ExtraBITS for 25 April 2016
In ExtraBITS this week, the FBI backed out of its New York iPhone case… just before getting smacked down by the court. China has shut down the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services shortly after their debut, developer Craig Hockenberry explains why color is the future of displays, security consultant Rich Mogull gives a big thumbs-up to iMessage security, we explain why you should uninstall QuickTime 7 for Windows, analyst Ben Thompson offers an explanation of why Apple is bad at online services, and Apple criticizes a proposed anti-encryption bill.
iBooks Store and iTunes Movies Shut Down in China — Apple has had a smoother time rolling out its online services in China than other tech giants, but that may be coming to an end. Only six months after being introduced in the country, the Chinese government has shut down the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services. The shutdown is thought to be due to the government’s desire to keep the Chinese people away from Western culture. “We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible,” said an Apple
U.S. Government Drops iPhone Fight in New York — Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its legal bid to force Apple to unlock an iPhone linked to a New York drug case. The FBI said that it had managed to get the iPhone’s passcode, making a court order unnecessary, but on Monday another reason came to light: the New York court had denied the government’s request. It’s starting to look like the government is using iPhones it already has access to in order to seek out precedent-setting court rulings, but dropping the cases when the chances of winning look slim.
The Colorful Future of Displays — Developer Craig Hockenberry argues that since displays are now essentially free of visible pixels, the next frontier is in expanding the number of onscreen colors. For years, computers have supported the sRGB color profile, but the late-2015 iMac and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro support the newer DCI-P3 standard, which displays a wider range of color and is now standard in filmmaking. If you have one of those Apple products, Hockenberry has made a tool to see the difference between sRGB and DCI-P3, with photos by our own Jeff Carlson as examples. However, Hockenberry warns
that this transition will make things more complicated for developers, and he advises them to start reading up on how to use color profiles.
The iMessage Cone of Silence — Our own Rich Mogull recently had the opportunity to sit down with senior members of Apple’s engineering and security teams, and he discovered that iMessage is even more secure than previously thought. In essence, every iMessage is encrypted from end to end, messages are encrypted using keys that exist only on your devices and are not stored with Apple, and messages are encrypted multiple times to maximize security. In addition, iMessage’s registration system is designed to inherently distrust Apple’s own servers, thereby making it
extremely difficult for anyone to compromise iMessage’s security with so-called “phantom devices” that could be used to tap conversations. “Overall [iMessage is] a solid balance of convenience and security,” Mogull said.
Apple Drops QuickTime 7 for Windows — Apple has announced that it’s no longer supporting QuickTime 7 for Windows. If you no longer need it, you should uninstall it immediately, because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns: “Exploitation of QuickTime for Windows vulnerabilities could allow remote attackers to take control of affected systems.”
Why Apple Stinks at Services — Analyst Ben Thompson takes a hard look at Apple’s organizational structure to explain why the company excels at hardware but performs poorly with services. Using DuPont’s shaky pivot from gunpowder to paint, Thompson illustrates why it will take a major organizational shakeup for Apple to succeed in services. With its executives indicating that they believe services are important to the future of the company, Apple may have no other choice than to create a new division with a corporate structure better suited for online services, while separately maintaining
the existing structure that has been so successful with hardware.
Apple Joins Tech Giants to Call Anti-Encryption Bill “Unworkable” — Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have proposed a bill that would punish companies like Apple that refuse to comply with decryption orders. Now the Reform Government Surveillance Coalition, which includes Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, has published an open letter calling the proposed legislation “unworkable,” saying that it would “weaken the very defenses we need to protect us from people who want to cause economic and physical harm.” So far,
there isn’t much cause for alarm, because the bill is only a draft; it’s still a long way from coming to a vote, much less becoming law. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has vowed to filibuster the bill if it reaches the Senate floor.