UBS: Facebook’s ‘bots’ could erode Apple’s app economy

“Is Apple in trouble with Facebook’s announcement yesterday of a platform for chat ‘bots’ that can respond to requests and conduct transactions?” Tiernan Ray reports for Barron’s.

“Perhaps, is the view of UBS’s Steve Milunovich,” Ray reports, “who reiterates a Buy rating and a $120 price target on Apple, but warns that the reliance of Apple on ‘apps’ over the years has to give one pause when considering the prospect of bots taking over.”

The App Store, a $50bn economy according to App Annie, has been critical in transforming Apple from a linear pipeline to a platform company. However, messaging could take on many of the roles apps provide. In China WeChat provides high functionality, such as paying bills, hailing a cab, and checking into flights through apps within apps. Bots—software that automates tasks—mostly reside in messaging apps (apps within apps). Facebook just announced the Messenger Bot Store, a bot platform that allows businesses to interact with consumers. Could the App Store lose share? — UBS analyst Steve Milunovich

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: No. And a grain of sand won’t stop Niagara Falls, either.


  1. And I want a barely-educable surgeon doing an exploratory on me….

    Bots are at the third standard deviation at the LEFT lip of the bell curve now. Think: anti-MENSA.

  2. Agree with MDN take.

    I don’t know about everyone else but no one I know use Facebook now days. It’s Snapchat or Twitter. Facebook obviously isn’t the cool kid any longer.

  3. I see this as evolution in the user interface. Apple already has a universal ‘bot’ running 24/7 on all iOS devices called Siri. It’s possible there could be ‘extensions’ to this bot via third parties. But this tech niche has some thrashing and growing to do. I look forward to it.

    1. True that. In rapid-follower mode, Apple has attempted to reproduce much of the consumer services that MS, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have. Siri is just as bad a snoop as the datamining interfaces the other companies offer. I suspect few Apple users have bothered to read about Siri. It was long ago exposed that Siri shares user informations with 3rd parties:

      Like Facebook, since Siri is basically an all-or-nothing proposition, we have opted out. Apple and its partners don’t need to know anything more about us than Zuckerberg.

          1. Mike it strikes me as odd that you linger on this blog simply to be contentious. Consider this like the big tent of religious revivals. We are all here to celebrate what we like about Apple. You are welcome to celebrate with us. Your adversarial tone is unwelcome, and you gain nothing by being shrill. You don’t know enough about things Apple to make a meaningful contribution here. We know because we pore over everything Apple obsessively (in a good way). Join the party or end your seemingly desperate naysaying. If you didn’t notice, your unwelcome comments don’t really budge the needle even a teensy bit.

            1. Someone has to take on the important task of illuminating the intellectually disabled Apple fan base. It’s a calling. Not exactly noble, but a calling.

          2. “By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services.”

            Mike has a point. Apple doesn’t promise anonymity or security in its iOS user agreement. Apple doesn’t even store your iCloud data on its own servers. So where do we get the blind trust that Apple’s bots are any more private and secure than those from Facebook? The Apple UA guarantees you nothing.

            1. And what problem do you have with Apple itself having this. This is NOT selling this data to third parties, as the BGR article claimed? They are using it to improve SIRI for you. Give it a rest. . . if they did not do this, you would be complaining about how poor the quality of the dictation is.

          3. Article was itself disingenuous. . . and you couldn’t see it? Internally illogical, making conclusions from the evidence itself presented that made no connection to reality. Nothing was said about “Selling” data to third parties. . . Apple only told users in their licenses that it was going to be using Siri data to improve Siri features by sharing it with Apple, Apple owned subsidiaries (look up the definition of that word if you don’t understand it), and Apple’s agents (another word for you to look up). No mention of SELLING in there, no mention of third party anywhere. YOU LIED.

            In addition, what was being reported, was a technician analyzing the accuracy of the conversion of spoken voice to text. Legitimate research. An researcher working to improve the speech to text quality of the algorithms being used. . . all within the license agreed on. . . and it was done anonymously with no connection to any individual user’s identity. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE BLITHERING ABOUT!

            The same researcher ALSO noted that he was hearing ‘sinppets” from Androids using Google Now and Cortana. . .

      1. The difference is that Siri could care less who I am or any of my info. I am anonymous to Siri. Not the same for Facebook they want to know all about me and my habits. I don’t want them collecting my data.

      2. The BGR headline is misrepresenting what Apple’s SIRI license actually says.

        “By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services.”

        Where in that license does it state that Apple’s Siri shares any user information with THIRD PARTIES? It simply does not. It says that Apple shares information with Apple, its subsidiaries and its Agents. Nothing more. So Mike, that makes the author of the BGR article and YOU, through repeating it, both liars.

  4. Just as I never spent time playing FarmVille in the past, I won’t be spending time on Facebook Messenger in the future. What an astounding expectation that people would so waste their time.

  5. Foolish commentators.

    While you might poo poo this idea right now because of the FB relationship, let me point out to you that fFB is ubiquitous. No, you wont find us there. No, we’re too cool. But most people are there,.

    And bots in one form or another will be the core of whatever operating systems lie ahead. Bots may not be apps, but they sure are smart utilities. And this level of automation of tasks is what makes operating systems useful.

    1. Foolish:
      I agree. Smart bots that parse plain english: good. Yoked to data scraping Fuckbook: a big nope.
      Will bots replace apps? too soon to tell. But I bet there will always be a performance gap between dedicated apps versus web-based interface for bots.

  6. I’ve looked what they’re talking about and quite frankly it’s not that exciting. I don’t like being led through an online shopping excursion the way that FB’s chatbot seems to work. It’s slow. I like bringing up a 27″ screen full of options that I can take in all at once and mentally narrow down.

    I don’t see how those silly chatbots make anything better.

    The media has picked up on a new word to frenzy about because “wearables” and “smartwatches” are so dull now. I.e. OMG Why is Apple so late with a chatbot??? Chatbots are the wave of the future ! Mark Zuckerberg said so and he’s smart! Meh. This will die with a whimper as well.

  7. I think they can be useful for doing mundane tasks like maybe hailing a cab, booking a room in a familiar hotel, and setting a hair appointment, but bot interaction will be too difficult for the majority of other tasks like buying clothes, shopping for furniture, setting-up a service appointment, etc. The first group will see app usage decline, but not the second. This is also going to take a few years to be perfected and accepted. For example, after all these years of websites and apps I still have to order pizza over the phone. Either they never get my order correct, or their apps don’t allow me to give them the correct info. It always is a fail. I’ve even called their corporates, but they don’t give a shit. How are these companies going to handle all the bot screwups when they can’t even make simple updates to their pages/apps? Many companies that rely on service/product bots will lose business.

  8. What a truly ridiculous premise. Sometimes I think these jokers who call themselves tech analysts have a running competition to see who can write the most retarded article.

  9. Apple is still first and foremost a hardware company. That’s where most of its revenues come from. If Facebook wants to put bots inside of their iOS apps, that doesn’t really hurt Apple. That gives people one more reason to own a smartphone, and one more reason that the smartphone be the best on the market, namely the iPhone.

    Sure, Apple makes money off of the App store. But this concept of bots is not going to end all App sales, maybe only a small minority of it. So instead of downloading my cell phone provider app, I can pay via text message (oh wait, I can already do that, and Apple is doing fine).

    So basically, this whole theory is bogus: Apple makes most of its money selling hardware, and these things called bots are not going to replace all apps. In fact, perhaps the one who should be worried is Google, since one could do all types of searches through bots.

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