🔥 Alabama’s governor coming in hot! (Birch Bark Issue #77)

Hello and welcome to a surprise two-email week! I hope you enjoyed the music yesterday, and the links today. Have a great weekend!

The Big Links

Apple Business Model: A Naive Nostalgic Look, by Jean-Louis Gassée

Once upon a time, Apple offered an easy-to-understand business model. The company made personal computers, small, medium, and large. Successfully positioned in the affordable luxury market sector, Apple devices sold well with healthy margins. Those margins helped finance strong R&D investments and took good care of employees, investors, and Uncle Sam.

Those were the days! As a young person in the 2000’s, one of the big defenses Apple fans like me would always bring out when defending Apple hardware’s elevated prices compared to similarly-specced PCs was to say that Apple charged more up front, but then nothing after that, while you would need to pay up for stuff on the Windows boxes of the day to get the full experience.

Today that is very much not the case. You certainly can buy Apple hardware and never pay them a cent after that, but you’re going to get iCloud storage warnings, you’re going to see push notifications for that new Apple TV+ show you should subscribe to watch, and you’re going to see persistent alerts in the Settings app to do a free trial for Apple Arcade.

I don’t have immediate worries for Apple’s culture. But I’m old enough to have seen strong companies lose their way as their priorities changed and they lost sight of their strengths. My old HP comes to mind. After it had won both the desktop and portable computer markets, it chased other targets and thus missed the opportunity to be a player in the PC and pocket machine revolutions.

Maybe this is a feature or a fault of capitalism, but since the worst thing in the world for a company is to not grow, this is bound to happen. You can only sell so many iPhones to so many people, so you have to expand and sell more things to those same customers. Apple has a lot of money, yes, but money doesn’t mean you can keep adding things that you do with zero downside.

Like Gassée, I don’t see Apple crumbling tomorrow, but it’s undeniable that they’re juggling more priorities than they ever have before. They still make the best mobile and desktop operating systems out there, and their hardware is fantastic, so they’re managing well so far.

The Quickies

Videos

These are the 10 free (or basically free) Mac apps that I can’t live without.

The G4 Cube was iconic 🤤

This week in “people are absolutely insane to each other online”…

And finally we have Digital Foundry’s first look at Flight Simulator 2020 running on the Xbox Series X and S. I’ve been playing the game on PC for almost a year now, and the PC patch that went up this week was a massive improvement to performance as well, so that was great.