Episode 49: Unappetizing

In the forty-ninth episode of The Latest, we try to understand why apps are being kicked out of Apple’s App Store and we fully understand why the former CEO of McDonald’s was kicked out of the PlayPlace. A five-year-old kindergarten student named Walker joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

Episode 49: Unappetizing
Season 2

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Those voices are discussing Apple’s App Store, the place where you’d download applications and games if your iPhone wasn’t out of storage.

As complaints continue to mount about Apple’s role as a toll-collecting digital gatekeeper, developers are becoming more vocal about their demands, wanting to exert more say over what happens before a user downloads one of their apps, uses it once, and leaves it in a random folder forever. 

On Friday, Microsoft announced it was releasing the XBOX Game Pass — a Netflix-style game service where you pay a monthly subscription to stream a catalog of games. Instead of paying a $60 for a single game where you murder a bunch of strangers over the internet, you get to pay $15 indefinitely for a variety of games where you murder a bunch of strangers over the internet.

It’s coming out on the XBOX console, and it’s also going to be available on smartphones — but because of Apple’s App Store rules, Microsoft will not be releasing a version for iOS. It’s only going to be available on Android, which is another way of saying, “Is Pepsi okay?” 

This comes on the heels of Apple coming under fire in Congress over its App Store practices — setting seemingly arbitrary rules on what’s available in the store.

You might remember the dust-up with Basecamp’s Hey email app over a similar issue in June. Basecamp didn’t want to pay Apple a cut of their email subscriptions, but Apple wouldn’t even approve of the Hey app being in its App Store because of Hey’s account sign up process, which didn’t even take place in the app. It took place on their own website, which made them go, hey — what the fuck? 

It’s also come to light that Apple bends its own rules all the time, kind of like how Billy Joel counts wine as a part of his dinner in order to tell himself that he’s not an alcoholic. In one example, Apple lowered their App Store cut from Amazon so they could get Prime Video on Apple TV, because if there’s one thing we’re all clamoring for, it’s more episodes of Bosch.

Now, look, I’m an Apple fan — I use Apple products because I was born with an innate sense of taste. Anytime I see somebody using a Windows PC, I ask them, does your computer have a virus? And they say, no, this is just how it’s supposed to look.

And I get some of the logic behind Apple’s policies here. They care about privacy, they care about security, they want to provide a good user experience. But the App Store doesn’t even resemble an Apple Store — it looks more like a Walmart right before a hurricane strikes some Gulf state, with a bunch of assorted DVD bins, mismatched office supples, and trash everywhere.

The argument that they’re trying to keep the App Store clean and safe is hard to believe, especially when the company’s services line of business — subscriptions to things like Apple TV, iCloud, etc. — is becoming more and more important to their bottom line.

This is also clearly the area that’s being targeted for congressional action, and the more stories like this come out, the more clear it becomes to me that Apple might be in some serious trouble. Even this morning, regulators in Russia said found that Apple has been acting like a monopoly and abused its market power. In Russia!

“We have no problem hacking your democracy. We have no problem pushing journalist out of window. But 30% of Tetris? That’s where we draw the line.”

In another story, McDonald’s Restaurant has found itself in the center of a new legal dispute — and no, it’s not the custody battle over who gets the Grimace in Ronald and Mac Tonight’s divorce.

The Dollar Menu company has accused former CEO Steve Easterbrook of lying, concealing evidence, fraud, and, worst of all, ordering a cup of water and filling it up with Sprite at the soda fountain.

Easterbrook was fired last year for sexting with a subordinate, and has since been alleged to have had other sexual relationships with others at the company — at the time, McDonald’s said that Mr. Easterbrook “demonstrated poor judgment,” just like our customers. 

McDonald’s wants to recoup the costs of Mr. Easterbrook’s $40 million exit package, which included stock options, severance pay, and a hash brown wrapper containing Boardwalk for its Monopoly game.

It seems that Easterbrook’s been involved in some pretty shady stuff, and McDonalds is doing the right thing here. As the New York Times pointed out this is a pretty clear example of a company trying to position itself as a good corporate citizen who has a greater responsibility to society. Your extra value meal might give you diabetes, but it shouldn’t include a dick pic.

This is what NYU Marketing Professor Scott Galloway — perhaps you’ve heard of him in his 20,000 podcasts appearances — has described as “woke as a business strategy,” where a company does the right thing that coincidentally just so happens to provide some great PR to let you know that they’re a very serious and very good company and we’re using the right hashtag but please keep buying our things. 

I’m not so cynical, and I think it’s great that companies are beginning to embark upon a true sense of corporate responsibility. Like when Nike enlisted Colin Kaepernick as its brand ambassador, when Dicks Sporting Goods stopped carrying guns at its stores, when Patagonia sued the federal government to protect national environmental monuments. It played into our very bifurcated society, but red states and blue states can be very green states. 

Make no mistake — McDonald’s suing to get $40 million of its own money back doesn’t mean Ronald McDonald belongs on Mt. Rushmore. But highlighting that they’ll go after inappropriate sexual behavior from the head of the company should hopefully send a message that this there’s zero tolerance for some guy walking around going, “You want fries with that shake?,” at the drive-thru, in the dining room, and at the office.