Apple gets a lot of flak for its my way or the highway approach
to, well, pretty much everything: App Store terms, product design,
colors, and so on. While that's an approach that definitely has its
benefits—you can tell when committees start getting involved in
design, and the end result is rarely good—it also lends itself to a
degree of obduracy that can be frustrating for any other parties
that have to deal with the company.
But that philosophy doesn't mean that Apple isn't willing to
make changes when it needs to. Innovation is, after all, another
one of the company's hallmarks, and sitting on one's laurels in the
technology market is rarely a path to success. It's just that
sometimes that change doesn't from people inside the company, but
from external forces.
Lately, the company's made a number of surprising backtracks
against previous policies, and while they might not always be done
out of the goodness of its heart—as much as a corporation can be
said to have one—it does prove that Apple can learn and perhaps
improve…even if it sometimes has to be dragged, kicking and
Links in a chain
The App Store has been a source of a lot of frustration,
especially for developers, but also to a lesser extent for
consumers. While the recent Apple versus Epic ruling mainly came up in Cupertino's favor—and
the one provision that Apple did lose is far from a done deal—the
company has already made at least some concessions to App Store
operation after an investigation from the Japan Fair Trade
As a result of that investigation, Apple agreed that it would
allow reader apps (those that require subscriptions to view
content) to include a link to their website—something that had
previously been against App Store rules. Moreover, that change
won't be limited to Japan, but will roll out globally next
While it's not the most magnanimous of decisions (it's an in-app
link, singular, and we haven't yet seen what the guidelines
require) and it's clear that main impetus was to avoid more
scrutiny by regulators, it's still a positive change that will end
up benefiting developers and users alike. And it's proof that
action by the government can indeed force Apple, which is financially larger than many countries, to
alter the way it does business. With looming antitrust threats from
the U.S. government and the European Union, it does at least lend
hope that the company can be nudged to improve itself.
Apple has been stubborn about its App Store policies, but a few
small changes have happened.
Ports in a storm
That pressure doesn't have to come from governments, either.
Take the new MacBook Pro as an example. After several years of
lackluster models that drew fire for abandoning legacy ports and
featuring problematic keyboards, Apple rolled out brand new pro
laptop models that seems to return those features and address
almost all of the aforementioned complaints. It's almost like the
past several years of MacBook Pros didn't even happen.
While the cynical viewpoint might argue that Apple took all
these things away just to be able to turn around and sell them back
to us, I'd be a little more charitable: the growing pressure from
pro users made the company realize that the product they were
making wasn't the one that most of its customers wanted.
Or, in other words, they hit Apple right in the pocketbook. Not
that MacBook Pro sales are a huge part of the company's bottom
line, but the ultimate question is: could they be selling
more if they did bring back those features? It's early yet
to know just how well the new laptops have performed, but the
reviews have been kind, and when sales numbers ultimately arrive
next year, I have no doubt that they'll back up those
Apple changed its design for the MacBook Pro for the better.
Parts in a whole
And so we come to the company's most recent about-face. After
years of insisting that the only way to officially fix your iPhone
was via its own AppleCare or an Apple Authorized Service Provider,
Apple announced last week that it would make
replacement parts, manuals, and tools available to consumers who
want to repair their own smartphones. The program begins with
certain commonly fixed iPhone 12 and 13 components like the screen,
battery, and camera, but will expand over time to include more
components and devices, including M1-powered Macs.
As an attentive tech journalist pointed out, this timing wasn't random, nor was
the decision born, once again, of Apple's altruism. Rather, it was
likely prompted by the Securities and Exchange Commission following
up on a shareholder resolution that pushed Apple to investigate the
impacts of right to repair rules. It's possible that Apple saw the
writing on the wall and decided to get ahead of the game by
announcing this Self-Service Repair option.
Ultimately, though, I'd argue that the result is more important
than the motive. Regardless of how Apple decided to make the
change, the company did make it and, as with the App Store
and the new MacBook Pro, this move will probably benefit consumers
(and, thus in the long run, Apple itself). Even if the company does
prefer to do things its own way, it's clear that external forces
can pressure Apple into new behaviors—and that means there's always
hope for change.