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➠ Loosening Restrictions and Holding a Grudge

How over COVID is Apple? A “silent war” over a long held grudge, and “Mac OS Ken” turns 17. Let's see what else the Observation Deck might have in store today. Report: Apple Changing COVID Policies for Corporate Employees On Twitter, Platformer journalist Zoë Schiffer said Wednesday: Apple is making changes to its Covid-19 policy, and will stop mandating employees test before coming into the office. It's also rolling back its special sick leave policy, which previously allowed for unlimited sick leave for workers experiencing covid symptoms. Schiffer went on in a follow-up Tweet: Testing policy rolls out Jan 30, sick leave ends in August. Until then, employees get a maximum of 5 days sick leave, if they test positive for Covid. It is apparently on that that 9to5Mac built its article, “Apple drops COVID-19 test requirement, could WWDC expand in 2023?” Because that is certainly the most important thing.  For clarification, 9to5Mac says “unlimited sick days end in August…” The wording on Schiffer’s Tweet was kind of weird, though I’m not sure whether the 9to5Mac clarification is based on a clarification from Schiffer or simply the site’s own read.  As for supposition that WWDC might go back to being in-person, that seems to be a completely 9to5Mac production. “Last year,” the piece points out: ...Apple invited a limited number of developers to attend WWDC directly from Apple Park. However, just like the iPhone 14 launch, the event was prerecorded, despite the people there. One can see the possibility. Still, whether making it easier for employees to come back to the office (whether they want to or not) equates to welcoming folks from around the planet to crowd rooms, rub elbows, and share breathing space remains to be seen.  FT: Apple, Google, and an Old Grudge? “Cold Wars,” “Cola Wars,” “Secret Wars…” Silicon Valley has a “Silent War,” it seems — one being waged between Apple and Google. Oh, I don’t know that it’s true, but it’s what the Financial Times says. Or, what the Financial Times says two people inside Apple say. Well… two people formerly inside Apple. Under the headline, “Apple beefs up smartphone services in ‘silent war’ against Google,” the site says “two former Apple engineers said the iPhone maker has held a ‘grudge’ against Google ever since” the search giant bought, developed, and promoted Android as an alternative to iPhone and iOS. According to the report: Apple is taking steps to separate its mobile operating system from features offered by Google parent Alphabet, making advances around maps, search and advertising that has created a collision course between the Big Tech companies. Not good business sense, apparently. Just — a grudge. According to the report: One of these people said Apple is still engaged in a “silent war” against its arch-rival. It is doing so by developing features that could allow the iPhone-maker to further separate its products from services offered by Google. Apple did not respond to requests for comment. The piece goes on to describe some of Apple’s initiatives, including ongoing improvements to Apple Maps. That section highlights Business Connect. Introduced this month, Business Connect lets participating businesses customize the info-cards that come up for them in Apple’s mapping service. They can also fold in such Apple-related services as Apple Pay.  There’s also said to be an internal team at Apple called “Apple Search.” Whether its offerings would be a user-facing feature or a back-end framework powering a smarter Siri, one could see that denting Google’s presence for iPhone users.  Acting against all of this though — is money. The Financial Times points to figures from the US Department of Justice that have Alphabet paying Apple “between $8bn and $12bn a year for Google to be the default search engine on iOS…” There’s also Apple’s anticipated big move into online advertising — something that’s been anticipated since iAd…  Really though — it’s the 14-year-old grudge. Most iPhone 13 Models Hit Apple Refurbished Stores in Europe Like-new iPhone 13 models have made the scene in Europe. MacRumors says refurbished iPhone 13 mini, Pro, and Pro Max units have hit Apple’s refurbished stores in the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The piece says this is the first time reconditioned versions of those phones have been made available by Apple. It also notes one model missing — the plain Jane iPhone 13.  As for what is there, the piece says prices on the devices are “discounted by 15% compared to the equivalent brand new models.” As for when “there” will be here in the states, MacRumors says they could/should hit Apple’s U.S. refurbished store “soon.” The piece says: …the models are now listed on Apple's refurbished store [in the states], but remain grayed out for now. This is typically a sign that availability will begin within a matter of days. Apple Trade-In Offers: iPhones Go Down and Macs Go Up Apple has adjusted the trade-in values it offers for various gear — and some of it’s actually gone up. MacRumors ran a list Wednesday of lot of Apple products and prices. Well… potential prices. iPhones either stayed flat or went down in terms of what Apple might offer in trade.  In the wake of last week’s brouhaha over Apple offering less than $1,000 for a Mac Pro that Apple is still selling for over $52,000, it’s somewhat surprising to see Apple’s max-trade offering for the Mac going up in many cases. Of the seven Macs listed in the piece, three of the machines saw their “up-to” trade-in value unchanged, while four saw those go up.  Meanwhile, the piece shows values on Apple Watch both up and down, depending on the model. Trade-in values for iPad were flat across the board. A couple of reminders: Yes, Apple’s trade-in option is convenient. It’s often not the best value, though. That said, Apple does keep a running list on its site. Apple Updates Look of Support Page Apple has spruced up its support site. 9to5Mac says the “new design is much more modern with large images” and “new icons” that should offer “easy access to some of the most common Apple Support issues.”  Not sure how much time you were spending there, but don’t be shocked by the new look next time you do.  Apple Hiring Retail Workers in Malaysia And wrapping the news today, it looks like Apple is looking to plant another flag in its retail map. A piece from Bloomberg (via Yahoo! News) says the Cupertino-company has started hiring for a store or stores in Malaysia.  The listing is looking for all sorts of in-store folks, including managers, technical specialists, support staff, business oriented salespeople, and operations experts. Indications are that these will be for Apple’s own stores, not third-party partners.  While the listing gives no indication as to where the first store will go, Bloomberg sees Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital, as a likely starting point. No indication of a timeline on any of this. Apple declined to comment for the Bloomberg report.  Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts and I talk the Financial Times grudge match and Apple’s reported new stance on COVID. That’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer. One Last Note Before we go — hardcore Mac OS Ken listeners know what today is. The very first episode of this show went out to about 300-people on 26 January 2006… and it has not stopped.  If we assume five days a week, you’re looking at 260 shows a year give or take. Even if you subtract 15-per-year for holidays, sick-days, the occasional mental health day — that puts us somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,160 shows. Could be more, could be less… I stopped counting before we hit 1,000. The transition to Intel was still in progress when this show started. The best thing Apple had in telephony was the Motorola Rockr, which — spoiler — wasn’t that great. We didn’t have iPad yet. We still had Steve Jobs… something like COVID was the stuff of dystopian fiction, and if we were talking about TV, we were talking about TV, not streaming. And we were also way off topic.  The Evolution of Mac OS Ken If you’ve been here the whole time, we have seen iPhone change the world, toppling Windows ME, Nokia, and Blackberry. We saw Steve Jobs pass. We saw Apple Park go from this idea Steve presented at his last public appearance to an amazing corporate space to a place workers really don’t want to go back to because… I don’t know — soft pants and no commute, maybe.  We saw the iPod die. We saw the iPad born. We saw Jony Ive leave the building, and we saw Tim Cook come into his own.  We saw Apple become the most valuable company on the planet. And we continue to see it use that position to raise awareness around user privacy, environmental issues, and human rights concerns. Could Apple do more? Probably. But can you name another company that — publicly — does as much?  Some years are Apple Watch and iPhone… and some years are 2022. More with the COVID. Worker dissatisfaction. Allegations of union busting — and Apple seeming, at times, to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of employees. And China? And Russia? Do not get me started.  The story is not always fun — but it is one long story, and while it might not be enjoyable every day, it has been a joy to share it with you nearly every day for the past 17 years.  So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish ... Without the 'So Long' Part I guess what I’m saying is… thanks. The story continues… we’ll pick it up again tomorrow....

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