As people around the world wonder if innovation at Apple stopped with Steve Jobs, we wanted to share with you a snapshot of the genius’s life.
Source: Funders and Founders
As people around the world wonder if innovation at Apple stopped with Steve Jobs, we wanted to share with you a snapshot of the genius’s life.
Source: Funders and Founders
Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s wealthiest people. But he was born poor. He wanted to start a business right after college, but didn’t. So how did he start?
Source: Funders and Founders
Want to lose weight? Improve your cardio? Lower your blood pressure? Then don’t buy a fitness tracker. In fact, some experts claim they can “do more harm than good”. Wondering why you might have wasted money on yours? Read on…
Now let’s just get one thing straight before we continue. I actually use a variety of wearable devices. I have an Apple watch which measures my daily activity, I use the Nike+ app when I go running and I use a Garmin & Strava for cycling. And it seems that I’m not alone with an estimated 20% of Americans wearing some form of tracker and around 3 million being sold in the UK each year. People use them in different ways and for a variety of reasons. Personally I want to monitor my performance and am fascinated with the data that they produce (I know, I’m a nerd). Consequently I love them all, so before you launch into a tirade along the lines of ‘this guy hates Fitbits’ in the comments section please remember not to shoot the messenger…
Now then, why have the boffins got such a downer on trackers? Well firstly, they pour scorn on the whole notion of the 10,000 steps. It seems that this has no basis in any robust scientific research. According to Dr Greg Hager who is a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University:
“Turns out in 1960 in Japan they figured out that the average Japanese man, when he walked 10,000 steps a day, burned something like 3,000 calories and that is what they thought the average person should consume. So they picked 10,000 steps as a number”
In fairness, that hardly seems very scientific. Unless you are an average Japanese man who is still living in 1960. A relatively small sample size, I’m guessing.
Just last week Prof. Hager pointed out that we we cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ solution and every individual needs a bespoke fitness plan which caters specifically for their needs. He goes on to say:
“I think apps could definitely be doing more harm than good. I am sure that these apps are causing problems. Without any scientific evidence base, how do you know that any of these apps are good for you? They may even be harmful”
Harmful? Seriously? Isn’t that pushing it a tad too far? Well in support of his claim, Hager states that someone with an underlying medical condition may not necessarily be capable of achieving the 10,000 steps and it could be detrimental to their health to try.
So, is Hager out there on his own in his thinking? Well, it seems not. A 2016 study of 800 people with activity trackers was conducted in Singapore which discovered that there were no health benefits to the research subjects when compared to a control group who didn’t use a tracker. What’s more, they even added a cash incentive to increase the number of steps they took. It made absolutely no difference.
In the UK, Hager also has support from Simon Leigh, a senior health economist at Nexus Clinical Analytics who has published several studies on fitness trackers in the British Medical Journal. He said:
“Dr Hager is spot on. A GP, endocrinologist or other fitness specialist would unlikely recommend 10,000 steps for most people. Especially given that the majority of those who download these apps are likely to be unfit and in need of improvement in the first place”
I understand what these guys are saying but surely in a population with rising rates of obesity, we need to encourage people to do some form of exercise and activity trackers can be a strong motivator in the right hands (or should that be on the right arm?). After all, surely it is better to do 10,000 steps a day than none at all? It beats lying on the sofa eating double cheese deep pan pizza and watching The Kardashians.
Surely it also depends on what you are doing on your journey of 10,000 steps. If you are having a brisk walk around the park with your Cockerpoo then that must have some health benefits. For you and the dog. However, if it’s a pub crawl around town on a Friday night followed by a stagger down to the kebab shop then I don’t think that counts. It’s really all a matter of balance.
Depending upon the type of tracker you use valuable personal information can be measured and monitored over time including heart rate, calorie consumption and sleep patterns. The aggregation of all this big / smart data can be of use to a medical practitioner, an insurance company or even the advertising industry. The implications of this are not only fascinating but have huge business potential.
A doctor could offer a prognosis on potential medical conditions saving both money and lives. Your insurance company could use your data to offer you improved premiums on health insurance in the same way that they use trackers for safe drivers on car insurance. And the ad industry can use programmatic to specifically target you with dynamic creative to offer you goods / services that are highly relevant to the individual (e.g. new running shoes in your size and favorite colors).
Dr John Jakicic from the University of Pittsburgh, seems to be of the same opinion as myself. In his studies, he found that fitness trackers could form part of a series of behaviours to encourage people to lose weight or improve fitness:
“we need to be careful about relying solely on these devices. However, there is a place for these, and so we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion”
So are these trackers going end up gathering dust in the garage along with other defunct fitness gadgets such as the Ab-Cruncher and Thigh-Master? Well don’t be too hasty in ditching your Fitbit just yet. Accept it for what it is and use it accordingly. Figure out an optimum level of activity for your age, size and fitness level (if you are unsure, consult an expert or just Google it). Then simply incorporate it into your weekly workout schedule.
What do you think? Are these trackers really useless or do they have some merit? Do you own one and now feel cheated or does the technology really work for you? As ever, I am interested in your viewpoint.
Written By: Steve Blakeman
Dow 20,000 – an incredible milestone! The Dow Jones industrial average is nearing the 20,000 mark for the first time, and when the barrier is broken, Americans watching the evening news, tuning in to the radio or aimlessly browsing the internet will see the headline, whether they care about it or not.
Should investors really care? Should anyone? And the answer is: yes and no.
Regardless of what importance level you assign to Dow 20,000, here are five things everyone should know about Dow 20k.
This one may be obvious, but with the Dow and other stock market indices at all-time highs, things are getting better. Over the last 81 months the private sector has added an impressive 15.6 million jobs, and in November the unemployment rate hit 4.6 percent for the first time since August 2007.
On top of that, when the Federal Reserve raised interest rates interest rates on Dec. 14, Chair Janet Yellen said the hike was “a reflection of the confidence we have in the progress the economy has made and our judgment that progress will continue … the economy has proven to be remarkably resilient.”
Consumer confidence also improved in November, reaching pre-recession levels once again. As expectations improve, you can generally expect to see the stock market rise as well.
If the first point was a little straightforward, this one may be the most misunderstood: The Dow is definitely not the best measure of how American businesses are performing. That 20,000 figure? That’s only based on the share prices of 30 of the largest companies in the U.S.
“The Dow represents 30 large stocks. The S&P 500 represents nearly 17 times that number,” says Kevin Barr, head of investment management at SEI, an investment management firm headquartered in Oaks, Pennsylvania. “Both the Dow and S&P leave out the mid- and small-cap companies that form much of the stock market, which comprises thousands of stocks. While the Dow is commonly cited as a benchmark, investors need to keep its size and scope in mind.”
On top of that, the Dow is a price-weighted average, which means that stocks with higher share prices carry more influence. Nevermind that this is an entirely arbitrary way to do things. Currently, Goldman Sachs Group (GS) carries the heaviest weight in the blue-chip index at 8.38 percent, while Cisco Systems (CSCO) has the lowest weight at 1.06 percent.
Thus, if CSCO jumps 10 percent after a great earnings report, but GS falls just 1.3 percent, the two cancel each other out as far as the Dow is concerned. This despite the fact that at $153 billion, Cisco is actually worth about $56 billion more than Goldman Sachs.
While the S&P 500 is a better measure of how corporate America is doing, a better measure still is the Russell 3000 and Wilshire 5000, which track thousands of smaller stocks and represent essentially the entire U.S. stock market.
Unlike the Dow, the S&P 500, Russell 3000 and Wilshire 5000 are all market capitalization-weighted.
Due to the power of compound interest, 100-point – or even 1,000-point – swings in the Dow don’t mean what they used to.
Think about it this way: The Dow first crossed the 1,000 mark in November 1972. It would take more than 14 years for the Dow to gain the next 1,000 points, which it accomplished when it first broke 2,000 in 1987. In contrast, the Dow hit 19,000 on Nov. 22, and is approaching 20,000 less than a month later.
So if you hear that the Dow went up or down 100 points in a day, don’t put too much stock into it. In 1972, that was a 10 percent move. Today, it’s a half-percent.
Further adding to the arbitrary nature of the Dow, the index’s 30 constituents aren’t set in stone like many people might think.
Every few years or so, if it’s necessary, the index committee will add some new member(s) to the index; the incoming stocks will often replace stocks or companies that have been faring poorly or are losing influence.
Sometimes, those decisions can seriously hamper the index’s returns.
The Dow, for instance, added Intel Corp. (INTC) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in late 1999, near the height of the dot-com bubble, only to see both crater over the subsequent year. It would take until 2014 for MSFT and INTC to regain their debut Dow levels.
The most recent Dow addition is Apple (AAPL), which replaced AT&T (T) in March of 2015. Since then, Apple is down 6 percent and AT&T shares are up 24 percent.
David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says companies aren’t added to the index because their stock looks attractive. “We’re not picking stocks that we think are definitely going to go up. I know one guy who can’t pick stocks, and that’s me,” Blitzer says.
“With the Dow we’re looking for large, solid, stable companies,” he says. “Most of them if not all of them are household names, people know who they are, and it’s traditionally blue-chip companies.”
Finally: traders just like to see big, round numbers with lots of zeros after them, and investors do too. Crossing a level like Dow 20,000 has no fundamental importance, but technical and short-term traders, as well as trading algorithms, may put some stock in it.
Over time, we’ll be hitting a lot of these psychological marks, says Jon Ulin, a certified financial planner and managing principal of Ulin & Co. Wealth Management, a branch office of LPL Financial in Boca Raton, Florida.
“Since World War II, the Dow Jones index has averaged about 9 percent per year and will continue to do so hitting new highs over time. Just with a meager 7.2 percent annualized return, we should be ringing in a 40,000 Dow by 2027,” Ulin says.
It’s been 44 years since the Dow first hit 1,000 in 1972. If it takes 44 years for the next Dow 20-bagger, we’ll be ringing in Dow 400,000 in 2060 (which will be another election year).
Written by John Divine of U.S. News & World Report
Source: U.S. News & World Report
It was early morning eight months ago when Tim Cook shot an email to TV personality Jim Cramer telling him the company was doing fine in China. The global markets roiled amid broader macroeconomic concerns, yet Apple’s shares quickly recovered on Cook’s optimism.
Two quarters later, things are far from rosy.
Sales in the Greater China region plunged 26% in its fiscal second quarter, marking the biggest percentage decline of any of Apple’s geographic regions. Total sales fell for the first time since 2003, while the iPhone suffered its first-ever quarterly decline.
“Whereas China accounted for half or more of the company’s revenue growth for several quarters, it’s now accounting for half its year-on-year shrinkage,” said Jan Dawson, founder of tech consulting company Jackdaw Research.
Apple blamed the slowdown on macroeconomic issues and tough year-over-year comparisons, with the iPhone 6S flailing next to the huge success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Cook also blamed Hong Kong, which accounted for the vast majority of declines in Greater China, because its dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar, which has strengthened significantly over the past two years, thus making it more expensive for international shopping and tourism in the country.
But there are reasons to believe the quarter’s troubles aren’t just cyclical and isolated. People in China are buying more phones from local manufacturers, such as Huawei Technology Co. and Xiaomi. And the Chinese governmentrecently banned certain media services from Apple, as it clamps down on distributed content, a move that could weigh heavily on Apple’s next big revenue driver: services. When excluding Hong Kong, mainland China sales still fell a whopping 11% during the quarter.
“Only super rich, really high-paid professionals buy iPhones in China — you’re not talking about lots and lots of people,” said John Zhang, faculty director of the Penn Wharton China Center, and a professor of marketing. “That means at some point, you’re not going to be able to grow unless you put out new innovative products to keep your people engaged, which is not the case with Apple.”
While the company released the Apple Watch last summer, those sales still pale in comparison with Apple’s more traditional products. The four-inch iPhone SE was released last month in part to target China’s sprawling middle class, yet the phone’s starting retail price of $399 is still expensive compared with the Xiaomi’s sub-$200 phones, and analysts have said it doesn’t appear to be growing in-line with expectations.
“It’s almost like a fashion designer who runs out of ideas and is making clothes tighter and looser and there’s no new design,” said Zhang. “When you set the phone downward, you’re reaching out to people who don’t want to pay the higher price, but then you get into the territory that many other Chinese manufacturers feel very comfortable with, such as Xiaomi.”
Competition in China is increasing across the board, with lesser-known Chinese manufacturers OPPO and Vivo making IDC’s list of the world’s top five smartphone manufacturers for the first time in the first quarter, ousting Lenovo and Xiaomi, which slipped to the sixth and seventh spots.
Those companies offering mid-tier phones in China priced below $250 are growing in line with the improving wages of the middle class. However the majority of those wages are still far below the premium market that Apple’s phones target in China.
“Lenovo benefited with ASPs below US$150 in 2013, and Xiaomi picked up the mantle with ASPs below US$200 in 2014 and 2015. Now Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo, which play mainly in the sub-US$250 range, are positioned for a strong 2016,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker team.
The China slowdown can’t be dismissed, especially since other U.S. companies, including McDonald’s and Caterpillar , have recently reported improving conditions in the region.
Shares of Apple plunged 6.2% to $97.87 in afternoon trade, pushing the stock down more than 26% on the year. The stock was on track for its eighth decline over the last nine trading days.
But there are analysts who believe things will start to recover once the economy starts to improve and wealthier Chinese customers get ready to upgrade their phones, potentially starting with the iPhone 7 in September.
“The [high-end] segment they are playing in is still growing much faster than the market,” said IDC analyst Ryan Reith. “In 2015 we saw China smartphone growth slow to 2.5%, yet the premium segment (>$400) grew close to 50%, and this was largely dominated by Apple.”
When it comes down to it, said Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves in a note to clients on Wednesday, iPhone customers “remain extremely loyal.”
That’s an obvious benefit for Apple, especially as it tries to roll out increased pay-for services such as music and payments. The data suggest Apple is “likely to continue growing iPhone unit sales over several years, albeit modestly,” he said.
Written by Jenniger Booton of MarketWatch
As promised, Apple’s new hardware is now available for preorder.
Customers looking to get their hands on the company’s iPhone SE or 9.7-inch iPad Pro can now preorder the devices on Apple’s website. When customers click on the iPhone SE or Apple’s latest iPad Pro on its website, they’ll be given the option to order their hardware. The devices will start shipping to customers on March 31.
Apple announced both the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro at its “Let us loop you in” press event Monday. The iPhone SE comes with a 4-inch screen, making it notably smaller than the 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays built into the flagship iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, respectively. In addition, the handset features Apple’s A9 processor and a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera. It’s designed to replace Apple’s iPhone 5s, a smartphone the company had been selling since 2013.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a complement to the 12.9-inch version Apple had been selling since last year. The 9.7-inch screen is nearly identical to the 9.7-inch option built into the iPad Air 2, but comes with additional features to enhance picture quality. The iPad Pro runs on Apple’s A9X processor and has up to 256GB of storage.
There is some debate over just how well the devices will perform at retail. Apple’s iPad business has been in free fall for the last several quarters. Meanwhile, the tablet industry as a whole has been down, calling into question customer demand for slates. On the iPhone side, Apple says it sold 30 million 4-inch iPhones in 2015, suggesting they’re popular, but a study this week from Consumer Research Intelligence Partners (CIRP) argued that the iPhone SE might not sell so well in the U.S. That research firm believes Apple could ship as few as 4 million to 6 million iPhone SE units in its first year on store shelves.
For its part, Apple doesn’t typically announce initial sales figures, and lumps all of its device unit sales into its quarterly report. So it’s impossible to say for sure how well the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro are selling.
However, unlike some previous iPhone launches, like the iPhone 6 that saw initial stock run out soon after preorders went live, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the iPhone SE. As of this writing, the vast majority of iPhone SE models (there are several, depending on the color, storage size, and carrier choice) are still available to ship on March 31. A handful, including the Space Gray, 64GB version for AT&T, won’t ship until April 1 at the earliest, though it’s possible it won’t be shipped until April 5.
On the iPad Pro side, all versions are currently available and ready to ship on March 31.
In addition to online preorders, Apple plans to start selling its new hardware in store on March 31. And if things remain the same, it appears that just aboutanyone where the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro are available should be able to get their desired device on launch day.
Written by Don Reisinger of Fortune
SAN FRANCISCO — If the F.B.I. wins its court fight to force Apple’s help in unlocking an iPhone, the agency may run into yet another roadblock: Apple’s engineers.
Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees.
Among those interviewed were Apple engineers who are involved in the development of mobile products and security, as well as former security engineers and executives.
The potential resistance adds a wrinkle to a very public fight between Apple, the world’s most valuable company, and the authorities over access to an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the December mass killing in San Bernardino, Calif.
It also speaks directly to arguments Apple has made in legal documents that the government’s demand curbs free speech by asking the company to order people to do things that they consider offensive.
“Such conscription is fundamentally offensive to Apple’s core principles and would pose a severe threat to the autonomy of Apple and its engineers,” Apple’s lawyers wrote in the company’s final brief to the Federal District Court for the Central District of California.
The employees’ concerns also provide insight into a company culture that despite the trappings of Silicon Valley wealth still views the world through the decades-old, anti-establishment prism of its co-founders Steven P. Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
“It’s an independent culture and a rebellious one,” said Jean-Louis Gassée, a venture capitalist who was once an engineering manager at Apple. “If the government tries to compel testimony or action from these engineers, good luck with that.”
Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, last month telegraphed what his employees might do in an email to customers: “The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe,” Mr. Cook wrote.
Apple declined to comment.
The fear of losing a paycheck may not have much of an impact on security engineers whose skills are in high demand. Indeed, hiring them could be a badge of honor among other tech companies that share Apple’s skepticism of the government’s intentions.
“If someone attempts to force them to work on something that’s outside their personal values, they can expect to find a position that’s a better fit somewhere else,” said Window Snyder, the chief security officer at the start-up Fastly and a former senior product manager in Apple’s security and privacy division.
Apple said in court filings last month that it would take from six to 10 engineers up to a month to meet the government’s demands. However, because Apple is so compartmentalized, the challenge of building what the company described as “GovtOS” would be substantially complicated if key employees refused to do the work.
Inside Apple, there is little collaboration among teams — for example, hardware engineers usually work in different offices from software engineers.
But when the company comes closer to releasing a product, key members from different teams come together to apply finishing touches like bug fixes, security audits and polishing the way the software looks and behaves.
A similar process would have to be created to produce the iPhone software for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A handful of software engineers with technical expertise in writing highly secure software — the same people who have designed Apple’s security system over the last decade — would need to be among the employees the company described in its filing.
That team does not exist, and Apple is unlikely to make any moves toward creating it until the company exhausts its legal options. But Apple employees say they already have a good idea who those employees would be.
They include an engineer who developed software for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. That engineer previously worked at an aerospace company. Another is a senior quality-assurance engineer who is described as an expert “bug catcher” with experience testing Apple products all the way back to the iPod. A third likely employee specializes in security architecture for the operating systems powering the iPhone, Mac and Apple TV.
“In the hierarchy of civil disobedience, a computer scientist asked to place users at risk has the strongest claim that professional obligations prevent compliance,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This is like asking a doctor to administer a lethal drug.”
There are ways an employee could resist other than quitting, such as work absences. And it is a theoretical discussion. It could be a long time before employees confront such choices as the case moves through the legal system.
The security-minded corner of the technology industry is known to draw “healthfully paranoid” people who tend to be more doctrinaire about issues like encryption, said Arian Evans, vice president for product strategy at RiskIQ, an Internet security company. But that resolve can wither when money gets involved, he said.
An employee rebellion could throw the F.B.I’s legal fight with Apple into uncharted territory.
“If — and this is a big if — every engineer at Apple who could write the code quit and, also a big if, Apple could demonstrate that this happened to the court’s satisfaction, then Apple could not comply and would not have to,” said Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor. “It would be like asking my lawn guy to write the code.”
Mr. DeMarco, who filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of law enforcement groups that supported the Justice Department, also noted that if the engineers refused to write the code, rather than outright quit, “then I think that the court would be much more likely to find Apple in contempt,” he said.
Rather than contempt, Riana Pfefferkorn, a cryptography fellow at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said Apple could incur daily penalties if a judge thought it was delaying compliance.
The government has cracked down on tech companies in the past. A judge imposed a $10,000-a-day penalty on the email service Lavabit when it did not give its digital encryption keys to investigators pursuing information on Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked documents about government surveillance.
The small company’s response could be indicative of how individual Apple employees reacted to a court order. When Lavabit was held in contempt, its owner shut down the company rather than comply.
Written by John Markoff, Katie Benner, and Brian X. Chen of The New York Times
(Source: The New York Times)
As the excitement grows ahead of Apple’s March 21st event, the team at TechSmart has given us the best look yet at the upcoming 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Taking inspiration from Sonny Dickson’s procurement of a leaked iPad case, Keaton Keller has powered up his 3D Printer to reverse engineer an iPad Pro design which would fit the case. It uses the information gleaned from the cut-outs and ergonomics of the case, and mixes in what we know about the next generation tablet from Apple.
Notable in the video are the increased prominence of the speakers thanks to the speaker cut-outs. This ties in with the use of improved audio components moving down from the 12.9 inch iPad Pro to this newer 9.7 inch device. It also means increasing the speaker count to four so the new iPad can provide an audio output at each corner of the tablet.
The smart connector on the long edge is also present, which will allow the third-party keyboard market to use a physical connection to the tablet as opposed to the use of BlueTooth. Apple will more than likely have a smart keyboard cover to ship with the new device but expect the peripheral manufacturers to make good use of this.
There’s also a smaller cut-out under the camera, and the natural assumption is that this will be for an LED flash. Curiously, a headphone jack cut-out is still present. Apple may be considering the removal of this port on the presumptively titled iPhone 7, but that courageous move is not happening just yet.
Taken as a whole, the design shows that Apple is still taking its now customary iterative approach to design, only changing major features when the technology demands it. The front of the iPad is going to look like pretty much every iPad that has come before it.
What’s not on show here is the potential screen that will be used in the iPad. Although the size is know, I’ll be interested to see if Apple has managed to address the challenge of fitting 3D Touch to a larger screened device. In a perfect world 3D Touch will be implemented and allow iOS to evolve new UI paradigms, but the technical barriers may be too high at this moment in time.
These details are still speculative and will be confirmed at the March 21st event, but I’m confident that the leaks and details are correct. In terms of design this ‘best guess’ puts all the bits in all the sensible places. But it also leaves me with one over-riding thought.
A red iPad looks really nice!
Written by Ewan Spence of Forbes
Bolting straight and adding timbre to his soft Southern accent, Apple’s (AAPL) CEO explained why so much is at stake in fighting the FBI’s request it unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers.
“We are a staunch advocate of privacy,” Cook said. “We do these things because they are right.”
In public settings, letters and testimony, Cook has been using the pulpit of Apple to emerge as one of the world’s most outspoken corporate executives on privacy and other social issues.
For Cook and Apple, taking on the government is fraught with risk. The U.S. often wins legal conflicts with individual companies. But there is an upside to Cook’s gambit: It’s good for business — buyers of Apple’s high-end electronic devices are sticklers for privacy, especially those overseas — and it has cemented Cook’s status as the tech industry’s leading voice for protecting the personal data of consumers.
Before Cook, Apple was a company that reflected the passion of Steve Jobs: The news that emanated from Cupertino, Calif., was product launch, product launch, product launch. The rare Jobs interview was comprised of him commenting on a new gizmo, and nothing else.
Today the narrative has changed dramatically, and Cook is a willing participant. Apple arguably is defined as much now by its legal fight with the government as its next iPhone.
When Apple unveils its new iPhone the week of March 21, as expected, it will be the second-most important piece of news that week. On March 22, Apple and the FBI face off in federal court.
Indeed, the government’s gambit is influenced, in part, by rumors of an ultra-secure iPhone that would be next to impossible to crack, say security experts.
“It is an escalating game of security, with dangerous consequences, if the government loses before such an iPhone goes to market,” says Nathan Wenzler, executive director of security at computer-security start-up Thycotic.
A privacy crusader
Cook, 55, took over leadership of Apple in late 2011, after the death of Steve Jobs, the company’s iconic co-founder. Apple was as infused with the brains, heart and soul of Jobs as Walt Disney personified his Magic Kingdom.
At the time, Cook was well-regarded as a private, behind-the-scenes operations wizard who would assume a caretakers’ role at Apple, extending Jobs’ legacy. But unlike Jobs — who rarely made political statements or shared his opinion on current events — Cook clearly expressed his views on privacy, the environment, gay rights, diversity and discrimination.
As far back as 2010, Cook said privacy was paramount at Apple. The company “has always had a very different view of privacy than some of our colleagues in the Valley,” he said that year. By late 2013, Apple made all third-party data stored on customers’ phones encrypted by default.
Apple’s resolve hardened after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program and the embarrassing disclosure, in late 2014, that hackers broke into the Apple accounts of a number of celebrities, stole their nude photos and leaked them on the Internet. Apple strengthened its security.
“Tim Cook is the most influential tech executive in the post-Snowden firmament,” says Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Through personal beliefs, news events and the importance of privacy to Apple’s business, he is the industry’s chief advocate.”
Apple’s hardline on privacy is seen as smart business sense, especially in China, its second-largest market.
But here, the profile of Cook as a staunch privacy advocate gets a little blurrier. Apple has been criticized for moving some of its Chinese customers’ data onto servers run by state-run China Telecom, a shift seen as making it more possible for the Chinese government to gain access to user data. Apple contends it made the move to increase data speeds and that the data is encrypted and off-limits to China Telecom.
At the same time, the level of encryption in recent iPhones has helped make it a favored brand among Chinese consumers who are more suspicious of state-owned device makers’ complicity with the Chinese government.
The upshot, says Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo, is a delicate balancing act Apple plays in China.
Personal convictions have also been part of the Apple/Cook calculus on privacy. In 2014, he revealed he was gay, the first publicly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. At the time, he said he was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to set aside his own privacy to do something “more important.”
Last year, he wrote an editorial decrying an Indiana law that protected state business owners from being sued over declining services to gays and lesbians.
“What Cook is doing is proving Apple is not just a company of great products, but one of principle,” says Lisa Joy Rosner, chief marketing officer at information-services company Neustar. Its analysis of internal data about Apple consumers portrays them as vigilant about privacy and secure devices, she says.
That’s very much the role Tim Cook’s Apple has taken on as it grapples with the U.S. government in the courts and in the public eye.
“Had the dispute involved an Android phone, Google would be the leading voice. If a Microsoft phone, them,” says Phil Dunkelberger, former CEO of PGP, a pioneer in encryption technology.
“Cook is echoing the industry, and taken the mantle,” Dunkelberger says. “He’s our voice.”
Written by Jon Swartz of USA Today
(Source: USA Today)
WASHINGTON — Apple engineers have already begun developing new security measures that would make it impossible for the government to break into a locked iPhone using methods similar to those now at the center of a court fight in California, according to people close to the company and security experts.
If Apple succeeds in upgrading its security — and experts say it almost surely will — the company would create a significant technical challenge for law enforcement agencies, even if the Obama administration wins its fight over access to data stored on an iPhone used by one of the killers in last year’s San Bernardino, Calif., rampage. The F.B.I. would then have to find another way to defeat Apple security, setting up a new cycle of court fights and, yet again, more technical fixes by Apple.
The only way out of this back-and-forth, experts say, is for Congress to get involved. Federal wiretapping laws require traditional phone carriers to make their data accessible to law enforcement agencies. But tech companies like Apple and Google are not covered, and they have strongly resisted legislation that would place similar requirements on them.
“We are in for an arms race unless and until Congress decides to clarify who has what obligations in situations like this,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Companies have always searched for software bugs and patched holes to keep their code secure from hackers. But since the revelations of government surveillance made by Edward J. Snowden, companies have been retooling their products to protect against government intrusion.
Apple built its recent operating systems to protect customer information. As its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, wrote in a recent letter to customers, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”
But there is a catch. Each iPhone has a built-in troubleshooting system that lets the company update the system software without the need for a user to enter a password. Apple designed that feature to make it easier to repair malfunctioning phones.
In the San Bernardino case, the F.B.I. wants to exploit that troubleshooting system by forcing Apple to write and install new software that strips away several security features, making it much easier for the government to hack into the phone. The phone in that case is an old model, but experts andformer Apple employees say that a similar approach could also be used to alter software on newer phones. That is the vulnerability Apple is working to fix.
Apple officials alluded to this in a conference call last week when a journalist asked why the company would allow firmware — the software at the heart of the iPhone — to be modified without requiring a user password. One executive replied that it was safe to bet that security would continue to improve, and someone close to the company confirmed this week that Apple engineers had begun work on a solution even before the San Bernardino attack. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called rumors and speculation.
Independent experts have offered possible solutions in both public forums and private, informal conversations with the company over the last few weeks. “There are probably 50 different ideas we have all sent to Apple,” said Jonathan Zdziarski, a security researcher.
Apple regularly publishes security updates and gives credit to researchers who hunt for bugs in the company’s software. “Usually, bug reports come in an email saying, ‘Dear Apple Security, we’ve discovered a flaw in your product,’ ” said Chris Soghoian, a technology analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. “This bug report has come in the form of a court order.”
The court order to which Mr. Soghoian referred was issued last week by a federal judge magistrate, and tells Apple to write and install the code sought by the F.B.I. Apple has promised to challenge that order. Its lawyers have until Friday to file its opposition in court.
In many ways, Apple’s response continues a trend that has persisted in Silicon Valley since Mr. Snowden’s revelations. Yahoo, for instance, left its email service unencrypted for years. After Mr. Snowden revealed how the National Security Agency exploited the company, the company quickly announced plans to encrypt email. Google similarly moved to fix a vulnerability that the government was using to hack into company data centers.
Apple’s showdown with the Justice Department is different in one important way. Now that the government has tried to force Apple to hack its own code, security officials say, the company must view itself as the vulnerability. That means engineers will have to design a lock they absolutely cannot break.
“This is the first time that Apple has been included in their own threat model,” Mr. Zdziarski said. “I don’t think Apple ever considered becoming a compelled arm of the government.”
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey Jr., signaled this week that he expected Apple to change its security, saying that the phone-cracking tool the government sought in the San Bernardino case was “increasingly obsolete.” He said that supported the government’s argument that it was not seeking a skeleton key to hack all iPhones.
Apple, though, says the case could set a precedent for forcing company engineers to write code to help the government break any iPhone. “The U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create,” Mr. Cook said in his letter.
The heated back-and-forth between the government and technology companies is, at least in part, a function of the Obama administration’s strategy. The White House has said it will not ask Congress to pass a law requiring tech companies to give the F.B.I. a way to access customer data. That has left the Justice Department to fight for access one phone at a time, in court cases that often go unnoticed.
While it is generally accepted that Silicon Valley’s tech giants can outgun the government in a technical fight, the companies do face one important limitation. Security features often come at the expense of making products slower or clunkier.
Apple’s brand is built around creating products that are sleek and intuitive. A security solution that defeats the F.B.I. is unworkable if it frustrates consumers. One of the impediments to encrypting all the data in Apple’s iCloud servers, for instance, has been finding a way to ensure that customers can easily access and recover photos and other information stored there.
“Telling a member of the public that they’re going to lose all the family photos they’ve ever taken because they forgot their password is a really tough sell,” Mr. Soghoian said. “A company wants to sell products to the public.”
Written by Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner of The New York Times