Jessica Lessin: History — even for Apple — doesn’t change overnight

From “Apple, Big Tech and the Unpredictable March of History” mailed Saturday to subscribers to The Information.

It’s hard for me to see this as anything but significant and a precedent that will follow Apple as it deals with challenges to the App Store in the years ahead.

There’s been some commentary that the move is incremental. But here’s one thing those commentators are forgetting: History doesn’t change overnight. It evolves slowly and often imperceptibly, and the turning points are only clear in hindsight.

I still recall the day in 2007 that Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone. I was covering BlackBerry at the time, so I was paying pretty close attention to the nascent smartphone industry.

Today, that day is marked in history as the dawn of a new era in technology. There are books written about that very moment. And yet I can tell you that at the time it didn’t feel like the world had changed. Yes, many Apple fans were ecstatic. But there were plenty of people wondering what the heck they would do with the phone besides call and text. Its true impact only became clear over time.

I believe Friday’s ruling is likely to be similar, one of these moments we look back on as consequential—as a crack in the economic power that makes the App Store—well, the App Store.

My take: Lessin — who left the Wall Street Journal in 2013 to found The Information ($399/year) — is no dummy.


  1. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    I respect Jessica Lessin. However, I respectfully disagree with her view. Apple will adroitly navigate whatever changes result from the recent rulings. What makes the App Store an “economic power” isn’t so much 3rd-party apps. What makes the App Store an “economic power” is Apple. That won’t change no matter the recent rulings and any resulting changes to App Store policies. There are reasons I choose Apple products and Apple services. That won’t change at all.

    September 11, 2021
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    There are reasons I choose Apple products and Apple services. That won’t change at all.

    Hear, Hear.

    Nobody, I mean nobody, has an installed base the size and loyalty of Apple’s installed base. They may have become part of that base with temerity, but once in they become devotees, and the motivation isn’t price, it’s Operating System power and simplicity rolled into one, unparalleled hardware quality and performance, and above all support by and trust in Apple at all levels.

    After reading Foss Patents interpretation of Judge Rogers’ decision I am convinced Epic got nothing positive out of its suit against Apple.

    There will be no reason for an Apple devotee, outside of fleeting curiosity, to try/use an alternative to the App Store. Pricing won’t do it, and as Apple is the most highly respected of firms for guarding personal info, neither will promises of secure (hidden identity) payment systems.

    The ripple effect from this decision favoring Apple’s business practices (no matter how close to its products being declared monopolies) are going to have a chilling impact on Apple’s competition.

    Judge Rogers has done more to silence Apple’s critics (regulators) than anything thing else I can think of.

    September 11, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      You’re right but…

      Rogers won’t silence many critics who reject or re-interpret data that does not conform to their pre-conceived notions. Lessin shows this.

      September 11, 2021
  3. Rodney Avilla said:
    Lessin didn’t get it right in 2007. Not sure anything has changed.
    A sign of intelligence is not predicting the future, it is knowing that you can’t.

    September 11, 2021
  4. Timothy Smith said:
    She may be smart, but Jessica was 24 when the iPhone came out. At the time, she was covering BlackBerry by (in all likelihood) expertly typing on one of their physical keyboards. People she knew didn’t see past calling and texting because those were literally the only things BlackBerrys could do.
    There is no question that the people at Blackberry (and Microsoft, et al.) failed to see the significance of the iPhone, but many of us stood in line for each upgrade, and then put our money into Apple stock.
    Bottom line: she just compared a court ruling on the methodology of game payments to the creation of the best product in history. So, I think she lacks perspective.

    September 11, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      but many of us stood in line

      I literally stood in a light rain for four hours before ATT opened its door to get the original. I still have it and it’s box. If I had a 32 pin cable I’d try to power it up.

      The feature that excited me the most? The full screen dial pad. I have a large hand and absolutely hated the tiny buttons on feature phones.

      Within a year I was hooked for life.

      September 11, 2021
      • David Emery said:
        I probably have an extra 24 pin cable, if you want it. (Kept a couple for my iPod Classic 160gb…)

        September 12, 2021
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    Earlier this morning we heard “Apple’s App Store is doom” from Martin Peers with “The Information.” Now we hear from Ms. Jessica Lessin with “The Information” reminding us the “Apple’s App Store is doom.” It is difficult to see where these are rational, deliberative, studied assessments by “The Information” staff more than excessively critical and quick judgmental thinking. Why is it that I am getting the impression “The Information” staffers seem miffed? Maybe next we also will get an opinion from “The Information’s” editorial board reminding us again Apple’s App Store is doomed.

    If all seems so doom & gloom, then why is there jubilation and relief among Apple investors watching Tim Sweeney crying’ buckets of tears and seething with anger? Quite a juxtaposition I must say for the parties involved in the litigation.

    Gregg Thurman earlier today asked, “…. If I understand his (Daniel Ives) interpretation correctly, Apple lost NOTHING of material import.”

    Agree, brother Gregg. I praise Developers’ ingenuity and uniqueness to use inducements to offer alternative payment options to Apple users, but I also recognize fully Apple’s unique, innovative, skillfulness & conception of software design along with the privacy and security the iOS platform provides to retain users inside its Wall Garden of Zen. Apple has its own quiver filled with myriad weapons to maintain the continuity of integrity over its App Store far more robustly than Developers ever could desire.

    Apple lost NOTHING of material import. I fully agree and embrace that projected calculation. Two years from now we will retrospectively review the effects of the court’s ruling on the App Store and find that its operational efficacy never missed a beat.

    September 11, 2021
  6. Fred Stein said:
    Sadly, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we read Jessica’s; “Today, that day is marked in history as the dawn of a new era in technology.” Today has another significance, a real one.

    Judge Rogers said, in effect, name brands in supermarkets can glue paper coupon on their products to sign up for mailing lists. (Slight exaggeration, but she did say, Epic cannot put their kiosk in iOS. In other words, nothing changed.)

    September 11, 2021
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    that its operational efficacy never missed a beat.

    bump bump bump bump bump bump

    Dr Kildare: What do you think Nurse Cratchit?
    Nurse Cratchit: I think the patient is stronger than ever Doctor.
    Dr Kildare: Fine, then tell the morgue they won’t be seeing this patient for a very long time.

    Dr Kildare: Who is next?
    Nurse Cratchit: We have a long line of Apple analysts, journalists, naysayers and ostriches overflowing the emergency room, they seemingly are all suffering from the same ailment.

    September 11, 2021
  8. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Jessica Lessin:

    — quote —
    “But there were plenty of people wondering what the heck they would do with the phone besides call and text. Its true impact only became clear over time.”

    What a swing and a miss assessment. Smacks of a recall mashup of the Steve Balmer comment, “Five hundred dollars…and it doesn’t have a keyboard which doesn’t make it a very good email machine” and “Those computer guys just aren’t going to walk in…”

    To this line-waiter who joined thousands across the country, it’s potential impact was rather apparent from the start, hit most key capabilities of a computer in your pocket and everyone knew that its subsequent iterations would do everything better.

    People didn’t stand in line in 2007 to buy just another smartphone.

    Maybe Ms. Lessin should have been a bit more savvy covering the tech beat in 2007.

    September 12, 2021
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      In other words, most savvy people knew from day one that it was a large touch-capable screen enabling a world of everything digital.

      Some people just “get it” immediately without waiting for others to become “enlightened”.

      Metaphorically, an extension of the essence of Apple and their products.

      September 12, 2021
  9. Greg Lippert said:
    Two words, “buying opp”

    September 12, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      Agree, the Monday open should be very interesting and I suggest, no, predict, there will be some sustained buying for the first hour or so. Then a tug of war between the Algos again who want to get out while the getting is good (because their human handlers reprogrammed them to) or those who see the advance had a slight dip and will move forward again.

      Remember, 2 days from now, introductory event, 10 days after that, deliveries start. Either way, Apple will dominate the headlines and take over from the ruling story through late November. By then, we will have a clear idea of how well the iPhone 13 and other refreshed hardware is doing, a late October earnings report, and 1-2 more events before Thanksgiving.

      September 12, 2021

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