Category: WoA Feature Articles

An Open Letter to Tim Cook – Human Rights in UAE

Apple employees carry rainbow flags as they march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California June 29, 2014 | REUTERS/Noah Berger

Apple employees carry rainbow flags as they march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California June 29, 2014 | REUTERS/Noah Berger

Tim,

Apple is a company that has for decades inspired millions of young people to design the best they can design, to focus on the detail and create beautiful and functional products. Apple has stood at the forefront of amazing product design and changed the way humans interact with technology through its own passion for design.

I, like many other people have watched on at Apple for years and looked up to the brand as a role model. Many years ago I would write school essays about Apple if I could and in my mid-teens decided that it was such a passion that I should help in the spread of Apple’s message by setting up this very website. I wouldn’t be surprised that if for the past 15 years I’ve said or read the word Apple dozens of times a day. But most notably Apple has shaped me as a person, it has shaped the way I perceive the world, the way I enjoy the world, and how I choose to live.

Recently Apple has climbed to be one of the most successful corporations the world has ever known, both financially and in terms of its product portfolio. With much glee I’ve watched on as you have steered Apple into an era of transparency and thoughtfulness—but most importantly, an era of equality and diversity.

Just last week Apple published, for the first time, equality and diversity figures from across its workforce. Before that a video was posted on the company’s website where hundreds of Apple employees were seen marching through the streets of San Francisco for Pride. You clearly outline your belief that “inclusion inspires innovation”, a catchy phrase but a message with strong responsibilities attached.

Don’t get me wrong, Apple leading the pack and publishing equality data is extremely welcome. Remember, Apple is a beacon to millions of young people—as it was to me. But equality and diversity is about more than just race, ethnicity, and gender. Sexual orientation is an important aspect in understanding a workforce, and gender is not binary. So whilst you’ve said you’re committed to the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere, I’d also encourage you to expand the understanding across Apple.

But this is not what I write to you about. Job listings would suggest you’re due to open an Apple Store in the United Arab Emirates—a country with an abhorrent track record of human rights. UAE is a country where women are required to ask for the right to travel without a male guardian’s permission, where women are refused the right to education and the right to drive any motor vehicle. A country where a women who has been raped can be jailed, and often are.

In the UAE LGBT people are effectively threatened by death and despite there being a fairly large LGBT scene there are still horrific stories of punishment. In Dubai where you look set to open a huge Apple Store it is illegal to be homosexual and the issues around trans people are not just misunderstood but outlawed.

I have no doubt that there is already a sizeable Apple workforce in the UAE, I find it hard to believe that such human rights abuses would prevent Apple from entering a market—parts of the United States and China aren’t much better—but I would encourage you to stick to your word of spreading the advancement of equality and human rights everywhere. For the sake of Apple employees in the UAE and other uneducated countries it’s important that Apple, once again, leads the way.

Alex Brooks
August, 2014

The Future: Apple in China

Apple Store Pudong (China)

Apple Store Pudong (China) | Image courtesy of Apple

The quiet season is behind us, it was the most prolonged period of quiet from Apple in terms of product releases that I’ve ever known. There’s nothing nefarious to read into; Apple is a company that absolutely loves patterns and consistency and there is no better way to stay consistent than to release products in the same week year after year.

So here we are, the week of Apple’s first announcement event of the season is upon us. I would usually be sat here writing a rumour roundup or something similar. Maybe I’d be having fun shooting down stupid rumours—that’s always a laugh if not sometimes very infuriating.

But life is different for me and spare time is a luxury. Don’t get me wrong I’m still closely watching every rumour, dissecting and calculating the possibilities and the accuracy of individuals. But the rumour game has changed and it’s honestly no where near as bad as it once was. (9to5 Mac and Mac Rumors both have decent roundups.)

Which means I’m going to look at something completely different.

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Sixty? Yes, Sixty.

Apple's quarterly revenue estimate for the first fiscal quarter of 2013

Apple’s quarterly revenue estimate for the first fiscal quarter of 2013

You may recall that almost exactly one year ago I wrote a piece entitled The Forty Billion Dollar Quarter in which I riled in excitement about Apple’s upcoming announcement of what it had achieved in the previous fiscal quarter. I predicted dropped jaws across Wall Street and I wasn’t wrong. Apple eventually announced quarterly revenue for the first quarter of 2012 of just over $46 billion buoyed primarily by superb sales of the iPhone and iPad.

The first fiscal quarter of Apple’s year is always something special, it of course includes the holiday shopping season which these days stretches from around Thanksgiving in the US all the way up until the end of the quarter on December 31. But even if you go back and read my gushing piece about last years first quarter, nothing can prepare any of us for what Apple is likely to announce on January 23.

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Low Volume Player

Steve Ballmer demos some Windows 8 devices

Steve Ballmer demos some Windows 8 devices | Image courtesy of Microsoft

A few weeks back Microsoft CEO and chief ass Steve Ballmer was asked in an interview with the Wall Street Journal if he’d like Microsoft to evolve to Apple’s business model, that is to say would Microsoft enjoy being in control of both software and hardware? In response Ballmer said that “[i]n every category Apple competes, it’s the low-volume player, except in tablets,” adding that “In the PC market, obviously the advantage of diversity has mattered since 90-something percent of PCs that get sold are Windows PCs. We’ll see what winds up mattering in tablets.”

To even the most casual of Apple watchers it would be obscene to believe that Apple is a “low-volume” player in the smartphone market, MP3 market or even arguably in the hardware side of the PC market.

So what led Ballmer to label Apple has as a low-volume player, apart from the fact that he is completely unable to see or predict an industry trend through the mind warping success of Microsoft’s recent endeavours. Is this just a defensive quip from Ballmer as he faces the pressure of a number of failing ventures into the post-PC and smartphone markets?

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Expectations at WWDC 2012

Moscone West in San Francisco adorned for WWDC 2012

Moscone West in San Francisco adorned for Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is approaching quickly and unlike last year it looks like Apple might put on more than a software only show. Equally exciting for 2012 is that in the six months that have passed Apple has released and updated relatively few products. Particularly notable for the six months that have made up 2012 so far is that not a single model of Mac has been refreshed. We know that Apple has a particular dislike for releasing new hardware in August and after late October which leaves only a few months for a whole bunch of products to be crammed into.

Macs which have so far been completely void of any changes and many of which haven’t been touched for almost 12 months or more will likely be changed ahead of the “back to school” period which usually runs during June and July. Such a release timeframe could coincide nicely with the release of OS X Mountain Lion pinned by Apple for “late summer”.

It is possible to say with confidence that neither the iPhone nor the iPad will see any sort of hardware change announced during the WWDC keynote on Monday. Both of Apple’s leading products are firmly set in predictable cycles—iPad in March and iPhone in October for those slow off the mark.

The problem with such a high number of potential announcements is that it becomes difficult to make accurate predictions for WWDC which has in recent history focused more on developers than consumers, certainly since the iPhone moved to a Fall refresh in 2010.

But as Apple has indicated in its WWDC 2012 material the upcoming week is the one “we’ve all been waiting for”. So let’s take a look at the likely candidates for next weeks keynote.

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4G or “4G”?

iPad with Ultrafast 4G LTE

iPad with Ultrafast 4G LTE on Apple's US website

Outside of the United States Apple has been making headlines that aren’t exactly positive and it’s all surrounding how the company has chosen to advertise the new iPad. As is common knowledge these days Apple took the bold step to include LTE connectivity in its latest iPad model as one of the major features. Ahead of the iPad release I shot down the chances of Apple including LTE, stating primarily a lack of international adoption as a key reason for Apple to wait a year. I later relented and suspected it was inevitable.

However, LTE in the iPad is seemingly causing Apple more headaches than they would have envisaged and since before the iPad was even announced has been a point of frustration for myself and many others. This breaks into two simple ideas, the first idea being that LTE actually constitutes as true 4G connectivity and second the reason as to why Apple hobbled the iPad internationally?

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Mercurial

Walter Isaacson speaks at The Royal Institution in London

Walter Isaacson speaks at The Royal Institution in London

In a most auspicious setting Walter Isaacson took to the floor last night to talk about his 2011 biography of Steve Jobs. Having visited Amsterdam and Oxford this week on a whistle stop tour promoting the book it was particularly notable that Isaacson’s visit to London found him in a location that is special for all sorts of reasons but particularly in reference to science of which Isaacson’s past biography subjects include Einstein and Franklin.

Taking place in the famed lecture theatre of The Royal Institution in Mayfair, Isaacson set off the session retelling much of what is present in the biography of Jobs that was released not long after his death in October 2011. Mercurial is a word that pops up a lot when trying to create a summary of Jobs but according to Isaacson Jobs was a fan of the word.

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Apple’s Death Wish for the Rumour

Walt and Steve enjoying their interview at D5 in 2007

Walt and Steve enjoying their interview at D5 in 2007 | Photo by: Asa Mathat

It’s impossible to avoid using the term “post Jobs-era” but this week has proved more than any that with Tim Cook at the helm Apple is a changing company, and I believe changing for the better.

It’s no secret, Steve Jobs despised journalists unless of course he needed their help. As Apple grew, working with the press became less of a priority. Apple’s publicity is a self-perpetuating machine fed by hundreds upon hundreds of blogs posting emphatically about the latest Apple product announcement. Apple’s requirement for the press has diminished yet the media interest has grown. Anyone who has ever wanted to or attempted to contact an Apple PR representative knows the struggle required to get a response, in the majority cases you simply won’t get one.

The strategy of Apple’s PR team is to keep the feed of information as tightly scripted as possible, even when vice presidents are given an interview with a journalist they must stay on topic—that’s both the journalist and Apple VP (remember this Phil Schiller and Ben Cohen interview?). When the information isn’t coming directly from Apple then expectations are bound to get blown out of proportion and that’s a dangerous game.

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Apple’s Education Event: Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?

iBooks Textbooks Category on iBookstore

iBooks Textbooks Category on iBookstore

Apple’s education-focused event held today in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City is over and it’s now time to take stock of what the company announced. What we saw today was almost exactly as we expected, some of the more nuanced details such as application names and such were off the mark but beyond that we saw nothing we didn’t expect and got everything we did.

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Reflecting on Change

World of Apple author Alex Brooks

Alex Brooks artistically illuminated by an iPad | Photo by Merry Phillips

There’s no easy way to say it, 2011 was a bad year for this website. Such a statement isn’t easy for me to write because it isn’t easy for me to hear; in July World of Apple will be seven years old and anyone who has ever run a website will know that it’s not all dissimilar to bringing up a child. And this child is now at the ripe old age of seven. What follows is a short reflection of those seven years, the lessons learned and the experience garnered and a hopeful punt at where I’m heading.

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