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Apple and Google pressed in antitrust hearing on whether app stores share data with product development teams

In today’s antitrust hearing in the U.S. Senate, Apple and Google representatives were questioned on whether they have a “strict firewall” or other internal policies in place that prevent them from leveraging the data from third-party businesses operating on their app stores to inform the development of their own competitive products. Apple, in particular, was called out for the practice of copying other apps by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who said the practice had become so common that it earned a nickname with Apple’s developer community: “sherlocking.”

Sherlock, which has its own Wikipedia entry under software, comes from Apple’s search tool in the early 2000’s called Sherlock. A third-party developer, Karelia Software, created an alternative tool called Watson. Following the success of Karelia’s product, Apple added Watson’s same functionality into its own search tool, and Watson was effectively put out of business. The nickname “Sherlock” later became shorthand for any time Apple copies an idea from a third-party developer that threatens to or even destroys their business.

Over the years, developers claimed Apple has “sherlocked” a number of apps including Konfabulator (desktop widgets), iPodderX (podcast manager), Sandvox (app for building websites), Growl (a notification system for Mac OS X), and in more recent years, F.lux (blue light reduction tool for screens) Duet and Luna (apps that makes iPad a secondary display), as well as various screen time management tools. Now Tile claims Apple has also unfairly entered its market with AirTag.

During his questioning, Blumenthal asked Apple and Google’s representatives at the hearing — Mr. Kyle Andeer, Apple’s
Chief Compliance Officer and Mr. Wilson White, Google’s Senior Director Public Policy & Government Relations, respectively — if they employed any sort of “firewall” in between their app stores and their business strategy.

Andeer somewhat dodged the question, saying, “Senator, if I understand the question correctly, we have separate teams that manage the App Store and that are engaged in product development strategy here at Apple.”

Blumenthal then clarified what he meant by “firewall.” He explained that it doesn’t mean whether or not there are separate teams in place, but whether there’s an internal prohibition on sharing data between the App Store and the people who run Apple’s other businesses.

Andeer then answered, “Senator, we have controls in place.”

He went on to note that over the past twelve years, Apple has only introduced “a handful of applications and services,” and in every instance, there are “dozens of alternatives” on the App Store. And, sometimes, the alternatives are more popular than Apple’s own product, he noted.

“We don’t copy. We don’t kill. What we do is offer up a new choice and a new innovation,” Andeer stated.

His argument may hold true when there are strong rivalries, like Spotify versus Apple Music, or Netflix versus Apple TV+, or Kindle versus Apple Books. But it’s harder to stretch it to areas where Apple makes smaller enhancements — like when Apple introduced Sidecar, a feature that allowed users to make their iPad a secondary display. Sidecar ended the need for a third-party app, after apps like Duet and Luna first proved the market.

Another example was when Apple built screen time controls into its iOS software, but didn’t provide the makers of third-party screen time apps with an API so consumers could use their preferred apps to configure Apple’s Screen Time settings via the third-party’s specialized interface or take advantage of other unique features.

Blumenthal said he interpreted Andeer’s response as to whether Apple has a “data firewall” as a “no.”

Posed the same question, Google’s representative, Mr. White said his understanding was that Google had “data access controls in place that govern how data from our third-party services are used.”

Blumenthal pressed him to clarify if this was a “firewall,” meaning, he clarified again, “do you have a prohibition against access?”

“We have a prohibition against using our third-party services to compete directly with our first-party services,” Mr. White said, adding that Google has “internal policies that govern that.”

The Senator said he would follow up on this matter with written questions, as his time expired.

These three enterprise deals show there’s plenty of action in smaller acquisitions

Since the start of the year, I’ve covered 9 M&A deals already, the largest being Citrix buying Wrike for $2.25 billion. But not every deal involves a huge price tag. Today we are going to look at three smaller deals that show there is plenty of activity at the lower-end of the acquisition spectrum.

As companies look for ways to enhance their offerings, and bring in some talent at the same time, smaller acquisitions can provide a way to fill in the product road map without having to build everything in-house.

This gives acquiring companies additional functionality for a modest amount of cash. In smaller of deals, we often don’t even get the dollar amount, although in one case today we did. If the deal isn’t large enough to have a material financial impact on a publicly traded company, they don’t have to share the price.

Let’s have a look at three such deals that came through in recent days.

Tenable buys Alsid

For starters, Tenable, a network security company that went public in 2018, bought French Active Directory security startup Alsid for $98 million. Active Directory, Microsoft’s popular user management tool, is also a target of hackers. If they can get a user’s credentials, it’s an easy way on the network and Alsid is designed to prevent that.

Security companies tend to enhance the breadth of their offerings over time and Alsid gives Tenable another tool and broader coverage across their security platform. “We view the acquisition of Alsid as a natural extension into user access and permissioning. Once completed, this acquisition will be a strategic complement to our Cyber Exposure vision to help organizations understand and reduce cyber risk across the entire attack surface,” according to the investor FAQ on this acquisition.

Emmanuel Gras, CEO and co-founder, Alsid says he started the company to prevent this kind of attack. “We started Alsid to help organizations solve one of the biggest security challenges, an unprotected Active Directory, which is one of the most common ways for threat actors to move laterally across enterprise systems,” Gras said in a statement.

Alsid is based in Paris and was founded in 2014. It raised a modest amount, approximately $15,000, according to Crunchbase data.

Copper acquires Sherlock

Copper, a CRM tool built on top of the Google Workspace, announced it has purchased Sherlock, a customer experience platform. They did not share the purchase price.

The pandemic pushed many shoppers online and providing a more customized experience by understanding more about your customer can contribute to and drive more engagement and sales. With Sherlock, the company is getting a tool that can help Copper users understand their customers better.

“Sherlock is an innovative engagement analytics and scoring platform, and surfaces your prospects’ and customers’ intentions in a way that drives action for sales, account management and customer success professionals,” Copper CEO Dennis Fois wrote in a blog post announcing the deal.

He added, “Relationships are based on engagement, and with Sherlock we are going to create CRM that is focused on action and momentum.”

RapidAPI snags Paw

It’s clear that APIs have changed the way we think about software development, but they have also created a management problem of their own as they proliferate across large organizations. RapidAPI, an API management platform, announced today that it has acquired Paw.

With Paw, RapidAPI adds the ability to design your own APIs, essentially giving customers a one-stop shop for everything related to creating and managing the API environment inside a company. “The acquisition enables RapidAPI to extend its open API platform across the entire API development lifecycle, creating a connected experience for developers from API development to consumption, across multiple clouds and gateways,” the company explained in a statement.

RapidAPI was founded in 2015 and has raised over $67 million, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent funding came last May, a $25 million round from Andreessen Horowitz, DNS Capital, Green Bay Ventures, M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Fund), and Grove.

Each of these purchases fills an important need for the acquiring company and expands the abilities of the existing platform to offer more functionality to customers without putting out a ton of cash to do it.

Draw yourself as Benedict Cumberbatch’s imaginary date because that’s not creepy at all

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Benedict Cumberbatch is one classy gentleman. So classy that he even has his own colouring book.

Superfans yearning to eventually meet their favourite Sherlock star can imagine themselves in a variety of different IRL settings using this book. 

For example, you can draw in Benedict Cumberbatch’s imaginary date…

Image: i love mel

You can have imaginary conversations with Benedict…

You can show your appreciation for Benedict’s sartorial taste by drawing outfits for him.

Image: i love mel

And, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to share a home with Benedict, you can draw it and colour it in.  Read more…

More about Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Coloring Books, and Coloring Book