A new group of apps in China’s App Store is facing scrutiny from Apple. According to a report from 9to5Mac, the iPhone maker is curtailing apps with CallKit framework due to a “newly enforced regulation” from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Apple started sending notices to developers whose apps use the CallKit framework, notifying them that CallKit functionality isn’t allowed in China due to the new regulations. Developers reportedly have two options: remove CallKit framework from their apps, or remove their apps from China’s App Store entirely.
Apple introduced CallKit with iOS 10. It allows developers to build calling services into related applications, but it doesn’t actually make calls. CallKit provides the interface, allowing the application to have a more native look, while developers can use a VoIP system on the back-end to handle making the calls.
The Chinese government frowns upon VoIP services, since they can allow users to bypass surveillance measures that the government has put in place. It’s believed that Skype was removed from the App Store for a similar reason last year. The popular Chinese chat app WeChat supported Apple’s CallKit briefly, but the functionality was removed shortly after implementation.
A small group of developers for Apple platforms has banded together to request new features and policies from Apple, and its members say they have ideas for ways to make it easier to make a living on the platform, Wiredreports. They’re calling it “The Developers Union,” and they launched a website where devs can sign up to share their support of a free trial feature for the app store.
The union has some notable names attached, including Jake Schumacher, director of the documentary App: The Human Story, and NetNewsWire and MarsEdit developer Brent Simmons—along with a product designer named Loren Morris and a software developer named Roger Ogden.
The group says it will start with the free trial push but that it will follow that up with “other community-driven, developer-friendly changes” including a “a more reasonable revenue cut.” The starting revenue share is 70-30 in Apple’s favor, presently. Google offers a similar rate, but Microsoft recently announced a cut to its share of revenue to developers’ favor.
It took a couple of years, but Apple has started to pay back illegal tax benefits to the Irish government. The company has paid $1.77 billion (€1.5 billion) into an escrow account designed to hold the fine. Apple has to pay $15 billion in total (€13 billion).
In August 2016, the European Commission said that Apple benefited from illegal tax benefits in Ireland from 2003 to 2014. According to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Apple managed to lower its effective corporate tax rate thanks to a Double Irish structure.
By creating two different Irish subsidiaries and allocating profit to the right subsidiary, you can end up paying corporate tax on a fraction of your actual profit. Of course, Apple wasn’t the only tech company that optimized its tax structure. And the company also claimed that everything was legal.
The Irish government tried to appeal the decision but the decision remained intact. Ireland had to recover €13 billion starting on January 2017.
But nothing happened.
At some point Vestager got mad again and referred the case to the European Court of Justice. This time, Vestager wasn’t attacking Apple, but Ireland.
It looks like the case is closed now and Apple will slowly pay back the fine over time. Unfortunately, the fine is now more expensive than before because the U.S. dollar has been going down for a couple of years. Apple has hundreds of billions in cash, and a significant portion is overseas.
European governments lobbied to put an end to the Double Irish back in 2014. Apple moved some of its international cash to the tiny island of Jersey around the same time.
European governments are currently discussing a tax reform to tax big tech companies based on actual revenue in each European country. This way, tech companies wouldn’t be able to report profit in just one country with a lower corporate tax rate. But it’s taking longer than expected as some member countries are still dragging their feet.
Following Apple’s education event in Chicago in March, I wrote about what the company’s announcements might mean for accessibility. After sitting in the audience covering the event, the big takeaway I had was Apple could “make serious inroads in furthering special education as well.” As I wrote, despite how well-designed the Classroom and Schoolwork apps seemingly are, Apple should do more to tailor their new tools to better serve students and educators in special education settings. After all, accessibility and special education are inextricably tied.
It turns out, Apple has, unsurprisingly, considered this.
“In many ways, education and accessibility beautifully overlap,” Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, said to me. “For us, the concept of differentiated learning and how the accessibility tools that we build in [to the products] help make that [learning] possible is really important to us.”
Apple’s philosophy toward accessibility and education isn’t about purposely targeting esoteric use cases such as IEP prep or specialized teaching methodologies.
In fact, Apple says there are many apps on the iOS App Store which do just that. The company instead believes special education students and teachers themselves should take the tools as they are and discover creative uses for them. Apple encourages those in schools to take the all-new, low-cost iPad and the new software and make them into the tools they need to teach and learn. It’s a sentiment that hearkens back how Steve Jobs pitched the original iPad: It’s a slab of metal and glass that can be whatever you wish it to be.
In other words, it’s Apple’s customers who put the ‘I’ in iPad.
In hindsight, Apple’s viewpoint for how they support special education makes total sense if you understand their ethos. Tim Cook often talks about building products that enrich people’s lives — in an education and accessibility context, this sentiment often becomes a literal truism. For many disabled people, iOS and the iPad is the conduit through which they access the world.
Apple ultimately owns the iPad and the message around it, but in actuality it’s the users who really transform it and give it its identity. This is ultimately what makes the tablet exceptional for learning. The device’s design is so inherently accessible that anyone, regardless of ability, can pick it up and go wild.
(Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Apple’s education team is special
At the March event, one of the onstage presenters was Kathleen Richardson, who works at Apple on their ConnectedED program. She is one of many who work on the company’s education team, whose group is tasked with working with schools and districts in evangelizing and integrating Apple products into their curricula.
I spoke with Meg Wilson, a former special education teacher who now works on education efforts inside Apple. A former Apple Distinguished Educator, Wilson is the resident “special education guru” who provides insight into how special education programs generally run. With that knowledge, she provides guidance on how Apple products can augment the process of individualizing and differentiating educational plans for special ed students.
A focus of our discussion was the Schoolwork app and how it could be used to suit the needs of teachers and support staff. One example Wilson cited was that of a speech therapy session, where a speech pathologist could use Schoolwork not necessarily for handouts, but for monitoring students’ progress toward IEP goals. Instead of the app showing a worksheet for the student to complete, it could show a data-tracking document for the therapist, who is recording info during lessons. “What we need in special ed is data — we need data,” Wilson said. She added Schoolwork can be used to “actually see the progress” students are making right from an iPad without mountains of paper. A key element to this, according to Wilson, is Schoolwork’s ability to modernize and streamline sharing. It makes conferring with other members of the IEP team a more continuous, dynamic endeavor. Rather than everyone convening once a year for an annual review of students’ progress, Wilson said, Schoolwork allows for “an amazing opportunity for collaboration amongst service providers.”
Wilson also emphasized the overarching theme of personalizing the iPad to suit the needs of teacher and student. “When you are creative with technology, you change people’s lives,” she said.
To her, the iPad and, especially, the new software scale for different learners and different environments really well. For special educators, for instance, Wilson said it’s easy to add one’s entire caseload to Schoolwork and have progress reports at the ready anytime. Likewise, the ability in Classroom to “lock” an entire class (or a single student) into an activity on an iPad, which takes its cues from iOS’s Guided Access feature, helps teachers ensure students stay engaged and on task during class. And for students, the intuitive nature of the iPad makes it so that students can instantly share their work with teachers.
But it isn’t only Apple who is changing education. Wilson made the case repeatedly that third-party developers are also making Apple’s solutions for education more compelling. She stressed there are many apps on the App Store that can help in special education settings (IEP prep, communication boards, etc.), and that Apple hears from developers who want to learn about accessibility and, crucially, how to make their apps accessible to all by supporting the discrete Accessibility features. Wilson shared an anecdote of an eye-opening experience for one developer, who expressed the idea of supporting accessibility “didn’t even occur to him,” but doing so made his app better.
One “big idea” that struck me from meeting with Wilson was how diverse Apple’s workforce truly is. Wilson is a former special education teacher. Apple’s health and fitness team reportedly is made up of such medical professionals as doctors and nurses. Apple’s education team is no different, as my conversation with Wilson attested. It’s notable how Apple brings together so many, from all walks of life, to help inform as they build these products. It really does intersect liberal arts with technology.
Apple makes learning code accessible to all
In early March, Lori Hawkins at the Austin American-Statesman reported on how Apple has made its Everyone Can Code program accessible to all. Hawkins wrote that representatives from Apple visited Austin’s Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to teach students to fly drones with code written in the Swift Playgrounds app. As you’d expect, Swift Playgrounds is fully compatible with VoiceOver and even Switch Control. “When we said everyone should be able to code, we really meant everyone,” Herrlinger told the Statesman. “Hopefully these kids will leave this session and continue coding for a long time. Maybe it can inspire where their careers can go.” Herrlinger also appeared on a panel at the SXSW festival, where she and others discussed coding and accessibility pertaining to Everyone Can Code.
For Global Accessibility Awareness Day this year, Apple has announced that a slew of special education schools are adopting Everyone Can Code into their curricula. In a press release, the company says they “collaborated with engineers, educators, and programmers from various accessibility communities to make Everyone Can Code as accessible as possible.” They also note there are “additional tools and resources” which should aid non-visual learners to better understand coding environments.
In addition to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Apple says there are seven other institutions across the country that are implementing the Everyone Can Code curriculum. Among them are two Bay Area schools: the Northern California campuses of the California School for the Blind and the California School for the Deaf, both located in Fremont.
At a special kick-off event at CSD, students were visited by Apple employees — which included CEO Tim Cook — who came to the school to officially announce CSB and CSD’s participation in the Everyone Can Code program.
Students arrived at the school’s media lab for what they believed to be simply another day of coding. In reality, they were in for a surprise as Tim Cook made his appearance. Members of Apple’s Accessibility team walked students through controlling drones and robots in Swift Playgrounds on an iPad. Cook — along with deaf activist and actor Nyle DiMarco — toured the room to visit with students and have them show off their work.
In an address to students, Cook said, “We are so happy to be here to kick off the Everyone Can Code curriculum with you. We believe accessibility is a fundamental human right and coding is part of that.”
In an interview Cook told me, “Accessibility has been a priority at Apple for a long time.” He continued: “We believe in focusing on ability rather than disability. We believe coding is a language — a language that should be accessible to everyone.” When I asked about any accessibility features he personally uses, Cook said due to hearing issues he likes to use closed-captioning whenever possible. And because he wears glasses, he likes to enlarge text on all of his devices, particularly the iPhone.
Accessibility-related Apple retail events
As in prior years, Apple is spending the month of May promoting accessibility and Global Accessibility Awareness Day by hosting numerous accessibility-centric events at its retail stores across the globe. (These are done throughout the year too.) These include workshops on the accessibility features across all Apple’s platforms, as well as talks and more. Apple says they have held “over 10,000 accessibility sessions” since 2017.
Today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2018, Apple is holding accessibility-related events at several campuses worldwide, including its corporate headquarters in Cupertino, as well as at its satellite campuses in Austin, Cork and London.
The Washington Post reported just yesterday that Apple was talking with Virginia officials for a new campus in Northern Virginia. But WRAL is now reporting that Apple is about to announce a new campus in North Carolina.
According to WRAL’s sources, it’s “a done deal.” The company and legislators plan to talk about a tax break to seal the deal. If North Carolina agrees to reduce the taxes, Apple could create a new campus in the Research Triangle Park.
Multiple tech companies already have offices in the Research Triangle Park as it is close to top universities (Duke University, NC State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). IBM and Cisco have established huge offices in the region.
It’s also worth noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook got his MBA at Duke University.
This report doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple didn’t talk with Virginia officials. The company could be considering opening a big office in one of those two locations and a smaller one in the other.
Apple has been looking for a new location for its new campus. The company already has thousands of employees in Cupertino and Austin. Apple expects to hire 20,000 employees over the next five years in those three locations.
According to a report in The Washington Post,Apple has been searching for places to put hubs as it contemplates how to spend the $30 billion it has committed for new facilities and 20,000 new employees in the U.S. over the next five years — and it looks like Virginia is on the list.
If Virginia makes the cut, Apple would be the second large tech company to call the state a (second or third) home, as Amazon is also reportedly looking at Virginia as a site for its second U.S. headquarters.
The Postis reporting that Apple could seek to put up to 20,000 employees in a potential Northern Virginia campus that would total 4 million square feet of office space.
Citing conversations between the company and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, the Post reported that state officials had proposed several sites for the Apple campus, which would be two-thirds the size of the Pentagon and half of what Amazon is looking for in its new HQ.
All of the attention from Amazon and Apple speaks to the new realty for tech companies, which is that Washington, DC has its eye on them… and, conversely, these companies need to have a closer eye on Washington.
For the last several months, Apple has been exploring locations for a new campus focusing on technical support, and according to new reports, sites in North Carolina and Northern Virginia are under consideration.
The Washington Post says Apple has explored opening a campus for 20,000 employees in Northern Virginia, an area Amazon is also considering for its new campus.
Image of Apple Park via drone pilot Duncan Sinfield
Apple told economic development officials in Northern Virginia that it is seeking four million square feet of space to accommodate 20,000 jobs, and officials proposed several potential sites.
The sites proposed by Northam’s staff for Apple include office buildings and development sites in Crystal City, privately owned Loudoun County land near the Center for Innovative Technology and the Scotts Run development in Tysons.
Two of those locations, Crystal City and the Loudoun land, are part of sites Northam also pitched to Amazon. Both companies plan to make a decision this year.
Separately, the Triangle Business Journal says that Apple is considering establishing its new campus in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Research Triangle Park, a 22 million square foot research park, has become an attractive site for tech companies and is known as North Carolina’s technology hub due to its proximity to NC State, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University.
Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly met with North Carolina governor Roy Cooper and commerce secretary Tony Copeland while Cook was in town over the weekend to give the commencement speech at Duke University.
Apple in January said that it would invest $350 billion in the U.S. economy and create 20,000 jobs over the next five years, partially through the launch of a fourth major campus. At the time, Apple said that the campus would not be built in California or Texas, which is where its current campuses are located.
The company declined to provide additional details on the campus’ location, and has since been exploring its options and negotiating with various states for tax cuts and other benefits.
Apple’s upcoming campus will not be like its major corporate campuses in Northern California, One Infinite Loop and Apple Park, as it is expected to be focused on housing customer service and technical support employees.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in March said that Apple is “not doing the beauty contest thing” for its new campus, taking a dig at Amazon’s decision to announce 20 finalist cities as the potential locations for its own new campus. “That’s not Apple,” he said.
“From our point of view, we didn’t want to create this contest, because I think what comes out of that is you wind up putting people through a ton of work to select one, so that is a case where you have a winner and a lot of losers. I don’t like that,” Cook added at the time. Discuss this article in our forums
The success of the autonomous vehicle revolution relies on complicated systems of sophisticated sensors working in harmony to provide the magic of sight to machines.
OmerKeilaf, chief executive, Innoviz
In Tel Aviv, we’ll hear from experts in the field as they discuss the technological marvels that are the driving force behind the transformation of mobility in the modern world.
Omer David Keilaf, the chief executive of Innoviz, comes to us with some significant recent wins under his company’s belt. The Innoviz LIDAR technology has been selected by BMW to power its Level 3 to Level 5 autonomous vehicle systems.
The company’s solid-state LiDAR sensor, available as a built-in device beginning next year, is much smaller than traditional LIDAR and is stationary.
Before founding Innoviz, Keilaf led the system and product definition efforts at the world’s first handheld molecular sensor for mobile devices with ConsumerPhysics. Previous roles include leading the system architecture and engineering teams at bTendo (acquired by ST Micro) and Anobit (acquired by Apple) .
Rani Wellingstein, chief executive, Oryx Vision
No less impressive is the work of fellow panelist Rani Wellingstein of Oryx Vision, whose company is developing its own novel LIDAR technology. Oryx’s LiDAR uses antennas in place of photodetectors to retrieve both range and velocity information for the points of light in its high-resolution scans of its surroundings. The company claims that its technology is a million times more sensitive than existing LiDAR systems, and is better able to deal with interference from sunlight, and from other LiDARs in operation on the road.
A serial entrepreneur, Wellingstein’s last company, Intucell, was sold to Cisco for $475 million in 2013. At Cisco, Wellingstein served as the vice president and business unit manager of Cisco’s self optimized networks business unit.
Israel is driving autonomous innovation and we’re excited to talk to the folks behind the wheel of the nation’s innovative companies. Join us. You have just 48 hours left to score the early-bird ticket price — 265 ILS. So buy your tickets now.