. So I think there will be an outcry, but I don't think it's going to reach the sort of pop culture zeitgeist that it did a decade ago when the 30 pin connector changed to lightning.

Mikah Sargent (00:49:43):
Yeah, that's well put. So outside of the iPhone and new titanium and faster processor and all of that jazz, do you like jazz? I'm curious if there's anything else we can expect or should expect [00:50:00] at Apple's September event this time around. Are we getting any one more things? Are we getting new Apple watches? What else is rumored to be at this next event?

Dan Moren (00:50:14):
Yeah, so there are some rumors about other devices. I think the watch series is the most likely thing to get a revision. The watch often goes hand in hand with the iPhone because obviously it's kind of positioned as an iPhone accessory. There are a lot of questions about what an Apple Watch series nine might look like that we aren't expecting [00:50:30] any major new health sensors or anything like that. Which isn't to say they couldn't happen, but there hasn't been a lot of talk about it. The biggest sort of rumor around that is a new version of the S series chip that powers the Apple Watch, which would be based probably on the A 15 line, which would offer better performance, possibly better battery life. There may have some conversations about new colors available for the watch as well. But beyond that, we don't really know a lot about what is going to be offered there.

And then of course, the other question [00:51:00] mark is the Apple Watch Ultra that was introduced last year and it's been a really big hit as far as we can tell. And so there are some questions about will we see a Apple Watch alteri? Will we perhaps just see a new color option? Black titanium has been thrown out there as something that we could see and we may just see some other sort of refresh cosmetically that doesn't actually change the innards of the watch. There's also some talk of new manufacturing processes using three D printing instead of using the traditional [00:51:30] sort of C N C milled cases that they've used before. And then other than that, there's a lot of stuff about accessories out there, whether there will be a U S B C AirPods case to replace the current case, whether there'll be new iPhone cases and Apple Watchbands, those sorts of accessory stories, but nothing that has really been out there that makes us think like, oh, there's going to be a surprise new product. I don't think that's likely to happen this time around.

Mikah Sargent (00:51:58):
Yeah, that's [00:52:00] my expectation as well. Now, one thing that sometimes happens at September events is with the introduction of new hardware, we will see something that will suddenly be activated in the operating system. So for example, in years past, we saw the dynamic island that we had been testing [00:52:30] iOS all the way leading up to the September event and did not know that this dynamic island was coming and suddenly this in software mixed with hardware feature was revealed. Are there any rumors about anything like that, that the hardware will take advantage of the software in a way that we had not expected or has all of been pretty clear up to this

Dan Moren (00:52:57):
Point? Yeah, I mean Apple [00:53:00] does like to keep a surprise or two up its sleeve. It would not surprise me at all to hear that there was something that the hardware unlocked in terms of the capabilities in the Lays version of iOS that will be available. We have heard of course that there is a possibility for a new camera on the iPhone line, possibly only on the Pro Max that could open the door to some new camera modes or camera options that would only be available to that new hardware. But beyond that, if there's something in [00:53:30] there that Apple's holding back, they've done a good job of keeping it under wraps for the moment. So yeah, we don't really know of any software features coming, but yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to see something make that appearance there.

Mikah Sargent (00:53:43):
Alright, last I will just ask, anything that you are looking forward to seeing at this event or you're fully aware of what's going to happen and therefore are not expecting [00:54:00] any surprises or anything that's going to be of particular interest?

Dan Moren (00:54:04):
I always like a good surprise. There's nothing out there right now. I would certainly love to see a little bit more about the Vision Pro, which they talked about back at WW d c I don't really expect to, because they give it a lot of time at WW d c and it seems like we're still a ways out from its shipping, so I don't think they're going to basically do much other than maybe say, oh, we showed this off personally, I'm in the market to replace my Apple tv, and [00:54:30] I might hope that maybe there's an announcement in that vein, possibly even just some cheaper prices. Those are still pretty expensive, but I have no real expectation of that either. The one wild card I would like to see as long as we're making this U S B C transition is a replacement for some of the company's Mac accessories, like the magic keyboard and the magic track pad that rely on lightning cables and replace those with U S B C. But I think it's far more likely those will appear later in the fall as part of some sort of Mac event. So [00:55:00] yeah, not a lot here that I'm really waiting for, but I'm excited to see if there's anything that hasn't leaked to make it out there.

Mikah Sargent (00:55:10):
Oh man, that's a good one. I would love to see that too as I stare down at this pesky port on my keyboard.

Dan Moren (00:55:19):
I'm with you. Yeah, no, anything to replace those lightning cables. I want to go all us b, C as soon as possible.

Mikah Sargent (00:55:26):
That would be awesome. Well, Dan Moore, I want to thank you so much for your time today. [00:55:30] Of course, folks can head over to six to check out your work there, but is there anywhere else I should go to follow along with what you're doing online?

Dan Moren (00:55:38):
Sure. You can find all of my stuff, including my novels and my other I'm a Mastodon at Zeppelin flight slash at d Morin. And of course you can find me every week over at Relay fm on Wednesdays for the Clockwise podcast with my good host, a fellow named Micah sart.

Mikah Sargent (00:55:58):
Oh, I know him. [00:56:00] All right, thank you. Thank, thank you, Dan. Thanks.

Dan Moren (00:56:03):
See you later.

Mikah Sargent (00:56:04):
Bye-Bye, alrightyy. Up next. I've got another story of the week for you and it's, it's a little squishy, a little moldy and a little wet, so we'll get to that in a moment. But I do want to take, I don't know what all of you're thinking, but I can't wait to tell you what the story's about, but I do want to take a quick break to tell you about our next [00:56:30] sponsor of Tech News Weekly. It's Brooke Line Fall. It's finally here. Thank goodness. And now is the perfect time to upgrade your betting collection with Cozy Season Home Essentials from Brooklinen. Yes, it's cozy season. It's cuffing season. It's time to cuddle up, and you can do so with Brooklinen.

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I'm admitting that to myself right now as much as I'm admitting it to all of you.

It's partially because it's so prolific that I can look, if I'm browsing through media content and I see a percentage, I almost certainly know it's regarding Rotten Tomatoes, that that is the Rotten Tomatoes [01:00:30] rating. And what I didn't know was the scoring system, the scoring method, the whole kit and caboodle of how Rotten Tomatoes works. Many of you probably did know this or do know this, but Rotten Tomatoes, the rating is a grouping of scores. So many sites out in the world will review a [01:01:00] movie or a title, I guess would be the best way to put it. And with those reviews, rotten Tomatoes will combine them together and provide a rating based on those reviews. Now, according to a Vulture article, this is what the story of the week is about. The scores classify each review as either positive or negative, and then they take the number of positive reviews and divide that [01:01:30] number by the total.

And then the percentage they're left with, that's the percentage that the movie gets. So it doesn't matter if the review is coming from a blog that 50 people visit, or if it's coming from a reputable critic who's had years in the business of doing movie reviews, if it's a positive review [01:02:00] or a negative review. Those are factored in. The positive reviews are then divided by the total number of reviews, and that's where the percentage comes from. So that's something to understand first and foremost, that it's not necessarily entirely reputable reviewers who are providing part of the rating for the film. And secondarily, something else [01:02:30] that's important to understand is that it's either good or it's bad. There's no gray area. So one director talked about how occasionally you'd have a review where someone says, look, this movie was not a movie that I enjoyed, but the parts that I didn't enjoy, I was very impressed with how the director of the film pulled off this movie that I didn't enjoy.

[01:03:00] And overall, that could be considered an applause to the director saying that, look, you pulled it off. You just didn't pull it off for me. And so if that is the review, that is going to be considered a negative review by Rotten Tomatoes, whereas it might not be a negative review if it were something that you read. And that's where Rotten Tomatoes actually came along in the first place. People went from reading individual reviews to wanting [01:03:30] to just have a quick way to know if a movie was certified fresh or not. So they decided to do this sort of grouping of all of the reviews that were out there, or many of the reviews that were out there, and give people a quick way to know, here's what the critics are thinking about this film or not thinking about this film. What I didn't know, also, according to this Vulture piece, is that Rotten Tomatoes is owned by [01:04:00] two companies that make movies and then also owned by a company that sells tickets to movies.

So Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Warner Bross, it's also, or Warner Brothers. It's also owned by Fandango and Fandango, it's parent company is Universal Pictures. So Warner Bross [01:04:30] and Universal Pictures and Fandango All Own Rotten Tomatoes, which I don't know if you see it this way, but sort of feels like a conflict of interest if you ask me. That alone is something to keep in mind, to bear in mind. But this Vulture piece kind of talks about how important to the movie industry Rotten Tomatoes is, but how easily gamified or not [01:05:00] gamified hacked Rotten Tomatoes can be. The piece starts out talking about a publicity company that is occasionally hired to help get a better score for films. And so a film had a score that was less than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, and they worked to raise that score so [01:05:30] that more people would see it in the piece.

They talk over time about how the way that films are rated when they're rated, how they're rated has an impact on or has a potential impact on the box office for that film. So one example was a film that ended up getting very few reviews. It was a title from 2022, [01:06:00] and it was screened at a festival. And when it was screened at the festival, it got some reviews. It ended up with a hundred percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the publicist was like, Hey, look, there aren't many reviews. Even though you have a hundred percent Rotten Tomatoes, we should get some more reviews out there. The movie studio said, no, no, no. We don't want to ruin our perfect 100%, so let's not screen it to anymore before we release it for it to go to the box office. [01:06:30] So they kept it at a hundred percent.

That film ended up winning an Oscar. Now, did it win an Oscar because it had a hundred percent review on Rotten Tomatoes? Did it win an Oscar because it had so many people going to see it? Did it win an Oscar because it was worth a hundred percent of Rotten Tomatoes? You don't know. I love too that in this Vulture piece, they do cite some studies that have looked at how a Rotten Tomato score actually impacts box office numbers. Up to this point, [01:07:00] it looks like it doesn't have too much of an impact, but it also started to show that maybe that was changing, that Rotten Tomatoes was starting to have an impact, but the organization that did the study pointed to the fact that that may have been because of the pandemic and how that could have shifted people's behaviors. And so they didn't want [01:07:30] to conclude that it did have that much of an impact without factoring in more data over time.

So they're kind of continuing to review this, but I dunno, ultimately for me, what this did was it opened my eyes a little bit to a, you always got to follow the money, right? And that's important in research. That's important in so much, I didn't know that Rotten Tomatoes was owned by two movie distributors and a ticket sales company [01:08:00] that has its own implications. There's been over time a shift from, and let me just actually do a direct quote from the Vulture piece. According to a study by Global News in 16, the average, now some people say Tomater, some people say tomato meter. The average tomato meter score for all wide releases was in the rotten low fifties. But by 2021, that average had climbed to [01:08:30] a fresh 60%. So in the before times when Rotten Tomatoes was more independent to now in 2021, more films are appearing as fresh, and that is something to keep in mind.

So we follow the money, we keep that in mind, and then we follow the, I guess it's just more money, frankly, that this system can be gamed with proper timing, with proper choices [01:09:00] on who the film is sent to. And I don't want to give away the whole piece because that doesn't lead value back to the Vulture article, but let's just say in talking about the movie publicity company, they talk about some of the behaviors of the folks who work at the movie publicity company who reach out to journalists and maybe try to get positive reviews. So it's definitely worth reading to learn a little bit more about that. But just in general, [01:09:30] this for me was kind of a, oh, maybe I should pay more attention to individual reviews as opposed to this sort of average review rating that Rotten Tomatoes provides and not necessarily use that as a means of determining if I'm going to like a film or series that is published online.

So yeah, go read the Vulture piece [01:10:00] about the decomposition of Rotten Tomatoes as it's entitled. What a great title It is quite good and great work from Lane Brown over at Vulture. Folks, that is going to bring us to the end of this very episode of Tech News Weekly. We do publish the show every Thursday at twit tv slash tnw. So head there. If you're not subscribed, subscribe there to the show in audio and video formats your choice. If you would like to get [01:10:30] all our shows ad free, well, we do have a way for you to do that. You can check out Club Twit at twit tv slash club twit when you join the club starting at $7 a month or $84 a year, you will get some great stuff. First and foremost, every single Twitch Show ad free. It's all the content, none of the ads, because you in effect are supporting the shows.

You also get access to the Twit plus bonus feed that has extra content you won't find anywhere else behind the scenes before the show, after the show. Also, club Twit events get published there, so [01:11:00] when you subscribe will get access to a huge back catalog of content that's so exciting, as well as the members only Discord server. A fun place to go to chat with your fellow Club TWIT members, and those of us here at twit. Now, I said starting at $7 a month because it's a tiered subscription, but because some folks said, Hey, look, we're getting a lot of value out of this, and you have one of the least expensive subscription costs in all of the memberships, we'd like to give you some more money. So we've given you the ability to do that. You can pay $7 [01:11:30] a month, you can pay more than $7 a month.

It will give you access to the same thing. You get access on top of all of that to some Club TWIT exclusive shows, the Untitled Linux Show. There's Hands on Windows, which is a short format show from Paul Throop that covers Windows, tips and tricks. My Hands on Mac Show, which is a short format show that covers Apple tips and tricks, the Home Theater Geeks program from Scott Wilkinson, which is going to help you figure [01:12:00] out all sorts of questions, but also gadgets, gizmos, products, it's everything to do with home theater. And Jason Howell's new artificial intelligence show, which is part of the club. So please consider joining TWI tv slash club twit to join the Fun to join the club. We would love to have you there if you'd like to tweet at me or follow me or see what I'm up to. [01:12:30] You can find me on many a social media network at Micah Sargent or head to

That's C H I H U A h That's the place where I've got most of my links. You can also check me out later today. If you're a club member, you can watch Hands on Mac, which we'll publish here pretty soon. Or you can watch on Sundays. Ask the Tech Guys, the show that I co-host with Leo LaPorte, where we take your questions online and do our best to [01:13:00] answer them. We take your questions live on air, do our best to answer them. And Tuesdays, you can watch iOS today with Rosemary Orchard and yours truly, where we cover all things Iost, v o s, watchOS, et cetera. Huge thanks as always to our producer, our technical director, and our editor, John Ashley to Burke, who is our engineering member, who makes sure that we are [01:13:30] good to go with our guests, that they sound great to John Lenina in the studio as well, who leads off the studio engineering. We appreciate it. And of course, we appreciate all of you out there who not only tune in each week or have subscribed, but also who I know are telling their friends and family members about this very show. Thank you so much. We will see you next week for another episode of Tech News Weekly. Bye-bye.

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