When Apple Comes Calling, ‘It’s the Kiss of Death’

From The Wall Street Journal:

It sounded like a dream partnership when Apple Inc. reached out to Joe Kiani, the founder of a company that makes blood-oxygen measurement devices. He figured his technology was a perfect fit for the Apple Watch.

Soon after meeting him, Apple began hiring employees from his company, Masimo Corp., MASI -0.77%decrease; red down pointing triangle including engineers and its chief medical officer. Apple offered to double their salaries, Mr. Kiani said. In 2019, Apple published patents under the name of a former Masimo engineer for sensors similar to Masimo’s, documents show. The following year, Apple launched a watch that could measure blood oxygen levels.

“When Apple takes an interest in a company, it’s the kiss of death,” said Mr. Kiani. “First, you get all excited. Then you realize that the long-term plan is to do it themselves and take it all.”

Mr. Kiani is one of more than two dozen executives, inventors, investors and lawyers who described similar encounters with Apple. First, they said, came discussions about potential partnerships or integration of their technology into Apple products. Then, they said, talks stopped and Apple launched its own similar features.

Apple said that it doesn’t steal technology and that it respects the intellectual property of other companies. It said Masimo and other companies cited in this article are copying Apple, and that it would fight the claims in court.

Apple has tried to invalidate hundreds of patents owned by companies that have accused Apple of violating their patents. According to lawyers and executives at some smaller companies, Apple sometimes files multiple petitions on a single patent claim and attempts to invalidate patents unrelated to the initial dispute.

Many large companies, particularly in tech, have been known to scoop up employees and technology from smaller potential rivals. Software developers have given a name to what they describe as Apple’s behavior in such cases: sherlocking. The term refers to an episode about two decades ago, when Apple released a software product called “Sherlock” that helped users find files on its Mac computers and perform internet searches. 

After an outside company built a tool that had a few more capabilities, which it called “Watson,” Apple released an updated version of Sherlock with many of the same features. According to the engineer who built Watson, which he subsequently sold, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally called him to defend the move. 

Companies that allege Apple copied them fight back in two ways: complaining publicly to get attention from regulators interested in Apple’s market power, or filing lawsuits against Apple.

App developer Blix Inc. has alleged that Apple stole its technique for anonymizing email addresses during online service sign-ups when the company launched its “Sign in with Apple” feature in 2019. Tile Inc., the maker of object-tracking devices that once integrated seamlessly with the iPhone, has faced off against Apple after the company launched a similar product called the AirTag in 2021.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

For those who think Apple is kind and good while Microsoft is EEEEEEEEEvil!

17 thoughts on “When Apple Comes Calling, ‘It’s the Kiss of Death’”

  1. So, who’s really evil: Cthulhu or Beelzebub?

    It’s closer to the Bob’s Country Bunker Theory of All Music: “We’ve got both kinds of music here — country and western.”

    Application to the three from a few days ago about the U.S. v. Apple price-fixing-conspiracy case is left as an exercise in futility for the student.

    The one thing that Microsoft has going for it is that it will occasionally admit that it made a mistake, such as by not continuing to force ever-more-“helpful” versions of Clippy on us. (Can you imagine Clippy powered by Bing’s version of AI? Better yet, don’t.) It’s far from consistent, and hasn’t ever reached to the biggest mistakes, but it’s there. Which is very much looking for a slightly-polished-aluminum lining in the storm clouds.

    • Shh!
      Don’t give them ideas lie that!
      If they hear you they just might bring Clippy back as the front end to GPT on windows.
      And worse, it might take!

      • Bwahahahahaha!

        Felix has correctly divined the answer to the original question: I am evil.

        It could be worse, in this with-it day of marketing and being just the same as all the kewl kids. Let me introduce the new BingAI query assistant, Microsoft Roberto… they’re transhuman…

    • MS doesn’t get into Apple/Google messes because these days MS actually practices subtlety under Nadella.
      (No monkey boy marketing revival dances on this guy’s watch.)
      But make no mistake they still know how to “take it to the mattresses” when they want to.

      Sony has been trying to block their (bargain) buy of (distressed) Activision and are not only failing, but coming under attack by politicians who absolutely positively aren’t paying back MS favors. No sirree, the Senator from Boeing calling out Sony to the Japan trade negotiators had nothing to do with MS. Purely coincidence that a Montana Senator is asking for Sony internal docs or the FTC ideologue in chief got called out in the House.

      No MS fingerprints to be found anywhere. 8 )

      The way they effectively turned OpenAI from the “industry coop” Musk intended into a for pay subsidiary is worth studying. They may not have as much money to play with as Apple but they get much more bang for the buck and less blowback.

      Not eeevileee, but no samaritans. Just smart business execs staying just shy of the line.

  2. Griping about Apple’s business practices is a hopeless endeavor. Nobody in the media wants to hear it, their customers don’t want to see it, and the developers can’t speak of it. Their lawyers may or not be good at antitrust (0 for 2) but they do know their NDAs. Money talks loud.


    (Only Sony is worse.)

    Apple used to be a close follower: they’d watch for a new, promising market, jump in with their Me2, and market their version (typically $200M a year in ads) and shout out any competition. To this day there are people out there who think Apple invented computers.

    Their problem is they got so big they started to ignore small markets and only noticed they mattered after the competition was entrenched and too big to shout out. (eBooks, for one.) Instead, they’ve spent the last two decades spending vast amounts of money on…nothing…

    At one time, they were going to do Apple TVs. By the time they started looking for a hook, the Koreans had taken the high end and the Chinese and a couple of american “virtual companies” had taken over the low end, which was never their target but their products were so good they left no room for hype.

    Then they were going to do cars… but GM went bankupt, the Koreans (again) got good, and again they found nothing to hype. Then they focused on self driving cars. Which are going nowhere. They wanted to do VR but Google and Facebook got there first (google crashed and burned and as usual they quit and Facebook is bleeding billions to little effect). Then MS came out with Hololens AR and are working it into a billion dollar business…in the enterprise space. But Apple is nobody in the enterprise.

    And then there is “AI”. Apple is again late. OpenAI leads, Google frets, Facebook lags, and Apple missed the boat entirely.

    They are what they are.
    They have their fans and a ton of money.
    But they bet the farm on China and are now desperately looking for another workforce to exploit.
    But Mexico is spoken for, Vietnam is almost maxed, and India is…Dirigisme.
    Chickens incoming. 😉

    • But they bet the farm on China and are now desperately looking for another workforce to exploit.

      But Mexico is spoken for, Vietnam is almost maxed, and India is…Dirigisme.

      They’re nowhere near the end yet. Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, western Latin America… South Dakota,† exclusively using but-officer-they-had-work-permits! immigrant labor…

      † No cows were slaughtered and placed on the boxes in creation of this post. Yet. But no chickens.

      • Its not as simple as that.
        Phone manufacturing isn’t as simple as, say textiles. It’s not justvabout undocumented (even in their own country) labor. That’s the least of it.

        pRather, they require multiple levels of skill from the employees.
        Some are paid rock bottom wages, some are paid craftman wages, and some are paid high wages. China has provided a one stop system where the companies use the *Hukous* system to bring in rural employees (preferably young females–first red flag), stash them in barracks and pay them serf wages, plus skilled machine operators and mechanics (also underpaid), technicians, engineers and managers. All paid in yuan, a currency little better than monopoly money.

        First problem is the supply of “serf” workers dried up back ’round 2007.
        Second is the supply of competent mid level employees also dried up.
        And the high level employees involve a good portion of foreign workers. Not cheap. In fact, working in China is more expensive (and less productive) than Mexico, Turkey, and Indonesia.

        Apple is tied to China because of sunk costs, the time it would take to build new facilities and find and train workers, and because China holds all the diferent levels of workers under a government that doesn’t care that most of the lower level workers are so poorly treated they’d rather suicide. And they’re afraid that if they follow Samsung and leave they’d lose a good chunk of their global sales.

        None of the countries you suggest hold enough of all the required kinds of employees nor are they willing to allow comparable exploitation of the workers or the environment. The “serfs” might be cheaper but the scarcity of skilled workers and givernments that actually apply their labor laws will eat into the bottom line. The only reason Apple is moving part of their production to non-China supply chains is that lower margins are better than no production. And China isn’t trustworthy. (Not that Apple is.)

        By contrast, Mexico and Turkey are higher skill/more productive than China yet cost less. Vietnam is about the same as China but much smaller and at as much risk of war as Taiwan.

        India is comparable but will be less accomodating and it is as protectionist as Brazil and France so they won’t be offering much in the way of local sales. And they’re starting from scratch there.

        I think I linked to this summary a while back but it is as true now as before:


        Apple’s dubious practices aren’t just on the tech side.

  3. back in the ’80s, IBM was the big evil company that everyone feared (Itty Bitty Monopoly)
    Then in the ’90s, Microsoft took the crown and in the early 00s IBM actually started supporting OpenSource instead of trying to crush all competition
    Then in the ’00s, Apple stepped up to challenge Microsoft for the crown and in the ’10s Microsoft changed it’s stance and is now supporting OpenSource software and competition.
    Oracle tries to be as bad as any of the others, but doesn’t have the market power to do it. They tried buying MySQL to absorb their biggest competition at the low end, but the OpenSource licensing defeated that and MySQL became MariaDB

    I would have to do research to see who was in charge at IBM during their worst behavior and who turned them around, but the turnaround did happen after a change in leadership.
    Microsoft was bad under Gates and horrid under Balmer, but has turned around since
    Apple was bad under Jobs and is horrid under Cook
    Oracle has been under Larry Ellison a long time, and he keeps trying to make it worse.
    companies change over time. I did not expect Microsoft to turn around as much as they have

    • Oracle was bad from the start, and the name of the bad was Larry Ellison. I remember him doing his own personal sales road show to corporations before anyone had ever heard of Oracle (or any of its competitors), and I never saw a better presentation of a snake oil salesman in my life — right up there at Elmer Gantry level.

      Over my career I would hear updates from insiders at Oracle, and the… let’s call it morality… of the corporation never deviated from the character of the top man.

      Yes, yes, I know — this sort of concern is unfashionable in large-scale business and doubtless one of the reasons I was in the company-building-and-selling business more than the company-buying business. But some choices are just too… unpalatable. I couldn’t ever make myself work for a firm of that character, and was willing to guide my career accordingly. Not cut out for the big time.

      • Working with Oracle products, as I was reading this article I was thinking: “and how did the OP didn’t thought that is the normal procedure?” So, it seems it is my problem been used to that after seeing my bunch of Oracle products follow more destructive paths.

    • Companies typically take on the peronality of the founder and/or long term leaders.
      Used car salesman is a perfect take on Ellison and his company. Which isn’t say their product isn’t good–it is–but when they folk pitched to us they were a little too…aggressive. We were looking for a long term development platform and while their tools looked suitable, the future seemed iffy…

      We opted for (of all things) Excel and Project to prototype and C++ for the production version. Cheaper and more transportable since ourvlong term plans was to use Moore’s law to move to commodity hardware.

      Apple likewise reflects it’s leadership: Wozniac was a genius hacker (in the original sense) but the company was forged by Jobs and anybody who knows his backgound understands his hunger for attention and cash. While nowhere as smart as he thought he was, he certainly knew how to manuever others into giving him what he wanted, by means fair or foul. And since the ony times the company was stable was under him, his attitudes are now ingrained in its DNA.

      My recommendation to any startup up working on AI right now is to “run away, run away, run away” when (not if) Apple shows up. Say nothing, show nothing. And they *will* show up:


      They are too far behind the curve to rely on their own dated tech.

      As to MS, the one thing to consider is that MS isn’t “back” because they were never away, or down, or whatever. Even under Ballmer they outgrew their market every year, grew their profits, and prepared for the future. Wasting $7B on Nokia was a bad move but they coukd easily afford it and they did get to keep a treasure trove of patents. More, Ballmer was behind their move into datacenters which is their biggest rainmaker today (second only to Amazon’s AWS. For now. All OpenAI apps use AZURE). So the monkey boy is due some respect despite his unspeakable crime of killing WinCE just as mobile became important. (So we have to lumber on with iOS and Android and closed appstores.)

      The company *has* changed, or perhaps evolved is more approriate, but the way they’ve done itbis by being true to their corporate DNA. If we look beyond the media reports we can still see the “Tools and Platforms” company Gates founded, still following the tenets he ingrained in it: still aggresively competitive, opportunistic, and very good at reading the winds of change.

      The biggest change, if any, is their public-facing posturing.
      That and that they’ve learned to play the political games they refused to play before 1995. They’re still primarily a B2B company, still diversified (more than ever), still willing to make a buck wherever they can find it (under Gates they supported Atari and Commodore, spearheaded MSX, sold hardware when it made sense, and were never too proud to move into a new niche like CDROM encyclopedias). And they still move into any business adjacent to their cash cows. Oh, and they still hold grudges, but quietly and profesionally, and don’t let it get in the way of making money. They call it coopetition.

      My favorite Microsoft story is the birth of TrueType.
      More or less like this:

      When Gates broke with IBM (and one of the reaons was downloadable fonts (whole ‘nother story) he wanted to include scalable font tech in Windows 3.0. His first stop was ADOBE, looking for a license to their Type 1 font rasterizer and a handful of generic fonts to embed in the Windows distro.

      Sure, you can bundle our ADOBE TYPE MANAGER, just like Apple, said Warnock, the Adobe CEO. $50 per copy.
      That doesn’t work. We only get $40 from the OEMs and Compaq is grandfathered at $10.
      Tough. You’ll have to raise the price, then. (click)

      Gates was not happy.
      He called Jobs.
      Jobs was not happy.

      Yeah, he’s got us paying $50. We’re trying to roll out a scalable font tech of our own but its slow going.
      Really, huh? Let me see what I can do: I know a guy who know a guy.

      Sure enough, MS contacted the math department at the University of Waterloo and they quickly cooked up an algorithm for $3M. They combined it with Apple’s work and a Postcript clone they’d been working on and in May 1991, True Type was born with both Gates and Jobs on stage. Gates even let Jobs MC. Sitting in the audience, was Warnock. (Legend says he cried of anger.)

      Adobe used to sell Fonts at $50 apiece.
      Microsoft sold a bundle of 35 true type fonts for $30.
      (And in 1994 they gave us Comic Sans.) 😀

      Today you can buy collections of thousands of professional grade fonts for commercial use for a few hundred, bigger consumer grade collections for under $50 and tens of thousands free fonts all over the internet.

      Gates…disliked…Jobs whose techie cred was minimal, but he could work with him when it served him. Nadella has similar issues with Sony, but that didn’t stop him from licensing the MS Cloud Gaming tech to Sony.

      It’s just business.

      • Hey, wait a minute, Felix! There are worse things than Comic Sans!

        OK, not a lot of them. Two of them, though, are mainstays of the computing world: Times Roman (any variant) and Courier. Hint: Both of them were designed originally for ink-on-paper-only use, and on-screen just emphasizes their (to use the technical term) suckitude… especially when dealing with diacriticals, baseline offsets (superscripts and subscripts primarily), and the unfortunate implementation of non-Western-European characters.

        All of that said, there’s also a significant math issue involved in the TTF/OTF versus second-general PostScript font wars: The bicubic math in the TTF/OTF system works vastly, vastly better for legible, size-adjustable calligraphic fonts like Arabic and Farsi than does the bilinear math (and some other technical specification aspects) of PostScript levels 1-3. Hint: Among (alphabetically) Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft, which one(s) had fully-official, in-house translated user manuals for any of their products in 1989? In 1994?

        I’ll still take Comic Sans. I will then throw any document printed using it through a window, but only after the ones done in Times [New] Roman and Courier.

        • I detest Courier.
          If I need monospace, I’ll go with Lucida Sans…
          (Like, for listings.)
          …even though I’m no fan of sans serif as a matter of principle.

          Give me serifs or… never mind, no need to get violent, guys…

  4. Good discussion of the early tech days. Strong personalities at the top who drive lots of breakthrough technologies that turn out to be big moneymakers.

    Today, not so much. Certainly, the CEO’s of all large companies have egos the size of the moon, but I’m not terribly impressed by what passes for tech innovation these days among the big guys.

    Artificial Intelligence for everyperson was developed by a bunch of geeks that operated in a fashion of the founders and early execs – move fast and break things. Now BigTech is buying and hiring right and left among the AI geeks and their early-stage products.

    It will be interesting to see how AI develops as it becomes corporatized. So far, among users, there are a lot of prompt jockeys sharing tips and formulas.

    I have no doubt that Big Government organizations are clumping along as fast as they can with AI, but I haven’t seen an equivalent of the early geniuses of Apple, MS, etc., yet. I’m talking about the sort of tech leaders who can see the killer apps in the fog and push their organizations forward at high speed to build those apps/programs/systems, etc.

    Apple had a lot of smart people working for it, but it took a crazy-obsessive guy like Jobs to force them to create what he knew people, AKA consumers of the early-adopter subgenus, would go obsessively crazy when they saw the new thing and immediately knew they absolutely, positively had to have this amazing new thing.

    I know that MS has done something with AI in Bing, but in my limited playing around with Bing, I haven’t been wowed enough to think about leaving the Google search world on an ongoing basis.

    • Well, consumer software is a pretty mature field and there isn’t much room for the kind of clearcut innovation as the old days. The changes these days are mostly incremental and occasional. (Which is why OpenAI’s GPT tech is getting so much attention.) Plus, creating and deploying at scale a whole new field costs *big* bucks. ChatGPT, for example, jumped to 100 million users in a month or so. But it came at a literal price: $700,000 per day.


      Each query costs $0.36 so even random testers are eating their cash reserves moment by moment.
      Even getting to this point took billions upon billions of investment. (MS has $12B)
      The days of two smart kids quitting college to write a BASIC interpreter in a month are long gone. And so is the market for such, ahem, basic software.

      There are geniuses at work out there.
      More than ever.
      But they are working in other, more challenging fields, creating miracles we too easily take for granted. (Take a look at a current “low end” cell phone and really consider whay you’re holding.)

      Just two days ago a 30foot wide 400 foot high monster of a stainless steel rocket took flight for 4 minutes and ended in a massive explosion at the edge of space. Idiots in the media (CNN in particular) celebrated it as a “failure” showing off their ignorance. In reality, it was a qualified success given the methodology that SPACEX uses: build–test to destruction–fix–repeat.
      Any new rocket design launch succeeds just by not blowing up at the pad. Check.
      33 engines running a new cycle, using methane instead of kerosene lit up simultaneously. Check.
      (The previous record was 27 simultaneous engines.)
      The engines produced twice the power if the biggest rocket ever launched before. Check.
      It flew to high altitude, reaching twice the speed of sound without collapsing. Check.
      In fact, when the upper stage failed to separate and the rocket went pinwheeling out of control as a *unit* it didn’t breakup like any other vehicle under similar stress would have. It might be over-engineered although, since it is meant to be reusable that requires extensive reuse to determine. TBD.
      The entire rocket costs a few tens of millions versus the billions anything vaguely comparable. (NASA’s STS) Check.
      That’s how they shrug off the test flight outcome. It was expected to fail. What was not known was *how* it would fail. The thing was heavily instrumented so now they know a lot more.
      And since the thing is so cheap (relatively) they already have three more ready to test once they figure out what changes to make. Say in a couplevof months. The pan is to send tge upper stage to the moon in 2025. Wouldn’t bet against it.

      Make no mistake, there are geniuses at work all around us. But they are rational, “normal” people leading normal lives with husband and wives, kids, friends, mortgages, retirement savings, not freaks like Jobs or Ellison or Musk. The latter are useful but not the real heroes of the story. The heroes are the staff taking their cues from them or themselves and creating instead of demanding, building instead of taking or destroying.

      We are at the tail end of a global pandemic that is the closest thing we’ve experience since the Spanish flu. Global deaths of around 7 million versus tens of millions. And unlike a hundred years ago, we identified the cause in weeks (despite obfuscation and cover up) and had treatments in months, a vaccine in *production* in less than a year. That doesn’t get any coverage, does it?

      The folks that keep us alive and fed get ignored (or demeaned) while online freaks celebrating “a year of girlhood” get celebrated and acclaimed.

      That’s our times.

      But good story fodder if you believe in cautionary tales.

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