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ExtraBITS for 16 May 2016

In ExtraBITS this week, we ponder whether the Second Amendment applies to encryption, learn how Steve Jobs inspired the Apple Watch, see what happens when App Store search breaks, and hear about how Amazon is taking on YouTube.

The Right to Bear… Encryption? -- The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a favorite of gun owners, but could it also provide a constitutional basis for a right to encryption? That’s not as kooky as it sounds. As Motherboard’s Susan McGregor explains, the United States government has long considered encryption to be “munitions,” as was the case for Philip Zimmermann, developer of the PGP cryptographic software, when he was detained at Dulles International Airport in 1994. But if the Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to own firearms, it might also support our right to use encryption. However, that line of reasoning opens up a family-sized can of worms. For instance, could convicted felons be barred from using encryption? Furthermore, many privacy advocates may not be thrilled to find themselves on the same side of the table as the gun lobby.

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How Steve Jobs Inspired the Apple Watch -- You could ascribe Apple’s development of the Apple Watch to any number of commercial or even cynical reasons, but the one cited by Apple executives is the late CEO Steve Jobs’s vision of making the company’s customers healthier through technology. According to Tim Bajarin in Time, after Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, he grew frustrated with the byzantine American medical system and became obsessed with bringing digital order to healthcare data. Although it’s unclear if Jobs knew about the project, his desire to improve healthcare inspired Apple to create the Apple Watch, in part as a platform for health monitoring. Along the way, the company has also started to make a real difference in the healthcare field with initiatives like HealthKit, ResearchKit, and CareKit.

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The Importance of App Store Search -- The search feature of Apple’s App Store was returning incorrect results for just a few hours during the morning of 5 May 2016, but the impact was enormous. According to app analytics firm Tune, 65 percent of all apps saw their downloads drop by more than 10 percent, and 15 percent of apps lost more than half of their regular downloads. These numbers give a sense of how significant the App Store business is, since some top-tier apps might have lost nearly 2500 new customers during those few hours. The glitch affected only search results, not the Top Charts or Featured placements, showing the importance of search for finding apps. If Apple improved discoverability in the App Store, users might not have to rely so much on search and might be more likely to discover lesser known apps.

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Amazon to Compete with YouTube -- Amazon has launched Amazon Video Direct (AVD), which will allow anyone to offer videos on Amazon’s Prime Video platform, putting Amazon in direct competition with YouTube. AVD content creators can make their videos available to rent or own, only for Prime Video subscribers, or for free with ads. Amazon is also launching the AVD Stars program, which will distribute $1 million per month among the top 100 AVD titles in Prime Video. Amazon has already amassed some major partners for AVD, including Conde Nast Entertainment, Business Insider, The Guardian, HowStuffWorks, Mashable, Mattel, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. As much Amazon Video Direct is clearly targeting Google’s YouTube, the added AVD content may help make Amazon’s Prime Video more compelling than Apple’s iTunes video library.

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