Some regulators and developers call Apple’s App Store a monopoly

Apple’s App Store is likely to come under increased regulatory scrutiny as developers and regulators allege it’s a monopoly.

App Store monopoly: image: Apple App Store on Apple devices
Apple’s App Store

Matt Smith for Barron’s:

Disgruntled customers and developers say Apple adds to its advantage by weighing the scales in favor of its own products, charging outsize fees, restricting how and when developers may distribute phone apps, and collecting and hoarding valuable business information about the developers’ own customers.

Developers in Europe and the U.S. are filing lawsuits, testifying before legislators, lobbying the European Commission, and urging regulators to look at Apple as a de facto monopolist whose moves warrant scrutiny.

In statements to Barron’s and regulators, Apple refuted the idea that its policies and practices are intended to suppress competition. The company says its platforms are managed to promote developers’ products, even in cases when Apple sells competing versions. Rules denounced by officials and merchants as anticompetitive actually protect consumers from fraud, eavesdropping, and other dangers, the company says.

MacDailyNews Take: Since Apple does not have a monopoly in any market in which they participate, there is no legal basis for antitrust action against Apple over the company’s App Store.

In the case of Apple, there is no monopoly (which is legal by the way), much less monopoly abuse (which is explicitly impossible given the nonexistence of a monopoly). You cannot abuse a monopoly when you do not have a monopoly to begin with.

Worldwide smartphone OS market share, September 2019:

• Android: 73.30%
• iOS: 25.89%

I don’t think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple is a monopoly. Our share is much more modest. We don’t have a dominant position in any market… We are not a monopoly.Apple CEO Tim Cook, June 2019

20 Comments

  1. Monopoly definitions assume uniformity in categories & market definitions that doesn’t exist. Apple is so gigantic that it is a category by its own.
    Moreover, many of its practices in pricing, distribution, cross-subsidizing, defensive patenting, fiscal engineering, innovation-stretching show that it can effectuate (near-)monopoly behavior – much in the sense of warfare, where the largest as a rule has the best position to win.

    1. That doesn’t hold up. Android makers still have a far larger marketshare in units sold, than Apple does.

      Saying Apple has a monopoly in the Apple App Store is like saying Pepsi has a Pepsi monopoly in Pepsi vending machines… while ignoring the Coke vending machines right next to them.

      1. Not exactly a good analogy since the ‘device’ that makes use of the coke/pepsi (human) can consume either. Not so with Android/iOS Apps. The vending machine example also also ignores that 3rd parties also sell Apps in App stores in the larger sense, but Apple’s is the only one that restricts iOS Apps to a single ‘outlet’. The crux of this monopoly argument is that if Apple sold/vended -in-house developed apps in the Apple store and allowed 3rd parties to sell to multiple non-affiliated iOS App store, there would be no problem. The fact that they restrict vending of iOS apps to a single outlet IS a monopoly, legal or not.

        1. The same developer can take the same app idea and create a version for iOS AND for other app stores. They could literally have one “can” in the Pepsi machine and a separate “can” in the Coke machine and take advantage of being EVERYWHERE, and are QUITE free to do so. In fact, if the developers all got together and decided to release the “best” version of their app for Android only, they could drive all their customers to Android!

          Only, developers won’t do that. The developers are not one unit and many of the large ones are fine with the current situation. They’re making money and see whatever fees/rules they have to deal with as a “cost of doing business”. They look at what they spend on infrastructure, on cloud hosting, on their dev and test teams and see that as a much greater cost.

          The unhappy ones are the small ones. You know, the same ones that think their app should be selling in the millions with no promotion. 🙂 The small teams crying “If I didn’t have to pay that 30% fee, I’d be making enough to live off of!” Or “Since I’m not making enough, I should be free to collect and sell their data to the highest bidder to make ends meet!” To them, I’d say that if you can’t make enough to live off of from the literal BILLIONS of customers, all of whom have credit card numbers already connected with the App Store, then your product is crap. Make it better or make a better one.

      2. It’s more like your Samsung TV only accepting Samsung channels and forbidding others. Or your Ford card only accepting generic gas from Ford stations using a proprietary pump.

  2. It’s bad enough that MDN has had these damn pop-ups at the bottom, but now they are simultaneously coming in from both sides at the same time. You people really suck.

    1. Agreed. My MDN following has been cut down from daily to once or twice weekly since the new format with all of the pop-in and pop ups that cover the “news” edges to the point the articles can’t be read without clicking and clicking.

    2. Yes. I actually turned off my ad blocker once, and there were so many ads that the site crashed! Sorry MDN, I’d love to support you but you don’t make it easy!

  3. One of the main reasons why the App Store works is that Apple control it so well. Few malicious apps manage to sneak through the screening process so it’s hard to have your data stolen.

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