Business news

How Apple Thrived in a Season of Tech Scandals

By: Farhad Manjoo

The business world has long been plagued by Apple catastrophists — investors, analysts, rival executives and journalists who look at the world’s most valuable company and proclaim it to be imminently doomed.

The critics’ worry for Apple is understandable, even if their repeated wrongness is a little hilarious. Apple’s two-decade ascent from a near-bankrupt has-been of the personal computer era into the first trillion-dollar corporation has defied every apparent rule in tech.

Companies that make high-priced hardware products aren’t supposed to be as popular, as profitable or as permanent. To a lot of people in tech, Apple’s success can seem like a fluke, and every new hurdle the company has faced — the rise of Android, the death of Steve Jobs, the saturation of the smartphone market, the ascendance of artificial intelligence and cloud software — has looked certain to do it in.

But this year, as it begins to roll out a new set of iPhones, the story line surrounding Apple has improbably shifted. In an era of growing skepticism about the tech industry’s impact on society, Apple’s business model is turning out to be its most lasting advantage.

Because Apple makes money by selling phones rather than advertising, it has been able to hold itself up as a guardian against a variety of digital plagues: a defender of your privacy, an agitator against misinformation and propaganda, and even a plausible warrior against tech addiction, a problem enabled by the very irresistibility of its own devices.

Though it is already more profitable than any of its rivals, Apple appears likely to emerge even stronger from tech’s season of crisis. In the long run, its growing strength could profoundly alter the industry.

For years, start-ups aiming for consumer audiences modeled themselves on Google and Facebook, offering innovations to the masses at rock-bottom prices, if not for free. But there are limits to the free-lunch model.

If Apple’s more deliberate business becomes the widely followed norm, we could see an industry that is more careful about tech’s dangers and excesses. It could also be one that is more exclusive, where the wealthy get the best innovations and the poor bear more of the risks.

“Because of Apple’s business model — because their money comes from their profitable hardware — it has been much easier for them to make certain choices and certain arguments about how to address problems in the industry,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, a technology research firm.

The thrust of Apple’s message is simple: Paying directly for technology is the best way to ensure your digital safety, and every fresh danger uncovered online is another reason to invest in the Apple way of life.

These aren’t new arguments for Apple. While Google and Facebook pursued globe-spanning scale by offering free or cheap services supported by ads, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, was warning of the risks of an internet advertising market run amok.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” he told an audience in 2015.

To many, including yours truly, Mr. Cook’s arguments sounded alarmist and self-serving. But after two years of scandal, he sounds farsighted.

Though their businesses keep chugging along, Facebook and Google, the world’s biggest internet ad companies, now face global scrutiny for the spread of disinformation, propaganda and what critics say is their products’ destabilizing effects on politics and society.

Amazon is beloved by customers, but its rapid growth has spurred economywide anxieties about the future of jobs. All three behemoths are considered growing targets for antitrust prosecution in the United States and elsewhere.

Apple’s business model, by contrast, insulates it from most of the tech fears that have emerged in the last few years. Although it makes the vast majority of the profits in the global smartphone business, Apple’s phones account for a minority of sales, blunting fears of monopoly.

Apple’s high prices also set up an expectation of safety, giving it a freer hand to police online properties like its app store, podcast directory and news app. A decade ago, when Mr. Jobs imposed rules on the iOS App Store banning scammy and pornographic apps, he was called a prude. Now his rules seem prescient.

Apple is hiring actual human journalists to build a subscription news service that could stand in contrast to the reckless news environment on social networks.

Its commitment to curating online experiences has also turned Apple into something like a moral arbiter for tech. When Apple decided to bar the right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones from its services this summer, it cut through much of the hand-wringing in the industry over Mr. Jones’s antics. Many other tech companies immediately followed its move.

Apple has not entirely escaped criticism in the Trump era. Its reliance on China, where it makes its products and expects to see much of its growth, and where its products abide by government censors, looks to be a rising liability.

Even when Apple’s products have been directly implicated in tech worries, its business model has helped it weather the storm. Consider the rising fears of “tech addiction,” the idea that kids and adults are spending too much mindless time in the digital world, egged on by tech companies’ insatiable need for our eyeballs.

In January, a pair of large Apple investors, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, wrote an open letter to Apple urging the company to address the issue. Charles Penner, a partner at Jana, told me that the campaign had targeted Apple because the company had every reason to respond.

“The biggest source of strength that Apple has is their ability to charge premium prices for their products,” he said. “Their value depends on people feeling safe and supported within their ecosystem.”

And, in fact, Apple responded. The company told the investors that it believed the overuse of tech was a serious issue, and that it had been working on it. In the summer, it unveiled a series of widely praised features meant to allow adults to police their own and their kids’ smartphone habits.

Google, apparently spurred by the same campaign, offered similar features for its Android phones. Mr. Penner told me that he appreciated the companies’ efforts, though he expects to keep pushing them to reduce their devices’ addictiveness.

Apple’s safety-first business model may become only more important as technology becomes even more intimate. The company’s latest phones can be unlocked with your face, while its watch includes sophisticated sensors to monitor your movements and your health. In pushing these and other advances, the company can reasonably argue that only its ad-free business can protect such sensitive information.

But it is worth noting that Apple’s model isn’t available to everyone. In the spring, after Mr. Cook took a few swipes at Facebook’s scandals, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, pointed out the inherent limits in Apple’s model.

“The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay,” Mr. Zuckerberg told the journalist Ezra Klein.

Since then, Apple has raised the prices of its top-end phones, and as the smartphone market slows, the company’s pristine haven from the dangers of online life might get only more expensive.

Inequality is the story of our age, and it’s no surprise that it could become the dominant story line of tech, too. As the digital world gets scarier, Apple’s technology may come to resemble a high-priced oasis for the world’s rich. Everyone else takes their chances on a free lunch.

Follow Farhad Manjoo on Twitter: @fmanjoo

Spiritual Growth

THE CHRISTIAN AND POLITICS

The historical Christian positions on social issues don’t match up with contemporary political What should the role of Christians in politics be? More people than ever are asking that question. Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel.” Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. American churches in the early 19th century that did not speak out against slavery because that was what we would now call “getting political” were actually supporting slavery by doing so. To not be political is to be political.

The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not. To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation requires political engagement. Christians have done these things in the past and should continue to do so.

Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one. There are a number of reasons to insist on this.

One is that it gives those considering the Christian faith the strong impression that to be converted, they need not only to believe in Jesus but also to become members of the (fill in the blank) Party. It confirms what many skeptics want to believe about religion — that it is merely one more voting bloc aiming for power.

Another reason not to align the Christian faith with one party is that most political positions are not matters of biblical command but of practical wisdom. This does not mean that the church can never speak on social, economic and political realities, because the Bible often does. Racism is a sin, violating the second of the two great commandments of Jesus, to “love your neighbor.” The biblical commands to lift up the poor and to defend the rights of the oppressed are moral imperatives for believers. For individual Christians to speak out against egregious violations of these moral requirements is not optional.

However, there are many possible ways to help the poor. Should we shrink government and let private capital markets allocate resources, or should we expand the government and give the state more of the power to redistribute wealth? Or is the right path one of the many possibilities in between? The Bible does not give exact answers to these questions for every time, place and culture.

I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left-wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, “humbled and chastened.” He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.

Another reason Christians these days cannot allow the church to be fully identified with any particular party is the problem of what the British ethicist James Mumford calls “package-deal ethics.” Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.

This emphasis on package deals puts pressure on Christians in politics. For example, following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.

So Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid. In the Good Samaritan parable told in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus points us to a man risking his life to give material help to someone of a different race and religion. Jesus forbids us to withhold help from our neighbors, and this will inevitably require that we participate in political processes. If we experience exclusion and even persecution for doing so, we are assured that God is with us (Matthew 5:10-11) and that some will still see our “good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:11-12). If we are only offensive or only attractive to the world and not both, we can be sure we are failing to live as we ought.

The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.

Timothy Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian churches in New York City, is the author of “Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy,” from which this essay is adapted.

Uncategorized

Choices, Challenges and Change

Albert Einstein said “Life is like riding a bike, once you stop, you fall off”.

It appears that in our lives, there is no status quo. We have to make the choice, the conscious choice, to continue to grow, to continue to expand, to become healthy and to take on a healthy lifestyle. We have to actively pursue this, to remind ourselves, to remind our subconscious how we want to maintain and sustain our body and mind.

Conversely, the opposite of maintaining our wellbeing is deteriorating, and without active maintenance and positive methods of doing so, our body and mind deteriorate and gradually break down. As young kids, we continually challenge ourselves but we soon learn through peer pressure that it’s ‘safer’ to conform and to be “cool”. Increasingly, research shows that illnesses that affect us later in life begin in early childhood, including the poor choices and patterns we learn as children.

Negative choices are those actions which put destructive pressure or stress on your and mind. These include poor diet and lifestyle as well as a negative or apathetic attitude. A poor choice may not be a major problem – for example a Christmas indulgence or celebrating a birthday – but that indulgence repeated over and over again becomes a problem and represents an accumulation of poor choices. It may not affect you in the short term but an accumulation over the weeks, months and years of your life will affect you adversely.

No one puts weight overnight, but many people gain weight on over two or three years or even ten or twenty years. The weight gain is an accumulation of poor choices. It may be that one extra piece of bread a day or the fact that you stopped walking around the block or a combination of both of these.

Culled from: “The DEAL for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids; A Twenty-first Century Survival Guide for Parents.” ~ Dr. Peter Dingle

Business news, Inspirational

21 best quotes from Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa

1. If you are working or you are running a business you have to set aside time and money to invest in your continued formal education and skills acquisition.

2. Seeing the business side, is being business minded, you can train yourself to be business minded.

3. You can only find opportunities if you are looking for them.

4. You have to be very methodical in breaking down, the reason why something is successful. Most often it is not as simple as it looks.

5. Attitude sets the altitude.

6. Every game, has its own rules, and its own language… Learn the rules, and language of the money game!

7. Planning is important, for whatever you do, whether it is for profit, or not for profit.

8. As you set about your enterprise, you must always consider the consequences of your actions. Don’t just rush headlong into doing something; hoping it will work out, just the way you want it. There are many people who have caused suffering to themselves, or to their families, simply because they took on an opponent, who was bigger, and better resourced, or better skilled than themselves; without proper planning.

9. The moment I see a problem, I immediately begin to think about the opportunities that can be created by trying to solve it.

10. God will do nothing except you pray; and you have to be clear what you want.

11. No matter what business you are in, and no matter how small or mundane, the activities, there must be continuous investment in it.

12. Whether you’re a farmer, builder or engineer, the opportunities are equal: Just add a little innovation.

13. Keeping proper, written records, is key to your success… Keep the records safe, and always have copies”

14. A vision on its own is not enough. Hard work & dedication is required to make that vision a reality.

15. Attitude determines your altitude, if you have a bad attitude, even if you are way up there, you will come crashing down, and if you are still trying to take off, a bad attitude, will keep you on the ground, revving your engines but going nowhere.

16. Integrity is better capital than money. You can accumulate it just like money, and you can use it just like money, but it goes further, and is enduring.

17. Sitting down that afternoon, with a borrowed copy of the New International Version Bible, I sat down to read the bible for the very first time, in my life…….. I just read, and read, and read…Often, I would read the whole day, and the whole night… Finally I finished it after about three weeks.

18. Always seek to get deeper understanding of an issue first. Never accept that anything is as simple as it looks, in fact when something looks really simple, then you should approach it with caution, particularly if you have never done it before.

19. The bible teaches us that every one of us is a unique individual, an absolute original. For the greatness in you to emerge, you have to become yourself, first. You will never achieve this by impersonating someone else on Twitter or Facebook, no matter how great you think they are.

20. I started in business when I was 25 years old, with only $75, pooled between myself and a friend. We went around the suburbs fixing broken lights, and gates. We invested every cent, into doing bigger and bigger projects. For me, nothing has really changed in terms of those basic principles: you start with what you have, you do what you can, you invest what you get, so that you can do bigger and bigger things.

21. My favourite business book is the bible. If you study the bible with a view to extracting principles on how to set up, and manage a business effectively, you will be absolutely amazed; it has everything.