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Apple’s New Age of Unfairness

You might have noticed that Apple didn’t do a tour of Tech Talks last year as they had been doing traditionally in the past. The reason for this had been a sea change in the ranks of Apple’s evangelism team, headed by John Geleynse. Up until last year Apple’s unofficial motto had always been “treat everybody the same”.

The popularity of iOS has brought with it an unprecedented explosion in number of developer accounts and so Apple decided at a secret board meeting held at the beginning of January to change their credo. One suggestion had been “don’t be as evil as Google”, but this was struck down by Tim Cook who feared that this would taint Apple’s reputation as it would have lowered them to their competitor’s level.

But joking aside, Geleynse came to realize that Apple just cannot muster the man power it would need to hold the kind of Mini-WWDC that these Tech Talks represented all around the globe. When I interviewed him at the last Tech Talk in London he told me that doing a Euro-WWDC would be too much of a financial burden on the company. I have no idea how such a statement fits together with frequent reports of Apple having problems finding which mattress to stuff their cash into next.

As a result of this realization Apple introduced Design and Tech Review Sessions held in certain key regions, like for example for Europe it was organized by Apple’s London outpost. They invited certain select companies to send a few envoys to those sessions and then they would meet with Apple designers and engineers to review their apps.

I spoke to one of the lucky companies who – on condition on anonymity (not wanting to risk his new “connection” to Apple) – explained the selection process such:

“They told me that they specifically picked companies whose apps are important to the app store and companies that needed it the most. We were incredibly lucky to be selected, because we didn’t think that our Flashlight app would be that important to Apple. But apparently it is. They had somebody go over our app with Instruments and he pointed out that he had never seen such performant code. Then a designer complimented us on the user experience and made a few suggestions about features that we should omit because it didn’t fit with the core functionality of the app.”

As in-transparent as the iTunes team picks selection process is, think of the company selection as that times ten.

We know of about a dozen or so companies – mostly in the middle to large size – from Europe that had gotten such an invitation and followed it. Shortly afterwards you could see their apps being featured on the various regional app stores. Supposedly to highlight their new-found technical and design excellence.

“Treat everybody the same” my ass … But it wasn’t the above mentioned favoritism alone that caused me to write this article.

The 2012 WWDC Tickets were sold out in 1 hour 43 minutes down from about 12 hours in the year before. If you extrapolate that for 2013 then you know that this year’s WWDC should sell out in under 15 minutes. But Apple does not just do this kind of rule-of-thumb estimating. They are a company of engineers and so they recently enabled the metrics collection on the Apple Developer WWDC page.

From the number of hits with HTTP and ICMP requests they can get a good estimate about the number of developers currently not sleeping at night, waiting for the coveted tickets to become available. My fellow developers are using services ranging from ChangeDetection.com, over Pingdom to a variety of custom apps and scripts that hammer Apple’s site, looking for hints of ticket availability.

Earlier this morning Mugunth Kumar tweeted:

But the timing was odd since it was in the wee hours after midnight, usually the time when Apple does maintenance work on their web sites. We have since learned that this downtime was due to Apple adding a new load balancer plus a few additional Apache servers to deal with the load this site has to bear.

By all means of measurement Mr. Geleynse knows that this year they cannot do traditional sales any more. 15 minutes to sell 5000 tickets, plus 200 free VIPs, versus all those developers that are missing out. No can do.

Which is why Apple’s Tech Evangelism team had finally bulged and also began to toe the new company line. To Geleynse’s credit he tried to “treat everybody the same” longer then most senior ranking executives at Apple, but in the face of exponential growth you have to begin to pick favorites, no matter how democratically fair enclined you are.

Several Apple employees independently confirmed to me – in secret – that Apple is planning an elaborate ruse this year. April 1st, being the Monday after easter, is a holiday in many countries, so Apple will wait until later this week to unlock the ticket website. But they won’t be selling all 5000 tickets like they did in the past, but only half of those. And when they are sold out after a few minutes they will claim that they sold out of all tickets in record time.

The other half will be distributed amongst Apple’s favorite companies depending on app sales numbers. The companies will still have to pay for the tickets, but guess they will be happy to be counted as VIPs and thus will not say anything. Oh and the NDAs they have to complete in exchange for the tickets might contribute to their silence as well.

The new company motto will be “treat everybody the same according to their contribution to Apple’s bottom line”.

I’m writing this article to expose this favoritism and also because my own company’s contribution to Apple’s financial success is minimal. Granted I’m trying to get new Mac and iOS hardware to all of us at Cocoanetics every year, but this pales next to what Electronic Arts is doing for Apple’s profits.

One person on Apple’s side argued:

“Oh stop whining you European socialists. Apple is in this for the money and since it’s their show they can choose what music they play at WWDC. And also who gets a backstage pass.”

Do you think that this is the way a company like Apple should behave? Or is that just the way capitalism works.

Update April 2nd: April Fools! This blog post is an utter fabrication, except for a few tidbits I added to make it more believable.

The design and tech reviews are real, I put these in there too hook readers from such preferred companies. The first solid hint was the quote about a Flashlight app having great performance. Also the “treat everybody the same” I once heard from an Apple employee, though I don’t know how far this is an actual motto.

The second clue as the one about the NDA in exchange for tickets. People dealing with Apple know that there are NDAs for just about everything. But for preferential tickets?!

The final quote about “European socialists” should have been the third dead giveaway. It keeps popping up in US politics while we Europeans keep laughing about it, since it only proves that the person uttering it has no clue what Socialism actually means. It also makes fun of the belief system prevalent in the US that there can only be two political opinions: pro-economy-and-companies and pro-central-authority-that-dishes-out-socialism.

Good April Fool jokes need to have a kernel of truth to be believable, but apparently this one was too close to existing conspiracy theories. Many people seem to suspect that what I described is exactly what Apple has been doing all along. Which greatly decreases the effect of the reveal.

This entry is my third attempt at AprilFoolery, after Apple licensing my code and Apple banning Social Networking in the previous two years. I am still proud of these as well, so I recommend you read these as well if you like a chuckle.

There is one big problem which we cyber jokesters are facing: most of what is getting written about Apple is an utter fabrication already. So how should anyone be able to spot a joke while being bombared with fake rumors and conspiracy theories throughout the year?

Since there is little hope for that to change I vow that I will think of something far more outrageous for next year’s April 1st. Like – say – an Apple Television or Smart Watch.


Categories: Apple

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