The Decline of Ethical Tech Companies


sometimes I make a video and I think I have a pretty good read on the room and then the comments come in and I have not read the room and that sort of thing has been happening more and more lately and I’ve had to pause and really absorb where other people are coming from this has happened like three times just in the last few weeks the first was a video I made on Affinity being purchased by canva the second time was Apple’s latest iPad ad which got a ton of negative attention online the third was some random text that was spotted in an apple video that featured procore where it mentioned that procreate required a subscription don’t worry it doesn’t but I’ll get to that mess the response to all of these has been overwhelmingly cynical more than it ever has been in the past the culture and the mood is always shifting and often gradual and imperceptible until you get to a point where you see something and you’re like how did that happen I’ve had that moment happen to me several times in the last few weeks so I tweeted this in response to Apple admitting that they missed the mark on their latest iPad Pro video where they crushed a bunch of Art tools and musical instruments down into their super slim new iPad so here’s the Tweet 5 years ago this ad wouldn’t have even registered the age of the good guy Tech brand is over cism is the new Norm the mood has shifted to if you haven’t screwed us yet it’s only a matter of time and I get it I feel it too there’s been a big mood shift towards Brands but especially Tech Brands I don’t think a brand can successfully position themselves as the good guys anymore even if the brand is trying to do the right thing by their customers example exle one Affinity designer they make design software they have three apps across multiple platforms Mac PC iPad OS they built their reputation in the wake of adobe changing to their buy once and you own it business model over to their monthly PID by the month rented subscription model it’s been several years already I think maybe more than 10 it’s been a while but Affinity has built their own version of Photoshop their own version of Illustrator I think Affinity designer might be better than illustrator but whatever their own version of design to me someone who covers this space and knows it pretty well Affinity is the model for the good guy tech company they looked at Adobe software and asked how do we make it better how do we make it cheaper while Adobe was making these little lightweight iPad apps that nobody wanted Affinity with really innovating and breaking new ground with their iPad apps they have a more incremental approach to their software that involves less big fancy features that will eventually be abandoned but more about sustainability and Bug fixing and just improving their software over time and they only charged for major updates and most importantly no subscription model so when they announced that they were being purchased by canva last month a venture capital funded startup that’s in the process of filing for a public IPO the comments were fire or maybe they were on fire it was a dumpster F no matter how much Goodwill Affinity has built up over the last decade it was just instantly gone they released a pledge to always offer affordable buy it you own it software didn’t matter I read the pledge in my video and people are like nope that is a lie don’t believe a word of it several folks called me a shill just for reading the pledge and if I’m being honest do I think affinity’s business modle will remain the same once canva is a publicly traded company and the line must always go up search your soul brand no no I I don’t believe that will always be the case but I cover the news in our industry and if a brand says something it makes a pledge I can’t just shout Liars I have no proof and they have no track record of going back on their word last week Apple puts out a video talking about the new features and procreate at the end of the video it said this the apple pencil Pro is sold separately procreate available on the App Store subscription required I’m going to stop reading there subscription required wow that put a lot of people into a frenzy now procreate was quick to respond that that was a typo but again the fact that it could even possibly be true just sent folks into a rage if procreate an app that cost $10 one time and thousands of artists have built their careers on it if they don’t even get a sliver of the benefit of the doubt who does nobody because so many companies have taken advantage of their customers in recent years nobody gets the benefit of the doubt this is why we can’t have nice things people Apple used to be the tech good guy there have always been people who don’t like them sure but their business model has been make great products sell them at a premium price even if you don’t like those prices is at least they’re transparent and predictable and their business model makes sense and they’ve always valued your privacy and your data is your data so I get what they were going for with crushing Tools in this ad it’s like hey look all these things can be made on the iPad Pro but in the context of generative AI something that is front of mind for many creators these days eh go back last year WWDC Apple used terms like machine learning instead of AI to describe the things that they were building their iPad presentation said the letters a and I more in 30 minutes than Apple as a company has said in the last decade I noticed that a lot of artists noticed that and showing off a whole bunch of AI features right after watching a car crusher H context gets a little bit muddled Cory Doo who is a writer and a general genius just chilling on the internet came up with a term a few years back called inhi ification it describes the process that investor driven companies go through you first you build a genuinely useful product something that solves a problem or feels a need then you optimize it improve it for users and so more and more people come into your ecosystem next you monetize those users with advertising or upsells once the competition is died off and you own the market keep cranking up the money that you’re making from the business at the expense of that original usefulness keep squeezing and squeezing to make that product worse and worse and worse to optimize value for the shareholders I don’t think apple is as deep in this process as many other companies are and some places like the App Store and the Monopoly they have there or maybe iCloud but generally money for Hardware seems like their main business model illustrators have been on the front line of many of these technology Trends whether it’s Adobe going to a subscription model many years ago so even if you want to open those old files you made you can’t do that without still being in their ecosystem or ask any artist who has built a career on Instagram how are things going nowadays same with Facebook Twitter heck even the companies that are supposed to be on our side pulled a bait and switch on us Deviant Art was like Hey post your portfolios here get work sweet now this means we own your work haha let’s make our own AI service out of it and of course we all remember 2021 the year of the nft disaster I don’t know if this cynicism carries over to other Industries I have a feeling it does but here now for illustrators that’s the default no matter how many good things a company does in 2024 they will always be looked at with a certain amount of trepidation because 95% of the companies that we deal with on a daily basis are garbage so I don’t know how to end this video my instinct is to go out on a high like Hey listen look there’s a little bright spot over there let’s talk about that how that could be the future but I can’t think of any a vast majority of the criticism that I’ve gotten here on my videos over the last few months stems from my general optimism trying to keep a good faith read of any situation I guess I’m going to keep doing that uh because I never learned and that’s just who I am but I’m wondering do you have any bright spots do you think I’m I’m overstating these Trends or how I understand them let me know Down Below in the comments thank you all for watching and I’ll talk to you in a couple of days [Music]

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. @eualvin

    For me one of the worst things that has happened is Zbrush and Substance being bought, I remember in 2021 everyone would say to me, ''I bought my Zbtrush license in 2015 and I've been getting free updates since then', don't worry and get yours'', I bought for 1000 bucks, next year they're sold…

  2. @sudebroy

    There has to be an optimistic person. It's not a bad thing.

  3. @oppota3yass527

    this is the kind of videos that i like its like sharing your thoughts after having interactiong with your community . good work

  4. "I don't know if this cynicism carries over on to other industries…" Well have a look at the gaming industry. It's been a downward spiral when it comes to promises and treating employees decently. Sigh.

  5. @tathavas

    I enjoy your content and your optimism and I hope it doesn’t change. But, I’ve always been waiting for Affinity to go to a subscription model simply because I didn’t understand how they could keep their company going with all the amazing software they produce but only charging such a small amount for it.

  6. @JayneAFK

    I'm glad attitudes are shifting this way, it's long overdue. Corporations have too much power over us and we need to start fighting back instead of bootlicking.

  7. Honestly what this is, IMO, boils down to total FOMO fatigue among the user base. Apple, and the rest, are iterating pointlessly, SaaS executives have ripped us all off for years, and people are tired of it. Who needs a M4 IPad Pro that’s Uber thin? Who needs to be constantly shelling out money for yet ANOTHER sub! And sorry, Apple are the anti-Christ now as far as I am concerned…

  8. The good news is if enough customers refuse to invest in a product or service companies are forced to adapt. In a couple years the media landscape will be shifting.

  9. @donnydarko7624

    Here is one of what I perceive to be one of the biggest flaws with the way the law factors in in regards to publicly traded companies. The are bound by law to attempt to earn the absolute maximum amount of profit possible quarterly for their shareholders. The FTC will look into a company if the shareholders file a complaint because they suspect the company of not working for the best interest of the shareholders. That seems to suggest that employees, and customers be damned, the law places the shareholder on par with the CEO.

  10. @grm65

    Great video! I feel your pain. These are cynical times. People have been treated badly, at times, by big, powerful, greedy corporations. The pendulum needs to swing back to the people.

  11. @chrissolace

    I’m not an artist or anything, so I have less stock in this than others, but my impression was just “this device can do all these other things”. And maybe I’m just like you, but I hope everyone is of good faith unless they give me something to doubt. A lot of companies have given me room to doubt, but I guess my impression is that Apple isn’t there where many others are yet.

  12. @Hugh_Jaynus_00

    What was the problem with the ad? I think it was fine. I think them apologizing for it was the garbage part.

  13. @parthmalani6286

    I lost you when you mentioned that apple is the "good guy" company and sells hardware. Its a services company now. It makes me think your optimism is lack of knowledge or almost being somewhat brainwashed. You can be fine with the walled garden, dictatorship approach apple takes for yourself but it doesn't make it any right!

  14. @MohsinKhokhar1

    Sorry, but Apple has not been the 'good guy'. They are just as bad as others.

  15. @EposVox

    Thank you for the well-rounded approach

  16. @Horesmi

    If you are a capitalist, nobody likes you. Wonder why this keeps happening…

  17. You’re absolutely in the right. These large companies are not your friend. They will come after you.

  18. @toggtlas7099

    I don't know why you would proudly state "I'll try to keep a good faith read of any situation" when, by your own words, "95% of the companies we deal with are garbage".
    And I got to wonder if it's because "I'll keep a good faith read of any [corporate] situation" is because it keeps your tap running? You get company favors like early access and/or review samples by not calling them out. By giving them every benefit of the doubt in every situation…

  19. @AdrianClavijo

    I would take you audience comments with a pinch of salt and i can tell you this video was not nessasary.

    Don't comment on politics. Btw it's all politics. Moreover i dont know how much of your comments you can actually trust with a wave of AI bots trying to influence public perception and indirectly influincing content creators. I would say it's even harder to be a content creator these day. Ignore critical comments if they aren't constructive and even then look to analysis to see if a topic is overblown or not. Sometimes it jsut maybe you're running out of things to talk about and current news are topical. This videos wanst necessary. Because it's not adding value.

  20. @teemuntubetus

    My fault is a wishfull optimist, but with a hint of realist expectations => I won’t judge to soon or jump to conclusions – but Im not that surprised WHEN things go bad as predicted. In other words: things will go bad eventually, but in my head its hopefully later than sooner.

    We have seen this phenomenan everywhere: non-upgradeable products, unrepairable products, subscription models for 90% of the software, killing live services, removing software or games you bought with real money, publishing unfinished garbage (movies, games, OSs), pumping up the subscription prices while removing content from the platform, degrade of quality in hardware (when everything is made in China nowadays), etc.

    The reason is GREED. 

    Support the good companies and do NOT buy a single thing from bad companies – or use their products.

  21. @atom_zero5413

    I believe that artists feel genuinely cheated, more than anyone, when these companies are actively pushing features that try to replace or extinguish art related work, with AI. No wonder people got cynical. Why would anyone pay anything to a company that's trying to replace you? It's insane, if you think about it.

  22. @Spoonfed78

    Apple has been this from the start, look at Jobs himself as a person, the behaviour, and the companies behaviour even back to the start of Macintosh with Lisa etc. Only nieve would believe Apple is better than any other, and in modern light they are in ways one of the worst.

  23. @UnsettlingDwarf

    apple was never the good guy. they used to and potentially still do, reduce performance significantly with updates on last ten devices so people want and need to upgrade. then ECO FRIENDLY GETTING RID OF THE CHARGER, which created more e waste and more waste, and then also charged more. now the new iPad Pro… charge more, get the same damn fucking product. iPad Pro is a product no one needs but people will argue they do. stop shilling out to companies especially trillions dollar companies.

  24. @DrivenKeys

    Completely agreed. The negativity against Apple's crusher ad is the cumulative hate we all have for how poorly consumers are treated after they've helped build a company to an IPO. Twenty years ago, nobody would have reacted that way. The sci-fi writers of the the '60's, '70's and '80's were absolutely right about our dystopian journey where big business consumes society, the 1% thrives on the backs of everyone else, and its all perfectly legal.

  25. @1young-geezer

    Very reasonable, very sensible, very kind. Brad, loved this telling, and yes, damn hard to shine any bright spots. But dammit, I now consider that a job needing to be performed by those of us that just won't let the down sides become us! I still smile on streets, say hello to anyone and everyone. It makes ME feel good. If I feel good, I can share that feeling. What else do we want to be remembered for at the end of the day? Gotta stop this shitshow train in even microscopic ways, why? because it's a personal feel-good experience, and I want to stay in that place. Thanks ever so much for being you, I've enjoyed your years of attitude sharing………..

  26. I dislike subscriptions for software. Should be able to buy it once and be good for the life of that product I bought

  27. @JH-pe3ro

    "Good guy tech" does exist, it's just not taking big investment simultaneously. Lately, that has really meant retro and DIY hardware/software, with a side of open source(but, a lot of open source also needs corporate backing). Like, the most recent gadget purchase I made was "Agon Light 2", which is a little neo-retro 8-bit machine – a mix of old and new parts. There's no big backer behind it, it is based on an open design by one guy(a former hardware engineer who has, post-retirement, become a professional philosopher doing a bit of hobby tech on the side), and the reason why it's "2" is because it's a cost-optimized board revision made by Olimex, a little Bulgarian company. The software package is all community-driven. I have no reason to hate any of these people, other than it being hard to find the correct peripherals since it uses old standards for everything.

    What I think that means from the standpoint of, you know, digital art, is that the cultural direction we're going in is less likely to value getting high-spec tablets and software and doing elaborate, painterly rendering with 100 layers, because what people posting that kind of art are encountering now is negativity: "looks like an AI did it, hur hur". But there's a whole world of digital art outside of that approach to making images. A lot of it literally can't be experienced by trying to open Procreate and using that toolset, because that's an app designed to be consumed. It directs all of the computing power towards the very specific goal of "pretend to be a drawing surface with an undo button". And drawing is cool, but digital emulations of drawing are in the same space as using a sample library of an orchestra instead of hiring a real orchestra – it's not wrong, but you gain some things from it and you lose others. What we're doing now is a kind of back-to-basics divestment from consumer tech where everyone is really evaluating closely what each technology does best instead of assuming that the next version of the convergent gadget is better and more productive.

    That also means that there's an opening for "weird stuff". Like, my "Agon Light 2" is a weird thing. It's made for educational purpose: you can understand everything it's doing. It isn't aiming to be a professional workstation. That doesn't make it useless; it's fun and engaging in the "limitations for creativity" sense, and I've used it for writing and plan to make games for it(which could end up on Steam, emulated). But it isn't literally going back in time to be an Apple II either – it has some new ideas to it that make it better than the vintage 8-bits – more powerful, easier to use. So it is "new tech", in that sense. And there is a sentiment like this within tech more broadly – there are a lot of worries about having overly complex systems and negative consequences to that(data loss, identity theft, etc.) and an interest in starting over with different assumptions.

  28. @David-xt5ob

    I’d go further…. Companies are nickel and dimming customers for every dollar. Customers are actively at war with companies now as we know they are scr@wing us.

  29. @s.tunafish

    I believe it's good that people are more aware about brands that rip you off.
    Also I don't believe Apple a single word for saying: "it was a typo". They wanted to test if anyone would care, noticed the huge backlash and now have that cheap excuse.

  30. @Medievalguy88

    This is a feature of our capitalist system. It will only get worse. They will squeeze and squeeze until the system collapses and then buy up our future at a discount.

  31. @rolfathan

    Blender has kept me at ease for a while now. We need more open source stuff out there, because there's ZERO chance it will ever be a money-making scheme. And people love it enough to keep adding to it.

    Now we need that for illustration, we need more of it for phone OSs.

  32. This is why I continually look for linux based apps, and install linux if possible. At least there is still GIMP. With a recent mac os upgrade, my Huion drawing monitor stopped working, and whoops, it is just out of warranty. so now it is just a monitor.

  33. @elmedin26

    People have been very soft and sensitive for some time now, overreacting to everything. In all areas! Everything is discussed down to the smallest detail.

    Many forget that these companies want to make a profit. After all, salaries of designers, programmers, engineers, marketing people, etc., also need to be paid. Ultimately, they are all the same people as us, using the same tools for the same things.

  34. @ThomasBricker

    Well done Brad! You hit the nail on the head. This is trying times for creatives with regards to software and devices and subscriptions and AI.
    Is there a bright spot in all of this? Well, you are certainly one of them. Keep up the good work and let’s hope that when I get my new Tandem OLED iPad Pro it doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night and crush my trumpet!

  35. @Ironwill_Games

    I saw the iPad add and I was like “How 90’s of them going for such a simple and basic concept for a pub” then I remembered AI and went for a little stroll on social media… Oh man! 😅

  36. Loyal watcher says creeping cynicism is lead in the water. You and others are fresh spring fed. Stay positive. Please.

  37. @MeMe-bg8ci

    You’re tapping into a larger human problem. Our systems. They ALL suck. Governments. Democracy. Money. Capitalism. Religion. School. Healthcare. Hell, the nuclear family doesn’t even work well. We feel our life being sucked out when are constantly nickel and dimed, when we see the people on the street or literal bombs falling. Humanity needs a hard reset and no amount of tech is going to help that transition.

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