back to article Apple accused of unfairly banishing Watch keyboard app for the visually impaired from its software souk

A tiny startup that develops virtual keyboards for the visually impaired has accused Apple of unfair competition and negligence by booting its software out of the App Store. Kosta and Ashley Eleftheriou, the couple behind FlickType – an application that allows Apple Watch users to easily type by swiping across the screen – …

  1. RM Myers
    FAIL

    I am shocked, literally shocked

    that anyone would have the nerve to accuse Apple of acting in anything less than a completely ethical manner. What next - accuse them of colluding with other tech companies to hold down employee salaries? Accuse them of allowing their suppliers to treat their employees in anything other than the employees best interest? Claiming that they would nerf their own products to get consumers to buy more new products from them?

    This is the company which was founded by one of the great humanitarians of modern time, who believed in giving back to society, including huge donations to charity. To accuse them of them of such actions is despicable beyond words.

    Shame! Shame!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

      And, had that been on ARSTechnica, there'd be a million down votes unless tags were added explaining each nuanced jibe!

      1. juice

        Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

        > And, had that been on ARSTechnica, there'd be a million down votes unless tags were added explaining each nuanced jibe!

        It has to be said, I get a lot of downvotes over on ol' Ars, for daring to be critical of things like Apple, eCars and their resident smartphone reviewer.

        It's actually gotten to the point where I suspect there's someone who automatically downvotes anything I write, even if it's innoculous.

        Still, that could just be the voices overreacting again. And if not, it's nice to know that someone's thinking about me ;)

        (Admittedly, I occasionally get similar downvotes on here, especially around eCars. Be nice if more of the downvoters actually commented on why they're downvoting, especially since I do my best to back anything I say with citations and beer-mat calculations...)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

          Downvoted your "innoculous" post, even though it was also a little innocuous. :-)

          1. juice

            Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

            > Downvoted your "innoculous" post, even though it was also a little innocuous. :-)

            I'm... shocked!

            Though at least you explained why ;)

        2. DiViDeD

          Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

          Downvoted your post because I didn't want your lack of faith in humanity to go unrequited.

          Happy to help

          1. juice

            Re: I am shocked, literally shocked

            > Downvoted your post because I didn't want your lack of faith in humanity to go unrequited.

            D'awww.

            Though to be honest, every time I think said faith can't dwindle any further, I just need to look at the news headlines ;)

  2. don't you hate it when you lose your account

    Software that helps people banned

    Nothing less than disgusting behaviour fueled by disgusting greed

  3. sbt
    Megaphone

    They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

    Even a blind person could see it.

    If you make hardware and OSes, you shouldn't be in apps or search or advertising.

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

      On the other hand, controlling the App Store does mean that naughty boy players like FaceBook do have to behave themselves by letting users opt out of pernicious device tracking.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

        Easy solution - if you run an app store, you're not allowed to sell apps.

        No more conflicts of interest. No more deliberate attempts to destroy the competition. No more dodgy attempts to force developers to sell their tech to you.

        It's a win for everyone (except perhaps Apple and Google).

        1. Danny 14

          Re: They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

          Or transparency on why it was blocked.

          1. hoola Silver badge

            Re: They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

            Never going to happen, particularly for Apple they are the gamekeeper, poacher, pheasant and lord or the manor all rolled into one.

            The can and will continue to do exactly that the want.

            There is only one thing that might change the way they operate:

            iDevice fanatics stop being prepared to pay mindboggling prices for long enough that it hurts. Unfortunately with Apple's cash reserves that is a long time. The can pretty much afford to just give everyone an iPhone and still have money in the bank.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: They've really put their finger on why big tech needs to be de-verticalised

              "The can and will continue to do exactly that the want."

              Just wait and see what happens if that Blockchain blokie gets to build his own "company town" in Nevada, making the laws, deciding who can live there, running the police force etc. and not paying local taxes I bet the likes of Apple, MS, Google, Facebook are watching very, very closely. Not to mention all the other big multinationals in other fields. Johnson & Johns, Pfiezer etc with their own company towns with their own laws and working conditions. Maybe Union Carbide would like to build their own little city state and produce all their dangerous chemicals with no health and safety rules?

  4. Totally not a Cylon
    Flame

    Change the script

    Would it be reasonable for a small independent maker of tomato sauce (ketchup) to demand that the major supermarkets sell it?

    And the 'Law of Unintended Consequences' has not been repelled yet so:

    Apple are forced to allow other app-stores on iphone then why not on playstation?

    or you can go to one petrol station and demand the right to buy a different companies petrol,

    or Asda Smart Price (cheap) crisps in Waitrose.

    Companies have the right to decide what they will sell and what they will not.

    If you want to play fortnight or any other piece of junk software on your phone buy an Android!

    There is currently choice in the phone market, don't force remove it by forcing one company to copy another's bad practices under threat of punishment.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Change the script

      You'd have a point if the rules were clear so that a developer could be certain whether or not an app would be acceptable before spending their time developing and promoting it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Change the script

      No maker of tomato sauce can expect a particular supermarket to stock it, but if the sauce is popular there are many other channels where the maker can sell it - other shops, online, through cafes and chip shops, etc. And if the supermarket steals its recipe, labelling, and marketing and sells it as its own there are legal means to get redress.

      The phone market is massively different to supermarkets and petrol stations. If Asda don't stock what I want I can go to any one of a dozen shops within a mile or so of where I live. If the app isn't available on my iPhone I'm not going to go out and buy an Android phone just to get the app, am I?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Change the script

      "Companies have the right to decide what they will sell and what they will not."

      Not when it comes to monopolistic practices or behaviour. You can't go to a different iStore-a-like and ask them to sell your product because Apple don;t allow non-Applie iStores, nor, as a users, can you get products from anywhere other than The Apple iStore.

      And, in this particular case, the app was allowed in the iStore until Apple tried to buy it. It passed all the milestones and tests to be allowed in, and then all of a sudden, it no longer passed those self same tests.

  5. cawfee

    Big assumptions?

    Nowhere in the article does it say that Apple actually made an offer and was rejected. Surely holding a meeting to see what the product is about, with the potential for it to lead to a purchase offer can't count as a failed aquisition attempt?

    I'm curious to see how this plays out though. Apple aren't one for banishing people only to pick them up later at a discount - they're more of the subtle aquisition type.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Apple aren't one for banishing people only to pick them up later at a discount

      Evidence please.

      It makes sense to any potential acquirer to pay the minimum for their acquisition. If that means enabling or forcing the target to fail, thus lowering its value and increasing deperation to sell, I see no reason beyond ethics why Apple (or anyone else of sufficient corporate size) wouldn't try. Since when has any giant corporation been encumbered by ethics at board level?

      1. juice

        Re: Apple aren't one for banishing people only to pick them up later at a discount

        > It makes sense to any potential acquirer to pay the minimum for their acquisition. [...] I see no reason beyond ethics why Apple (or anyone else of sufficient corporate size) wouldn't try

        An interesting point. In the first instance, while I haven't checked, I'd guess that most countries have at least some legal impediments around driving the value of a potential acquisition into the ground; if nothing else, there's a definite overlap with the kind of predatory behaviour which anti-monopoly laws are meant to address.

        Beyond that, there's a few reasons to not drive down the value of an acquisition.

        The first is that if the acquisition has value to you, then it presumably has value to other people/companies. So if you do drive the price down, the odds are good that someone else will step in and buy it at a higher price.

        (As effectively happened with the Amiga computer. Atari called in a debt that the Amiga team couldn't pay, and were rubbing their hands at the thought of acquiring their advanced tech. Only for Commodore to swoop in and grab everything at the last minute. And so began the 16-bit wars...)

        Another point is that by driving the value down, there's a risk that you'll lose the things which made the acquisition valuable. E.g. the target may sell off some of their assets to stay solvent, or lay off people with the domain knowledge needed to make the acquisition valuable.

        And if it becomes known that you're responsible for driving down the value, then people may choose to leave the target of their own accord rather than working for you.

        Finally, predatory activity is likely to have a number of knock-on effects. The negative publicity may cause people to decide to stop doing business with you. And it may damage your relationships with existing suppliers/partners who could potentially be viewed as an acquisition, as well as making potential suppliers/partners think twice about entering into any sort of deal with you.

        Admittedly, I've no doubt that there's a lot of underhanded manouvering when it comes to a some acquisitions. But equally, there's a lot of good reasons why a company would want to keep a squeaky-clean image during said process!

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Apple aren't one for banishing people only to pick them up later at a discount

          Some of your points are characteristic of Apple, but others, while logical, aren't necessarily used.

          "I'd guess that most countries have at least some legal impediments around driving the value of a potential acquisition into the ground; if nothing else, there's a definite overlap with the kind of predatory behaviour which anti-monopoly laws are meant to address."

          It is not clear. Using a monopoly decision to do that is illegal. But there are many other methods which are not illegal. There is a certain amount of activity which gets dismissed as "bargaining well for a better price" and therefore accepted. In this particular case, the app team have a reasonably good case because Apple abused its monopoly position, but that would work as well if Apple didn't want to acquire them. I.E. it's only Apple's App Store monopoly which makes that happen rather than another law.

          "The first is that if the acquisition has value to you, then it presumably has value to other people/companies. So if you do drive the price down, the odds are good that someone else will step in and buy it at a higher price."

          Good point, although it doesn't apply much for this example. The app in question works on phones and watches, but there are lots of keyboards for phones. The IP in question is for their watch app, as their phone app is still permitted on the App Store. There are only three smartwatch platforms with enough functionality to make use of a keyboard with the multitouch and processing requirement of this keyboard. Apple is by far the largest. Samsung's platform is believed to be dying. So the only other purchaser is Google, whose platform is also not in great health. Given that Apple has the most users and that the app doesn't run on Android at this stage, they're by far the most likely to buy it.

          "Another point is that by driving the value down, there's a risk that you'll lose the things which made the acquisition valuable. E.g. the target may sell off some of their assets to stay solvent, or lay off people with the domain knowledge needed to make the acquisition valuable."

          Again, not a bad point but it doesn't apply in this case. The tech is a single application, although some of its functionality is open source released by another developer. The staff is two people. Not all that much they can do except try or give up.

          "And if it becomes known that you're responsible for driving down the value, then people may choose to leave the target of their own accord rather than working for you."

          I doubt that's a factor for most acquisitions. Apple can hire new developers to understand and develop a codebase. What they need most is the code that already works and the rights to any patents involved. It's a bigger problem when there are lots of people and the acquirer wants to keep that running, but for something IP-based like this, not as much.

          Your final point about PR problems is good and applies.

    2. dharmOS

      Re: Big assumptions?

      Imagination Technology?

      Company not acquired, but all their key staff in the UK were hired by Apple. Licence fees for the ImgTech patents now being paid again. And the “Apple-developed” GPU shares a lot of DNA with its ImgTech predecessors (like Tile rendering tech).

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