What's Up With Apple: Ad Exec Leaves, Judge Proposes Epic-Apple Compromise, and More

The judge in the trial pitting Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) against Epic Games, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, is apparently seeking middle ground in the dispute. Judge Gonzalez Rogers earlier this week questioned Apple’s so-called anti-steering rule that prevents app developers from directing people away from Apple’s App Store toward another online vendor that might charge less for the same product.

According to a report at Bloomberg News, the judge asked Apple expert witness Richard Schmalensee, an MIT economics professor, “What’s so bad about it anyway, for consumers to have choice?” The answer appeared to be that Apple won’t make as much money because offering a choice is “undercutting” App Store sales: “If the app vendor can say, if you press this button you can buy this for less, that means the App Store can’t collect its commission.”

On Tuesday, we noted a story about Apple’s hiring in April of a former Facebook advertising executive. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the executive, Antonio Garcia Martinez, had left the company following complaints about previous comments he had made both verbally and in writing: “In the book [2016’s Chaos Monkeys], Garcia Martinez called women in Silicon Valley ‘soft and weak’ and made a series of other assertions deemed misogynist and racist by Apple employees.”

Garcia Martinez did appear to be something of a bad fit. Bloomberg cited this comment from a 2018 interview at Vox: “[M]ost people don’t care about privacy. Media elites care about it, underemployed Eurocrats care about it. And the entire privacy-industrial complex — there’s an entire set of very loud voices who are constantly beating the drum and building media careers around this.” That’s the Facebook approach, not the Apple approach, to privacy concerns.

When game platform maker Unity Software reported earnings Tuesday, the company noted that it expects to see a drop of about $30 million in annual revenue as a result of the Apple App Tracking Transparency feature that was included with the latest update to iOS. Last year, Unity reported revenue of $772.45 million.

Finally, the top download from the App Store on Wednesday was GasBuddy, an app that people use to locate the lowest prices for nearby gasoline. People also use the app to report how much they paid for fuel and GasBuddy posts the crowd-sourced averages.

The recent ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline has Americans worried about both the availability and the rising cost of fuel. As of Thursday morning, NYMEX gasoline futures have fallen back to their level of last Friday, the day the pipeline was shut down. Crude oil futures also have returned to pre-shutdown levels.

Crude oil and gasoline prices have been rising as demand picks up from Americans who are traveling more now that vaccinations have eased the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The Colonial Pipeline was restarted on Wednesday and will be running at partial capacity for a few days as the pipeline refills after the shutdown.

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