Fair’s unfair: Apple the monopolist

macalope
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Apple has rightly received a slap on the hands from European regulators and… wait, it was Google? That can’t be right.

Writing for Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky says “Apple Deserves an EU Fine, Too.”

Sure. Why not? Heck why not give it two? Seems like two oughta do it. Three is not out of consideration. Four seems like a little much, but The Macalope would be willing to entertain serious arguments. Five is right out.

(What are we talking about?)

Google isn’t the only tech giant with anticompetitive practices.

Yes! True! Except.

Here’s what happened: the EU fined Google for making Android OEMs bundle its search and browser software with phones. Now, one difference between Google and Apple is that Apple doesn’t license its operating system to OEMs. Another difference, and you may have read this somewhere—or if you’re Leonid Bershidsky, you may have actually written it somewhere—Android has a far higher market share than iOS does. And, in cases of antitrust violations, these things matter.

The European Commission had solid antitrust reasons for fining Google 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) for violations including the bundling of certain apps with the Android operating system—and for not going after Apple for similar behavior.

But what if we made up our own imaginary rules about antitrust violations and applied them without any sort of legal basis? What then?

Why, then Apple should also be fined!

The most important infraction by Google in the EU ruling is the “illegal tying” of its search and browser apps to the Android operating system.

…if Google is at fault for its de facto monopoly in Android app stores, Apple should be held to account for a similar violation.

Not legally, no! Apple’s share of the market is less than 20 percent, Google’s about 75 percent. And Android phones are generally cheaper than iPhones. So for some customers, their only choice is an Android phone.

It’s probably not surprising that Bershidsky can’t wrap his skull meat around the differences. Bershidsky also seemed to think only iPhones have been made in factories with poor labor practices. When you think that Apple is the cause of every problem, it makes sense to think it should get punished for everything.

When setting up a new phone, users should see a list of browser apps, with ratings from users and independent reviewers, along with a list of email applications and mapping and navigation apps.

Users should also be asked if they wish to store settings in plist files or JSON and whether programming arrays should be indexed from 0 or 1. Oh, and what runtime compiler they prefer. Really, just bury them under a withering number of options, so many options they just give up and throw the phone in the trash. Make setting up a phone a real nightmare.

The experience of Microsoft, which was forced by the EU to give users a choice of browsers on Windows computers (it was fined twice for not doing so) shows that letting people decide for themselves creates a level playing field for competition.

And why was Microsoft fined? Because it had 98 percent of the market.

“APPLE WILL SOON GO OUT OF BUSINESS BECAUSE IT HAS A TINY PERCENTAGE OF THE MARKET. Oh, and it should also be regulated like it’s got, like, 99.99 percent. That just seems fair.”

Independent developers are capable of producing better apps than those created by the big platform companies.

Not always. Many times independent developers are forced to use business models that make the user the product instead of the customer.

Does The Macalope think, as Dan Moren argues, that Apple should let users choose their own default apps? Yes. Most people aren’t going to switch anyway, but it’s a benefit for those who want or need to use different apps. But should the company be fined until it does? No. It should at least get some kind of benefit from having to listen to people bemoan its low market share.

  
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