Reuters reported last week that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission were divvying up tech companies for potential antitrust investigations… There’s just one problem: it’s not clear what there is to investigate.
There is no company for which the question of market definition matters more than Apple. The company is eager to point out that the iPhone has a minority smartphone share in every market in which it competes; even in the U.S., Apple’s best market, the iPhone has 45% share, less than the 50 percent of sales the FTC suggests as a cut-off.
The obvious remedy for Apple would be allowing 3rd-party payment processors for apps; frankly, I think this might go too far, as there are real benefits to Apple controlling everything API-related on the iOS platform. I would be satisfied with Apple allowing apps to launch web views for payment processing that is clearly handled on the app’s own webpage.
Alternatively, Apple could be forced to significantly reduces its App Store take rate, but I would prefer that Apple be forced to compete for payment processing business, which would achieve a similar result.
MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote on May 13th:
We think the ultimate ending to this legal challenge will be that developers will be able to accept payments in their apps without being forced to give Apple a cut or as much of a cut as today.
Companies that currently are large enough to work around Apple and send users to their own sites for payment include Amazon and Netflix. Apple will likely need to end this practice and allow all developers to allow users to subscribe to services, buy ebooks, etc. within their apps without a 15%-30% fee. A smaller fee may be tenable, as Apple does have costs to run the App Store, of course. We’ll see after the legal gears grind glacially and eventually spit out their end results.
By the way: On every iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and iPad mini box, the potential buyer is informed of requirements, including “iTunes X.x or later required for some features” and also that an “iTunes Store account” is required. The plaintiffs were informed of the requirements prior to purchase. If the plaintiffs didn’t like the terms that came along with Apple devices, they should have opted for a pretend iPhone from any one of a dime-a-dozen handset assemblers. Then they could blissfully infest their fake iPhones with malware from a variety of sources.
Note also that Apple doesn’t set the prices for paid apps.
Lastly, the amount by which Apple Inc. has driven down software prices across the board, on every major computing platform, makes legal actions such as this eminently laughable.