Weekend Roundup: Anki Abandons Bots, Apple Agitates, Facebook Fails

It’s the weekend, and you’re probably tired from last night. Or preparing for something going on later today (happy Cinco de Mayo!), or just wasting time while waiting in line at the grocery store (no, really, what’s that smell?). Here’s everything you may have missed this week in tech, from Apple to Facebook to Anki.

Goodnight, Anki

Anki is dead. The company, which makes those adorable Cozmo robots, has shut down. Apparently, Anki was living hand-to-mouth, despite the fanfare. A Monday morning all-hands meeting lead to a Wednesday mass firing of all employees. In a statement, the company suggested it simply had no cash on hand to pay anyone:

Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms. A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available.

There’s no indication anyone at Anki had warning, either. Its website makes no mention of the company shutting down; it even lists several open positions that are still accepting applications. It’s like everyone got up from their desk and left on Tuesday afternoon, never to return.

Apple Bans Parenting Apps

This is messy.

A New York Times report says Apple has been removing apps meant to help parents monitor how much time their kids spend staring at screens. It smacks of anti-competitive behavior, since Apple has it’s own ‘screen time’ tooling in iOS now.

But hang on a tick: Apple says the ban was really about Mobile Device Management, or MDM. It writes: “MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history.”

It added: “MDM does have legitimate uses. Businesses will sometimes install MDM on enterprise devices to keep better control over proprietary data and hardware. But it is incredibly risky—and a clear violation of App Store policies—for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device.”

So, yeah. App Store guidelines violated, apps banned. One banned company took to Medium (a time-honored tradition in tech when things don’t go your way and you’re mad about it) to make its case, but it’s Medium and nobody cares. Also, they violated App Store guidelines. Sorry ‘bout ya.

The Facebook Chronicles, Chapter 5: Please Clap

Facebook, a terrible company (TM), held its annual quote-unquote “developers conference” (F8) this week. It tried to re-brand itself as the good guy who will let you message people privately and there’s a redesign of the website and OMG EVERYONE GET EXCITED.

No. Don’t. A great article in The Outline notes Facebook’s pivot ot privacy is essentially BS; it doesn’t need to know what you say to collect data about you. The Verge suggests Instagram probably gives Facebook more data than we’re ready to consider, so “private messaging” is just shifting the goalposts.

And finally, Zuck fell flat. This was easily the best part of the F8 keynote:

The moment Mark Zuckerberg tries to make a joke about privacy and nobody laughs: pic.twitter.com/izt7kIhjLz— alfred 🆖 (@alfredwkng) April 30, 2019

Please clap.

Enjoy your weekend!