Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Apple’s “monopsony” power, and the woman who named it (npr.org)
309 points by moorage 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 354 comments





Amusingly, there are two sets of people arguing about why Apple is bad, and each have their own argument:

1. Android sells more, and offers more variety of mobile and wearable devices than Apple. And here’s the data to prove it.

2. Apple is a monopoly/monopsony and should be forced to allow more user choice of apps, allow sideloading, lower their prices, lower their app store cut, &c.

Which one is is?

Apple is like Tesla. They don’t sell more cars than anyone else. They don’t have a stranglehold over vendors. They sell more luxury cars than a bunch of other people. And while you see lots of Teslas on the road, you still see more F-150s.

Their market is insanely profitable, and for many developers, their little market is highly profitable. But how is it their fault that app developers don’t shun them for Android-only, or Windows (do they still make a phone OS?)

Apple make their own devices. They don’t license an OS and then use shenanigans to force vendors not to offer consumers a choice, like Microsoft did.

They make a desirable product, and offer developers a desirable market. But they don't have enough of the market to do whatever they like.

They can’t charge $5,000 for a phone and succeed because of network effects. Android phones can call and text Apple phones.

They don’t tell developers that apps must be iOS-exclusive to be in the app store.

Apple’s current success is exactly what the free market is for. People may grumble about the price of a phone or the keyboards, or the app store cut, but those who pay it do so because the value is there, not because of arbitrary constraints.

They aren’t Facebook. Nobody has to buy an iPhone to keep in touch with all their friends who have iPhones.


> They aren’t Facebook. Nobody has to buy an iPhone to keep in touch with all their friends who have iPhones.

I have a different perspective.

Many of my different friend groups use the "group messaging" feature on their phones. If everyone is using an iPhone in that group, it defaults to using iMessage.

I switched to Android about 18 months ago, and it broke all of the group text message chains I had because some of their phones continued to use iMessage even though my phone no longer supported it. Sometimes their messages came through to me, sometimes they didn't. I would see half of a conversation, and many of my messages wouldn't reach members of the group. Eventually, people stopped including me in group text messages because it made the chats unreliable.

After 18 months of being increasingly isolated from all my friends, I switched back to an iPhone. I switched only for the reason that it was difficult to keep in touch with people without it.

One-to-one messaging worked fine, but I was left out of group chats, a critical way my friends and I stay in touch.


I've only heard of this happening in the US and Canada. Outside of North America, everyone uses Whatsapp, which supports group messaging on every platform. I'd be curious to know why it hasn't penetrated into those countries.

I think it has to do with the fact that the US (and Canada) very early on had unlimited texting plans, and iMessage would make use of that (iPhones just send texts for iMessages in absence of a data connection). WhatsApp can only use data, which is cheaper and used to be unlimited (that's gone) in the EU. In contrast, texting was and still is insanely expensive in the EU (per byte it is staggering even, compared to normal data). Since data coverage was poor in the US in the 2G days (is this true? In the EU 2G was GPRS, meaning available when normal voice was available... I think it differs for US networks?) and texting was often included in a subscription, iMessage made a lot if sense and was very reliable.

I remember early iPhone users complaining here in the EU that their iPhone unpredictably would sent iMessages either for free over wifi or for 50ct/message over sms/text (us EU citizens avoid sms/texting like the plague, allthough unlimited plans are now more commonplace, it's just too late). I recently set Signal to deal with my sms/text messages. Boy was that an expensive mistake when I accidentally texted my friend in Curacao instead of sending a normal Signal message.


>WhatsApp can only use data, which is cheaper and used to be unlimited (that's gone) in the EU. In contrast, texting was and still is insanely expensive in the EU (per byte it is staggering even, compared to normal data).

You need to specify where in the EU, because it doesn't mirror my experience in France for instance. Data used to be very expensive while there were no shortages of plans with near-unlimited texts. It also isn't the case in many other countries in the world in my experience. AFAIK the advantage of WhatsApp over plain texts isn't that it's cheaper per-se, it's that it works over wi-fi which means that as long as you find a hotspot anywhere in the world you can use it. No need to worry about roaming fees, no need to worry about how many texts or MB of data are in your plan.


In the Netherlands 10 euro for truly unlimited was commonplace. I held on to that plan from 2011 until last year, when they decide I couldn't have 4G and unlimited data.

You really don't need to specify where in the EU, because there are vastly more people in France communicating regularly with people in other neighboring countries. If you need to specify where in the EU, then you need to specify where in the US as well, because France is about the size of a single US state.

Americans mostly talk to other Americans, who also have unlimited texting plans. French people are probably talking to people who live in Belgium, Germany, the UK, Spain, etc. who will all encourage them to use WhatsApp.


Texting plans got huge allowances early on in the UK. I don't remember ever seeing unlimited data plans. However, the thing that was really expensive was "multimedia" messages (MMS), and occasionally you'd generate one of these by mistake by including an emoji in an SMS then suddenly be charged a whole pound for it.

International texting is expensive though, while it's free in Whatsapp. Which is why it took off among various diasporas.


> texting was and still is insanely expensive in the EU

In Poland at least, SMS costs 0 in almost all plans.

As for WhatsApp, I try to keep people away from it and show them Signal, as I do not trust Facebook with any of my data.


Poland has unusually cheap and good cell service, at least in the parts of the country I've visited.

Whatsapp's dominance everywhere outside the US has nothing to do with the generous texting plans here. These were common all over Europe as well. The reason the US has been slower to transition to data-based texting is due to our size and the rarity of Americans traveling internationally.

Imagine if every state in the US was a different country. That's basically Europe. Say you got charged roaming fees every time you traveled from New York to Connecticut. This was true in Europe until they passed regulation that mandated compatibility.

Wi-fi had no roaming upcharge. Hence why texting that works over wi-fi became the default.


It is also that the penetration of iPhones is not as high in many regions. WhatsApp, WeChat, Line are all dominant in places, especially in regions where your peer group can't all afford a $300 phone. And people don't switch to the more limited iMessage when they do become wealthier, or when cheap second hand iPhones become common.

WA solves a problem that doesn't exist if all your contacts use an iphone.

And it hadn't exactly "not penetrated" NA, there are probably tens of millions of users. But it's definitely not "the default mode of communication" as in Brazil or India (+ lots of other countries).


I won't use it because of who owns it (Facebook).

Because iphone is bigger here and I assume you understand momentum and iphone exercising their oligopolistic practices of keeping people on their brand entirely rather than opening up their iMessage protocol. I don't know about your country, but in the USA it pretty much takes the federal government to take on one of the biggest companies in the world.

I don't really know anyone that uses Whatsapp in Finland. Most of my friends use Telegram these days.

Literally everyone outside of tech bubble.

In the university i’m affiliated with and the companies i’ve worked with, only IT people use Telegram. Everyone else still defaults to whatsapp.


Another datapoint, from Norway:

Everyone of my closest friends use Telegram. I share a number of groups with 300-400 people (family, extended family, organizations I belong to/contribute to etc).

Last time I got a message on WhatsApp was from an ex-colleague 2 years ago or something. With my new phone I didn't even bother installing it.

That said: none of my current colleagues (in tech) uses Telegram or WhatsApp for that matter.


I live in Helsinki. Literally everyone +1. I don't know anyone preferring telegram.

Telegram has been criticized over and over for home grown encryption by people I consider experts so I skip it and stick with Signal.

Good for you but the problem still exists for other people.

It has not been my experience that everybody in China uses WhatsApp.

Do you suppose they mostly use WeChat there?

Is that a sign of Apple’s dominance, though? It just feels like inertia because the existing solution worked well enough for your friend group.

In that case wouldn’t it make sense to try to get your friends to use another group chat?

I get people love to use the iMessage groups, but every friend I have on Android create a WhatsApp group, etc. and it’s pretty trivial to use and maintain, especially with close friends.


> In that case wouldn’t it make sense to try to get your friends to use another group chat?

This greatly underestimates the power of habit and default choice.

I can tell you for sure that if I tried to mount such campaign among my (non-techie) friends, there would be a lot of pushback and annoyance.


But this doesn't seem at all relevant to market competition and antitrust laws. It's not much different than disagreements over which coffee shop your friends are going to meet at (maybe you're the only one that lives really far away from the group's most convenient location), or who gets invited to a group of friends' parties.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get each and every one of your friends to change their daily behaviour to suit a personal choice you made?

Erm, no, no it would not be.


If anyone else is facing the issue, here's how to deregister your number from iMessage:

https://selfsolve.apple.com/deregister-imessage/

Should be Job Done.


It isn’t, though. Group MMSes are notoriously fickle, and doing something like sending a video to the group without it appearing in potato quality feels all but impossible at times. iMessage simply is better for group messaging.

The fact that SMS group messages suck isn't something that Apple can really fix without an oob protocol which would basically be iMessage again.

They could open up iMessage, which they originally said they were going to do, then stopped talking about it entirely. Even if they didn’t want to open it up they could make an iMessage Android app, like their Apple Music app.

When did Apple say they were going to open iMessage? I do recall Steve Jobs saying this about Facetime [1] during its announcement, and that a) it was a surprise to the team building it, and b) was abandoned when Apple was sued for patent infringement by patent troll VirnetX [2], causing them to change the protocol from peer-to-peer to server-based.

[1]: https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/1xuzif/what_ever_hap... [2]: https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/16/apple-faces-440-million-...


Feel free to thanks VirnetX about that... https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/10/17222380/apple-virtnetx-p...

It tough to blame Apple for not open-sourcing a protocol they are sued about by a patent troll. Until resolved properly this would be a toxic code-base anyway.

Of course they could restart from scratch, but I guess they have no incentive to make efforts about that. What will be meaningful however is be what they'll do after patent exhaustion date of infringed VirnetX "patents".


They were going to open FaceTime, not iMessage.

I deregistered my number and I still have messages that are delivered to my iPad instead of my android phone. If it wasn’t for that iPad next to my bed, I would have lost contact with some people entirely.

What Apple’s doing should be fucking prosecuted by the FCC or FTC. It’s outrageous.


I suspect those messages mighty be using e-mail rather than phone number as the identifier.

So what, if iMessage is the default SMS app and it sends to an unregistered iCloud account, it should either translate to SMS or give an error.

The last thing it should do is silently send a message to an inactive account such that it looks like I ghosted the person.


The process deregisters the phone number from the account; it does not shut down the entire iCloud account or disable iMessage entirely.

"iMessages" sent to your phone number will be translated to SMS.

iMessages sent to your email address will still be delivered to the account associated with that email address. They can be accessed on pretty much any modern apple device associated with that account.

It's rare that people intentionally iMessage an email address, but the interface is opaque enough that it's essentially impossible on an existing text chain to tell that you did (unless you're specifically looking for that information).

The behavior as implemented makes sense provided that every user made an intentional and informed choice when choosing to message a friend via phone number or email. That is, of course, not the case (and is not helped by Siri sometimes silently deciding to use a contact's email over their phone number).


It is not an unregistered account if it is being received on an iPad.

Further, if you are not logged in with the account on at least one device, it will not show as delivered.


iPads don't have phone numbers so the person sending you the message is sending it to an Apple ID, not a phone number. This is working exactly the way it's supposed to.

No, it's really not. If I unregister from iMessage the last thing that should happen is my Apple ID swallowing messages from people's iPhones.

Return an error or redirect to SMS, it's not that fucking hard.

The one thing you are right about is that it's an intentional dark pattern on Apple's part to obsfucate Apple IDs and phone numbers. It's an illegal anticompetitve strategy.


No, you're misunderstanding what's happening. If you unregister your phone number from iMessage, then that's the end of it. People sending messages to your phone number will get SMS messages. It is impossible for a de-registered phone number to receive iMessages on an iPad. What's actually happening is that the people who are sending you messages are sending them to your Apple ID instead and iMessage is always registered to an Apple ID so the messages are delivered to your iPad. It's not swallowing anyone's messages from people's iPhones because that's literally not possible.

It's not a dark pattern. It's not an illegal anti-competitive strategy. It's a successful delivery of a message to the recipient address it was sent to that you're simply misunderstanding.


I'm not misunderstanding anything. I want to opt out of iMessage being bound to my Apple ID.

I don't give a shit what address or phone number people think they're sending to, when they see my name on their iPhone, it's the wrong address.

The only reason my iPad even has iMessage installed is because people were sending me messages that got disappeared by Apple's abysmal policy.

Why is this so hard for you to understand?

Apple is the richest company in the world but for some reason their process for delisting your Apple ID from iMessage is a huge fucking joke.

There's no way this is not an intentional decision on their part.


Yes, you are misunderstanding. I don't see how that's not obvious to you. iMessage is tied to an Apple ID. Unregistering your phone number from that Apple ID doesn't turn iMessage off. The fact that you think it does is where you misunderstand. The only way to turn off iMessage from an Apple ID is to turn off iMessage for the devices that are set up to receive those messages.

It's literally impossible to send an SMS message to someone's Apple ID and it's not possible to send an iMessage to a phone number that's been unregistered from iMessage. Just because you don't understand how it works doesn't mean Apple is at fault. You cannot delist an Apple ID from iMessage, you can only sign out of iMessage on a receiving device. That's it. Anything else above that is your fault.

If you don't want to receive iMessages at all and don't want people sending them to you, sign out of iMessage. It's not that hard.


What happens if you go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, tap on your Apple ID and sign out of the iMessage account for your Apple ID?

I once heard my spouse complaining about Signal, and how they only had it loaded on their iPhone so they could talk to me. I asked why Signal was not their default SMS application, like it is on my Android phone. And that's when I discovered that Apple hoards certain core phone features for itself.

Signal for iOS cannot send or receive ordinary SMS messages. This is a significant impediment to adoption of end-to-end encryption, because checking two applications to receive different kinds of messages is inconvenient, and inconvenience is the death of mobile applications.

And here I note that Apple is effectively punishing users for apostasy. If you leave the Apple ecosystem, you are excommunicated from your former chat contacts. I, having never entered the Apple ecosystem, have no problem being included in group chats with iPhone users. (I occasionally have problems receiving media attachments, though.)

This makes me even more wary of ever buying in, knowing that trying to leave later will cause all manner of problems as I try to reclaim functions that Apple will take over. Entering the walled gardens make me afraid of being locked in.


Another issue with Signal -- you can't backup your chat logs on iOS like you do on Android (chat logs are encrypted btw).

I'm not sure if that's a Signal issue or an Apple restriction.


It's Signal.

>Signal for iOS cannot send or receive ordinary SMS messages.

That's not an iOS limitation, though. I can send and receive SMS messages through Google Voice on iOS without any issue.


Google Voice doesn't use the SIM card in the phone to send SMS so it can bypass any of Apples API restrictions.

How does that matter? Signal doesn't have to use the SIM card either.

I don't really understand why I got downvoted for a 100% accurate and truthful statement.

SMS group chats work fine on all platforms I know of. If your friends don’t like you for having an android phone and kick you off for forcing the Green bubble in group chats, the problem is not Apple’s phones or software. It’s something else entirely.

Kinda miss the point of the article, which focused on monopsony -- sole buyer.

If your want to sell on the east coast (Apple), you need to put your product in wooden boxes no larger than X and documentation must be written in French, and you must have 10 employees that speak French.

If you want to sell to the West coast, you put your product in plastic bags, and everything is in Spanish, and your employees need to speak Spanish.

Yes, you have two competitors, but reach had a unique customer pool, and each had the sole power to let you access them. You must build your product and hope they purchase it (and keep it around), otherwise your business doesn't exist... You can't sell your product to anyone!

You have no negotiation power, if you're not promoted in store you can't leverage your power as a seller (they have all power, as long as they do not violate any actual law)


I see no problem here until you also presume the firms are a monopoly (or oligopoly). Otherwise there are still customers served by someone else. There are thousands of stores in the US, maybe millions. As for as I know each may make whatever silly demands they want of me (perhaps aside from some racial/religious/safety constraints)) in order to stick my products on their shelves for their "unique customers". Further I see the prospect of govt regulation of this decision as a bad thing for the customer. Who do you think will end up writing those regulations?

Yes and no...

The issue here is that there's no competition if you want to reach Apple customers.

When you buy a fridge, the manufacturer can't forbid you from buying eggs for it.

You can go to another manufacturer, as a customer, if this really bothers you... But the guy selling eggs has virtually no recourse. In addition, he has no negotiation power. His eggs might only be stored inside that manufacturers fridge, too, so the lock out from that customer market could destroy the business!

As for regulations... Who's regulating internet browser? The only regulation is that your OS can't forbid alternatives or actively block or hamper their installation. That's worked reasonably fine. We don't get that with app stores on Apple (though Android does, for the most part)


If the fridge manufacturer goes bankrupt or changes how cold their fridge can get, I also go out of business in this contrived example. Do you also want to regulate these business decisions too? Shall the regulators intervene every time there is an ios update?

A better analogy is I produce aftermarket software/hardware for the refrigerator and want to force them to accommodate it (with the govt stepping in to determine which kinds of features they can and can't add on their own, e.g. browsers) and even sell it to customers for me.

As for your last question, the browser is the regulation. It is a very specific software product. In the case of apps, there is an open-ended range of function. Regulators must determine in detail which of these are to be protected. Presumably they must allow apple to block some apps like (easily-categorized) malware, but what about borderline and controversial decisions based on quality or ethics? Regulators are now deciding the detailed functionality of the product and preventing apple from differentiating their product. Shouldn't consumer choice be the deciding factor instead?

And as for browsers, again Microsoft was supposedly a monopoly. Not just their own niche store, but most of the entire market for OS's.


Bingo. All this talk about market shares is not about monopsony.

Arguably Android is also monopsony.


Google does not restrict you from installing arbitrary apps or building your own App Store to compete with Google Play though.

I meant to put (Android) in for West coast, but yes, I arguably agree it's a very similar situation, though Google/Android is less restrictive / closed off... They are more like the old "Internet explorer" were Microsoft had to defend bundling their own app over competitors'

Agree on most if not all points but the article didn't argue against any of that. It did point out two things.

Companies don't have to literally be the only buyer in a marketplace to wield "monopsony power." If competition isn't perfect — like when there are only a few companies in a market and they aren't undercutting each other's prices — companies gain some ability to lower the price on the stuff they buy. Sellers don't have a lot of other options.

Apple might be profiting from its monopsony power in the app market. In this argument, the company is effectively the sole buyer of Apple-compatible apps and services, which allows them to set their fee as high as they want.

Both of this are new argument from "monopsony" perspective, which is different to all your listed point above are "monopoly" perspective.

Not saying I agree or disagree with his monopsony thing, since it is completely new word to me.


Monopsony is a slippery concept.

If I tilt my head just right, we could be discussing the way WalMart purchases products. They sell a product in their store, they decide they want a certain margin, and then they tell suppliers to meet a certain price target if they want their products in WalMart.


Large supermarket chains are absolutely a great example of monopsony power. Producers selling to the supermarket often can't choose their own price. The supermarket can decide the price, and if the producer doesn't like it, he gets to sell nothing at all, even if the actual customers do like the product. And supermarkets absolutely use this power. I've heard of supermarkets deciding to discount certain items against the wishes of the producers, but still letting the producers pay for the discount. Because the supermarket controls the distribution channel, they wield power over both the customer and the producer.

The stories I've heard are worse than this. You establish a contract to sell your product for $x, they don't pay you until you believe the only money you'll ever see is from a lawsuit, then they demand you take $y, where y is significantly less than x, and if you don't like it, you can sue them, at which point they'll boycott all your other products too.

You can buy 90% of products in Walmart through other channels. ( 10% are either exclusive or own brand ) And Walmart is not the sole buyer of any of those products.

Apple is the sole buyer of All App Store Products, and you cant buy those products anywhere else. Which as far as I understand it, is what the argument Monopsony is trying to make. Buying Power instead of Market Power.

Edit: After rereading the article, the start of the article also pointed out, it was the developer that set the price of the App, not Apple. Giving them the power to price their product. Even if Apple were in this "Monopsony", it isn't really evident to me how this had harmed consumer.


There are many stories, including recently, of Apple doing "weird things" to app developers. Such that the app is no longer carried at all, or isn't upgraded (eg rejecting new versions), etc.

Imagine a big city/country with only 2 stores, half of the population uses store A and half store B. Store A and B are happy with the profits and are not competing on the margins, both will take 30% of your products, both will ban your product if they judge they don't like it, maybe store A will block you if you compete with them and store B will block you because some algorithm. So basically you have 2 big pile of shit and you are forced to chose witch one stinks less or looks less disgusting.

Also if you think at the clients of store A and B this fake competition costs them more so the only people that benefit are the store owners, free market should always push for competition and consumer good not for making more oney then a nation. If all this crap is legal then laws need to be changed and this would include limitations for Wallmart or physical stores too.


I hope you’re not implying the old wives tale about Apple nit allowing apps that compete with it on the store. If so, there are plenty of existence proofs that that isn’t true.

What applications in the Apple store are able to function as the default SMS app or the default web browser engine? On Android, I can use Signal for SMS and Firefox for browser engine. On my spouse's iPhone, the iOS applications with the same names are severely restricted in their functionality. Blocking ads, scripts, and tracking is significantly more difficult.

If you believe these are core OS functions, and therefore not subject to competition, Microsoft has a old story to tell you about Internet Explorer web browser and Windows 95 OS.


Are they allowed to be default no. Are they allowed on the App Store - yes.

Also links in different application will open in what Apple wants not in what browser/app you would like.

Neither of those are actually available, because iOS browsers are not allowed to use other browser-engines than Safari and apps have no means to manage SMS on behalf of the iOS messaging app.

Allowing third parties to intercept your SMS messages has been a security nightmare for Android.

But yes you can install a third party app like Google Voice with its own phone number and send text messages through it.

You would really trust any third party to intercept your sms messages?

On top of that, the third party dialer integrates with the native dialer and call history.


>You would really trust any third party to intercept your sms messages?

Not OP but I trust Thunderbird on my PC to access my emails so why I could not also trust a Mozilla or other trustworthy company to access my messages on my phone where in my case the SMS is used by companies to send me notifications about billing , I am the type of person that will call someone(people in my group don't send SMS)


So Apple should allow random third parties to intercept SMS messages because “people in your group” don’t use SMS?

Apple should let me decide or maybe review Thunderbird and Firefox and allow them. I am wondering how can you bring this argument and at the same time you install random apps on your computer that are not made or restricted by Apple.

That’s kind of my point. I’m very careful about what I install on my computer. I don’t install random crap on my computer from untrusted sources because of the lack of a sandbox.

I install any random crap on my phone and tablet because I know they can’t do too much damage between the better permission model and sandboxing.


>I install any random crap on my phone and tablet because I know they can’t do too much damage between the better permission model and sandboxing.

And how say allowing a reviewed and sandboxed Firefox or a side loaded version that I would enable using some convoluted steps affects you personally? I don't demand Apple to make you less secure just want competition and no restriction, if I need say a power tool like a firewall or to run some custom scripts as root let me as a power user do that in a way you won't be affected - there must be such a solution because I do not see OSX user getting hacked left and right.


I don't demand Apple to make you less secure just want competition and no restriction,

There is competition - you can choose the same mobile operating system that 85% of mobile users choose - Android.

there must be such a solution because I do not see OSX user getting hacked left and right.

A company you may have heard of corrupted user’s operating systems if they had system integrity protection turned off....

https://support.google.com/chrome/thread/15235262?hl=en

Or another “trustworthy” company installed a web server surreptitiously on users computers so even when they uninstalled the software, it reinstalled itself.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/articl...


I mean browsers, then there was an app that did some phone activity tracking and all was fine until iOS had it's own app and for some reason the old app was kicked out from the store. Then there are the cases where Apple apps have special access to APIs but a popular application like Spotify was denied access. Can you link to the case you are mentioning?

The app that did “phone activity tracking” used an MDM and tracked all of your activity and stored it. This was a severe privacy concern.

Spotify - was complaining that there was no facility to integrate with Siri - Apple added intents in iOS 13.

Spotify also complained that they couldn’t do music streaming on watchOS - that was also added in the latest version of watchOS.


For the first case Apple knew about the tracking and said nothing until they had their own app - so we can defend Apple that protects the users privacy only if it benefits them.

Spotify got access months alter after complaints to the EU were made so I am not convinced that Apple is still give equal opportunities to all developers especially when better browser engines exist and you can't use them.


You really think that it only took “months” for Apple to create the Siri Intent for third party audio? Apple had been opening up Siri for years by adding new intents.

Apple has a long history of developing functionality and using it internally before releasing them publicly. The alternative is releasing a half baked API that it has to support forever. It’s a lot easier to change an API that is only used internally than it is to change an API which people depend on.

Yes, Apple produced a better solution than allowing random third parties the ability to record everything you do on your phone. Would you prefer that they never increase privacy and security?


> The alternative is releasing a half baked API that it has to support forever.

You owe me a new keyboard. Apple puts out half baked APIs constantly, and drops APIs constantly. Like literally, every release they do has APIs in those two camps.


>Yes, Apple produced a better solution than allowing random third parties the ability to record everything you do on your phone. Would you prefer that they never increase privacy and security?

Using this logic you should then ot have the freedom to read your emails outside Apple browser or email client on your computers, the solution is

1 let the user decide if the trusts the third party

2 for sensitive application like mail/sms/browsers review the top 5 alternative browsers/email clients etc and allow only those, I assume Apple has the ability to say discuss with Mozilla about allowing Firefox on iOS, what APIs and what privacy rules need to be respected and then have a team of lawyers ready if Mozilla breaches the contract/promises.

My point there are solutions between the extremes of not allow thrid party access and allow any random app access.


1. Right. Because historically “the user” has been very good about understanding security implications of their choices. Have you been following the PC industry for the last 30 years?

No one considers email to be secure because of if nothing else, the store and forward nature.

IMessage is end to end encrypted. Should Apple also allow third parties the ability to intercept iMessage or should they split iMessage from sms? Who does that benefit?

2. Now some developers are in a privileged position.


I can remember a time when there were serious complaints about Walmart's influence in the home video market. It used to be very expensive to produce a DVD, and smaller studios couldn't afford to produce both an original widescreen and a cropped ("pan-and-scan") version for 4:3 televisions. For the longest time, Walmart would refuse to carry a title that didn't have a cropped version. It ended up forcing some to choose between losing a significant source of sales and compromising the visual quality of a film's only home video release.

The difference is that walmart actually purchase the products that they sell in their store. They are a reseller.

A more accurate comparison is a market hall which permit sellers to set up booths in return for a cut of the revenues. As an example I would look at stores around Olympics games, where the organizers holds enormous power in controlling who get to sell what, the price and the cut. The level of control they assert seems pretty similar to that of apple.


It's not quite true that Walmart purchases products. Walmart's arrangements keep a lot of the risk on the supplier. They charge for warehousing and distribution, and they don't pay for what doesn't get sold.

It is, in a lot of ways, like the market model you suggest. Not precisely; it is its own thing (and is popular precisely because it's so innovative in its business model, which lowers prices for its customers). So analogies with Walmart are always going to be problematic, but it's worth noting that their model is very different from the simple retail-reseller model.

https://spendmatters.com/2015/09/16/what-the-new-wal-mart-st...


We're splitting some really fine hairs here.

As a customer, I have an account with Apple. When I purchase an app, I pay Apple, and I presume they give 70% of my payment to the developer.

As a customer, it feels like a retail store. I give money to the store, but I end up in a warranty relationship with the manufacturer, much like buying something from a store.


The difference is you don't purchase a Walmart store first. Neogreekisms aside, I personally think the iPhone ecosystem smells like a new kind of monopoly that the people who set down existing antitrust law couldn't have foreseen.

Imagine buying a nice desk to work on, and being told you could only buy paper and pens from the manufacturer of the desk. Maybe other vendors could be considered if 30% of their revenue went to the desk manufacturer. Preposterous, right? That's the world be live in and accepted as the norm for smartphones. Not a monopoly on a market scale, but the notion of selling someone a "platform" couldn't have really been foreseen a century ago. It's a similar idea, but it's more monopolism targeted at the market that surrounds the platform.

One particularly egregious example: Apple should reasonably be allowed to determine which products they sell on the App Store, but by preventing the installation of arbitrary apps from outside of the store, they've created a monopoly that they use for moral policing and anticompetitive practices. Apple not only disallows nudity-centric apps or apps that control nicotine vaporizers on their store, but effectively has banished them from their phones entirely. Which seems very suspect, and arguably they should not have the right to stop people from using what may be their primary computing platform as they see fit.

Then there's the issue of ebooks and music: Apple takes 30% of every in-app purchase, and developers are forbidden from using alternate payment processors to get around that. As such, Amazon can't reasonably sell ebooks in their app (you have to use a web browser and figure out the weird absence of buying capabilities yourself, as a user) since it would soak up the entire margin. Apple, however, competes with Amazon and sells ebooks themselves...which is questionable. Spotify cannot sign people up for their service without giving Apple an ongoing 30% cut of the subscription...meanwhile, Apple competes with them.


>Maybe other vendors could be considered if 30% of their revenue went to the desk manufacturer. Preposterous, right? That's the world be live in and accepted as the norm for smartphones.

To be fair, on Android, you at least have the ability to sideload apps or use different app stores. Of course, not many people do, but the option is there.


There's nothing slippery about that, because Walmart is already commonly given as a textbook example of monopsony.

> Monopsony is a slippery concept.

How so?

If you want to buy X, and there's only one person selling X, then that person is the monopoly seller of X.

If you want to sell X, and there's only one person buying X, then that person is the monopsony buyer of X.

You can't swap the adjectives around; monopsony buyer is redundant in the same way monopoly seller is. You can think of them as the same word with different agreement forms, much like how "is" in "He is red" is the same word as "am" in "I am purple".


I think the problem is in its asymmetric use. Here they are defining the "market" in question as a subset of the actual market for smartphones or software, restricted to only that software in the Apple store. Surprise, Apple dominates their own store. As if customers don't have alternatives, when of course they do.

If you swap the logic around it would be like calling Apple a monopoly because they are the only seller of iphones, a contrived market that is actually just a subset of the smartphone market.


> Amusingly, there are two sets of people arguing about why Apple is bad, and each have their own argument:

> 1. Android sells more, and offers more variety of mobile and wearable devices than Apple. And here’s the data to prove it.

> 2. Apple is a monopoly/monopsony and should be forced to allow more user choice of apps, allow sideloading, lower their prices, lower their app store cut, &c.

> Which one is is?

Well, these aren't mutually exclusive. Apple can sell less variety, and still exert too much control over their platform--in fact, the first is caused by the second. I'd argue that "monopoly" doesn't really apply to the second situation, so that's sloppy use of the English language, but if you try to actually figure out what people are trying to communicate, rather than being pedantic, you'll have a more interesting conversation with those people.


Yup.

You cannot install a 3rd-party app store on iPhones without resorting to strange hacks (which are likely outside the scope of the EULA and wouldn't be pursued by average users). Developers and users have no alternative but to pay Apple 30%. If you are an open source project, someone has to pay up each year for the privilege of developing software for Apple devices.

Windows, Linux and Android allow 3rd-party appstores. As evil as Google is, they certainly have that feather in their cap.

Apple likely wouldn't have been facing this lawsuit if they hadn't kept pressing their advantage and tightening the noose on developers.


Apple is not like Tesla; iPhones are often touted as a “luxury brand” but the truth is that they offer products of quality that are roughly in proportion to their pricing, and their high margins are due to better/more efficient operations than their competitors. A phone is such an essential tool in one’s life and priced low enough that it makes sense to invest in a product that is of good quality. Most people can afford iPhones and even poor people can afford used ones. Not many people can afford a Tesla.

Unlike a Tesla, you don’t lose a lifetime of app purchases, movies, songs and books when switching products; you don’t lose a major set of functionality between other Tesla owners which would hamper your ability to use your product. I think the “monopsony” is an excellent way to frame the problem. There should be regulation requiring companies like Apple to allow users to sell the apps and other digital content they’ve purchased to others, to allow people to set their own default apps on their own devices and to not hamper the efforts of others to provide interoperability with other devices. These should be common sense consumer rights issues, although at present the only consumer rights-focused entity strong enough to make any of this actually happen is the EU, and I hope they manage to do so.


Movies - if you buy a music on iTunes from most of the major studios, you can sync your purchases with Amazon Video, Google Play Movies and Vudu using Movies Anywhere. Blame the studios that refuse to cooperate for the ones you can’t.

Music - any music you buy from iTunes has been DRM free for over a decade.

Books - if that’s a concern, buy ebooks from Amazon - like everyone else dies.

As far as buying apps, most money people spend on the App Store is either in app consumables for games or subscriptions that work cross platform.

Do you also feel that Nintendo, Microsoft (XBox) and Sony should be equally regulated for controlling distribution over their digital stores? Yes you can but physical discs but even they are digitally signed and have to be approved.


With all monopoly/monopsony discussions, it all comes down to the degree to which the monopolist leverages their position. It's not illegal to have a monopoly, only to abuse it.

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony each compete rather vigorously to attract studios to produce games for their platforms. Nintendo classically has ups-and-downs in this arena, given their unconventional hardware choices. The Switch is attracting a lot more devs than the Wii U ever did, for instance. This breaks the theory of monopsony, as there is clearly competition between platforms to acquire games.

Contrast that with the App Stores on phones where everything feels incredibly static. Apple and Google are clearly coasting on the fact that there's only 2 phone OSes and you have to use one of them. Besides first-party apple stuff, there are hardly any exclusives. And you never hear about app devs changing platforms.

So I would conclude that no, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony don't need to be regulated because they aren't engaging in anti-consumer behavior. They should be subject to the same standards, of course, but they aren't currently in violation of them like Apple.


Apple has also commissioned exclusives - Apple Arcade has over 100 exclusive games.

> Do you also feel that Nintendo, Microsoft (XBox) and Sony should be equally regulated for controlling distribution over their digital stores?

It's not about what they put in their own store. It's about not allowing competing stores. And game consoles shouldn't be allowed to do it either.


I don’t understand the argument for why consumers shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a closed platform. I specifically like Apple products because of the controlled software distribution that’s a huge value add for me. I purchase their products for my parents and know that they can’t mess it up, and I won’t have to troubleshoot their product. Apple isn’t just selling a product but an experience—an experience many people like I might add.

>you don’t lose a lifetime of app purchases, movies, songs and books when switching products

That's a really alarmist (and counterfactual) way of framing this.

Yes, if you change computing platforms, you generally need to replace software. OH NO. I don't see a need for regulatory intervention based on that.

Deciding to ditch the iPhone for an Android has utterly no bearing on your ability to watch TV or movies purchased from the iTunes store. You can still watch those on an AppleTV, on a Samsung TV, or on your laptop. And obviously on your iPad if you have one of those.

Tracks purchased from the iTunes Music Store are yours, period. There's no DRM, so anything that can play AAC will play them fine. You don't lose those if you ditch the iPhone.

However, Apple Music is a distinct thing. It's a subscription service like Spotify. If you stop paying for it, you stop getting access to the music you acquired with it. This is neither nefarious nor exploitative. You need a device supported by Apple Music, but it works on Windows, so not seeing the problem here, either. (Though I should note that I wouldn't see a problem even if Apple Music worked only on Apple devices.)

Apple is a rounding error in digital books, and I know nothing about it (mostly a Kindle guy). However, if I decide to banish Amazon from my life, I'll lose access to Kindle books I "bought" from Amazon. That was part of the bargain at the time.

>There should be regulation requiring companies like Apple to allow users to sell the apps and other digital content they’ve purchased to others, to allow people to set their own default apps on their own devices and to not hamper the efforts of others to provide interoperability with other devices.

How far does that go? Would you insist on the right to do the same to any computer-controlled device you purchase from any vendor?

Because that seems bananas.


Apple Music even works on Android and the app is pretty darn good.

"Nobody has to buy an iPhone to keep in touch with all their friends who have iPhones."

If an iPhone user has friends that all use Duo on Android, she can install Duo on her iPhone.

If an Android user has friends that all use iMessage or FaceTime, there is no way for her to participate in group chats or group calls.


Clearly the OP doesn't have a teenage daughter. If he did, he'd realize that you have to have an iphone in order to be accepted into the communication clique caused by iMessages / AirDrop.

How is this different from game consoles? The gap between Xbox Live and PlayStation Network was a big deal when I was in high school. If all your friends played Xbox, and your parents got you a PlayStation, you were socially isolated. Nobody is saying that MS and Sony must make everything 100% cross-platform compatible, but then there aren’t tens of thousands of indie game developers to complain about it.

I have an adolescent daughter. She laughs at me being a fuddy-duddy wanting to use iMessage and FaceTime. Her friends are all on Discourse and TikTok(!)

N=1 and all that, I can totally believe that there are other social clusters on different ecosystems.


> 1. Android sells more, and offers more variety of mobile and wearable devices than Apple. And here’s the data to prove it.

> 2. Apple is a monopoly/monopsony and should be forced to allow more user choice of apps, allow sideloading, lower their prices, lower their app store cut, &c.

> Which one is is?

It's both, because they're two different contexts. There is no monopoly on phones; Android phones are direct competition. But what about app distribution? If you make apps and you want to buy app distribution to reach all customers, who is Apple's real competition for reaching customers on iOS? They haven't any; it's a monopoly. And it's not just like Walmart having a monopoly on shelf space at Walmart, because most Walmart customers will also shop at Target or Amazon, but most iOS customers don't also shop for apps at Google Play or Amazon. Apple is the only path to reach them.

Saying they could just buy an Android phone is like saying that a retailer with a regional monopoly in California doesn't really have a monopoly because all your customers could just move to New York. That's an unreasonable barrier to buy a $1 item, and on top of that it isn't even under the control of the app developer who wants to buy app distribution.


And then you find that people are buying Apple specifically because Apple does all this stuff to control the iOS app marketplace.

The whole point of a walled garden is that it’s walled, and you don’t have to learn about gardening to enjoy it. Your experience with the garden is to simply walk through it chat with friends, and never think more about it.

Allowing side-loading means suddenly you as the customer have to learn how to identify legitimate visitors to the garden apart from miscreants and pickpockets. How do you know who to trust?

Why are people so keen to remove the gatekeeper from the walled garden?

This is only about forcing Apple to provide a backdoors to their Secure Enclave. I am not falling for it.


>They don’t tell developers that apps must be iOS-exclusive to be in the app store.

Apple recently rejected our app submission as we mention our Android version within our app settings. They don't demand you be iOS exclusive, but they damn well try to make it difficult.

That release was just a minor version with some fixes, the text had been in the app for years.


Can you mention a competitor when selling on any of the consoles?

Lot's of games openly tout cross-platform compatibility - the answer to your question is "Yes".

Tangentially :) I have a question as someone trying to get in to the app world (total beginner, old had a c/embedded though). How do you handle features that Apple say are preventing your app from getting approved at Apple? Say it goes through with flying colors at the Google Play store. Is everything modularized to the feature level?

"But how is it their fault that app developers don’t shun them for Android-only, or Windows (do they still make a phone OS?)"

Antitrust enforcement isn't really about "fault". It's not there to punish, it is there to force markets to be more competitive.

Saying that people can develop for Android, so this isn't monopsony/monopoly is sort of like saying Standard Oil wasn't a monopoly because people still could use coal and steam power rather than Standard Oil's petroleum.

While many things about iPhone and Android phones are similar, there are also a huge amount of differences that put huge barriers to going from one to the other.

Network monopolies are complex things, and they aren't about people being able to charge "whatever they like." They are about significantly reduced competition and significant barriers to competitors. Not everything has to be so black and white.

"Apple is like Tesla."

Not really, particularly not in the respects that this article is about. For a consumer, going from a Tesla to another EV is not a big deal. Also, EV's are in their infancy, and antitrust enforcement tends to cut some slack when that is true. Tesla could (very reasonably) end up being forced to separate their car business from their charging network when they get big enough.

"They aren’t Facebook. Nobody has to buy an iPhone to keep in touch with all their friends who have iPhones."

This isn't what the article is about. This is about the developer side of things, not the consumer side. Developers spend huge amounts of resources writing code that runs on only Apple devices. A very large number of users have iOS devices, not Android devices, and they only way to make apps for them is via the Apple store. Yes you can choose to develop for Android, but aside from the cost of switching, you are now selling to a completely different set of people.

For another analogy, imagine you're a clothing manufacturer, but if you want to sell clothing to women, you have to sell it through a single retail store chain. Saying "you can always make clothing for men" isn't particularly helpful.


On reflection, I will say one thing:

I consider Apple's restrictions on monetizing apps to be shenanigans. It feels normal to me for them to insist on a cut from app sales and in-app purchases.

It feels like shenanigans for them to try to block developers having revenue side-channels. I know this is very uneven, for example, I can download an Amazon Prime app and use it, even though I pay for Amazon prime elsewhere.

But in the Amazon app, there are certain things I can't buy in the app, nor is the app allowed to link me to a web page where I can buy it.


I agree that it's inconvenient for users; it annoys me every time I have to bounce out to the Amazon website to buy Kindle books, for example.

But I don't see the alternative from Apple's perspective. If they allowed revenue side-channels, every app would be free, and useless if you didn't purchase an expansion pack from the developer.

Sure, Apple could run the app store at a loss. They could allow side-loading. They could do a lot of things. But I don't fault them for declining to.


Apple is the smaller company in a duopoly market. There are not enough players in the market that dissatisfied customers can easily up and leave.

The real harm we see Apple doing is that they allow the dominant groups in society to suppress anyone else. This became especially clear during the Hong Kong protests, where they banned apps protestors used after a request from Chinese authorities. Because of the lack of choice in the market, consumers have little choice but to live with whatever is imposed on them.


When you consider "monopoly" or "market unfairness" you have to look at it on the state level. I don't think anyone is complaining about Europe where Apple is in the minority of phones. I would assume we're talking about the USA where Apple does have outsized influence compared to other phone brands. We aren't talking about Apple vs Google. It's Apple vs Samsung/Google Pixel Line/Motorola/Nokia and their abuse of their status as the largest phone seller in the USA. Say iMessage policy being limited to the Apple platform as others have pointed out.

I guess I'm not such a devotee of the free market. Ignoring legal theories for a moment and thinking about what ought to be, it seems clear to me that society at large is not well-served by having the defining artistic medium of our age in control of a single company, and censored to Disney-like levels.

Come up with whatever theory under existing laws or come up with some new laws, but it seems to me like this is a ridiculous situation that should have a legal remedy.


>Amusingly, there are two sets of people arguing about why Apple is bad, and each have their own argument: 1. Android sells more, and offers more variety of mobile and wearable devices than Apple. And here’s the data to prove it.

2. Apple is a monopoly/monopsony and should be forced to allow more user choice of apps, allow sideloading, lower their prices, lower their app store cut, &c.

What about 3?

Apple's products are overpriced and underpowered, locked down devices sold as fashion statements or 'lifestyle' accessories that are more like toys for rich people than the miniature computers they're supposed to be.

As for their computers, similar argument, overpriced, underpowered, locked down hardware.

And then there's the whole culture of snobbery surrounding Apple and their products that has existed since at least the mid-late 90's about how superior Apple products are to everything else always that's just kind of grated on me...well since then.


I don't disagree with your opinions on Apple and their products but what in your list of bad things about them is actually illegal?

Apple's products are overpriced and underpowered, locked down devices sold as fashion statements or 'lifestyle' accessories that are more like toys for rich people than the miniature computers they're supposed to be.

There is nothing illegal about selling rich people toys or dumbing down a device to make it appeal to a certain type of customer.

I have never really cared for Apple products in general and also think they are over priced for what you get but for me that just means I don't buy them, I don't really begrudge them making money off a customer base I just don't fit into.


>I don't disagree with your opinions on Apple and their products but what in your list of bad things about them is actually illegal?

Where in the parent's quote that I was responding to was there anything about laws?

I was specifically responding to:

>Amusingly, there are two sets of people arguing about why Apple is bad,

I see nothing about legality. I see the word bad.


> underpowered

Are you positing that someone manufactures a better and faster SOC for mobile devices?


>And then there's the whole culture of snobbery surrounding Apple and their products that has existed since at least the mid-late 90's about how superior Apple products are to everything else always that's just kind of grated on me...well since then.

>Are you positing that someone manufactures a better and faster SOC for mobile devices?

Thanks for proving my point.


Please make a better effort at defending your arguments than this.

Apple has had the best real world performance on mobile for many years running. Their SOCs are years ahead of the competition. Bigger numbers on the spec sheet lack strong correlation to actual performance these days.


You open with a false-dichotomoy. Apple is not a monopolist in the phone market (your first proposed argument). Apple is a monopolist of the app store (your second proposed argument).

Those 2 positions are not mutually-exclusive.


> They don’t tell developers that apps must be iOS-exclusive to be in the app store.

They do force us to build the package on their devices though. Which is a wholly arbitrary demand which is frustrating to map into a build process that is already automated on the cloud. Prior to services that rent out Apple devices its an awkward fit.

They're very aggressive with their posturing and they ruthlessly exploit the power they have. Just reading the dev EULA in full is evidence of that.


And for most of the history of the consoles you had to have overpriced developer machines. Are you proposing that Apple be forced to port XCode to Windows?

They could make the signing APIs available to something like Jetbrains' AppCode. No porting necessary.

Because most companies are willing to give out their signing keys willy nilly...

Would you expect the same from the console makers?


Users authenticate to access that API with their developer credentials.. username and password on infrastructure owned by Apple. There is no need for them to give out their signing keys.

Yes or Linux. Either that or change licensing so people can create Apple VMs and I can spin one up online. At the time I was looking at this problem (2012) the only viable solution was to buy a piece of Apple hardware and install it in the office and have the auto-build system call back into the office from the cloud to build the package as a particular step in the build.

So I have to worry about power, about the safety, about hardware, about updates, all because I can't use an arbitrary x86 processor to build an executable targeting an x86 processor. It made me so fucking cross.

Let us not forget that other platforms don't have this mandatory requirement.


Microsoft offers Mac build servers as part of Azure Devops. And there is Mac Mini Colo.

And you want to force a company to release a product for other operating systems?


or make their OS available for virtualization. Remember this was 2012 so our entire build process was done via cloud vms and Mac's requirements were a nasty welt on an otherwise exceptionally smooth process because there were no options available at the time.

It is available for virtualization - on Mac hardware.

wait you can now finally virtuaise them but you have to do it on Mac hardware? Its like someone didn't give them the manual or something.

I guess that explains why some companies can finally offer "macs on a rack" because they are literally macs.

The point remains that its a bunch of hoops they force people to jump through, BECAUSE THEY CAN. Not for any good technical reason.


Yes. Apple is fully in its right to decide how to distribute its software. Just like an open source software license can dictate how their software is used. If you want to use MacOS you have to use a Mac.

You misunderstand. If you want to build a product for MacOS you have to use a Mac. That's what bugs me because it doesn't fit into typical auto-build arrangements, at least it was a needless, awkward pain to do that when I wanted to do it in 2012.

There was no technical reason to have to jump through those hoops beyond the typical Apple "fuck you because I can".


How does that not fit in “auto build arrangements”? You have a Mac as a build server to build Mac software just like you need a Windows Build server to build a Windows app.

If your business can’t afford a $700 Mac Mini, you’re not running a business.

Besides, are you not doing any local testing in the simulator?


You don't need a windows build server to build a windows app, its just an executable that targets a given cpu architecture or run-time.

Its not about affording a Mac Mini its about being forced to do IT on some build servers when the rest are visualised in the cloud. Having your cloud servers ping back into your physical office to do the Mac build is stupid. For context, this is an online service where we wanted to build two native apps for Android and IPhone. Android was easy (I didn't need a Google approved device to build it), IPhone was a fucking pain in the ass.

> Besides, are you not doing any local testing in the simulator?

You want to build the product on a dev box? That's not good CI. You want these environments to be clean and preferably spun up fresh each build.


You don't need a windows build server to build a windows app, its just an executable that targets a given cpu architecture or run-time.

Have you tried building a native or .Net Framework app on a Linux machine? How did that work out?

Its not about affording a Mac Mini its about being forced to do IT on some build servers when the rest are visualised in the cloud. Having your cloud servers ping back into your physical office to do the Mac build is stupid.

Because no one ever pushed code to Github that “pinged” to another server located somewhere else or pulled dependencies from yet another server like Nuget or npm...

I’m all for “the cloud”, but a VM in the cloud is no harder or easier to manage than one in a local server room. Especially since with most build systems, the orchestration is happening on one server with build agents hosted on different servers.

You want to build the product on a dev box? That's not good CI. You want these environments to be clean and preferably spun up fresh each build.

I never said that. But with most build systems it doesn’t matter where the agents are or where the orchestration server is. The agents register with the orchestration server and you can “visualize” where the agents are.


> Have you tried building a native or .Net Framework app on a Linux machine? How did that work out?

Well now we have .NET core so its fine but previously one can C, one can C++. Its not always ideal but there are options.

This issue is that if my highly public office with full glass windows in a somewhat shady part of town gets a power cut or broken into then I've got to run around to find another mac. Even if the network goes down I have issues that happen WAY less on the cloud. Its annoying.

What's more annoying is that there's no solid technical justification as to why this is. They just want Apple hardware to sign their builds because they want you to buy Apple hardware.


> 1. Android sells more, and offers more variety of mobile and wearable devices than Apple. And here’s the data to prove it.

> 2. Apple is a monopoly/monopsony and should be forced to allow more user choice of apps, allow sideloading, lower their prices, lower their app store cut, &c.

The three positions suggested here (monopoly and monoposony being very different things) aren't actually incompatible. Android can sell more and Apple can be a monopoly (and even more easily, a monoposony) if there is a discernable market of buyers/sellers for whom price adverse changes in what apple is offering to sell or buy do not induce shifts to Android.


> They don’t have a stranglehold over vendors.

They flat out don't allow bloatware from the vendors on their devices. Android doesn't have that kind of pull, and Verizon won't push updates for my phone until they have tested all their bloatware crap that I can't uninstall.

Additionally, Apple has had many other 'requirements' from vendors to keep selling their phone, things like visual voicemail support, allowing them to use iMessage in place of texting (really goes with the part above), requiring ipv6 support, etc.


All Google/Android/?#_next_startup has to do is make a better phone than the iPhone, and people will flock to it. That's how Apple did it.

But currently the alternatives have many problems that cause people to choose iPhones. When those problems are overcome, the market will swing their way.

Apple is not infallible. It will screw up, or go out of fashion, or fall behind eventually. All companies do. People getting all worked up over this need to see the big picture.


I’d agree if iMessages was open platform. It’s beyond ridiculous that Android is limited to SMS (or their messaging app) but iPhone shuts out everyone for a basic utility function.

I wish the US Government and regulators were pushing for this as opposed to trying to break encryption or force backdoors.


There is a joke about similar topic. It goes something like this:

>If you sell too cheaply - antitrust laws break you

>If you sell at the same price as competitors - its a cartel or a deal between vendors

>If you sell at a price too high - its a monopoly


Apple was like Tesla in 2009.

Now the only way that Apple is like Tesla is if Tesla was also a utilities company that managed powerplants, which had a different pricing scheme for it's car customers.


It's both. The two aren't in contradiction.

Apple uses vendor lock-in for software used by one customer across devices, and for software used by multiple users (iMessage)


Mostly Apple and Facebook and Google are too big and need to be split up. They are huge monoliths who stimy innovation and competition.

You can’t have a mobile presence without dealing with Apple.

Call it monopoly, monopsony, or neither of those.

At the end of the day it's about a company's abuse of power against users and smaller competitors, and that's what matters. If you get confused when this begins being called "monopoly" because you have a different idea of what a monopoly is, then stop calling it that.

It's about an abuse of power, pure and simple, and the bigger the company and its stranglehold on its users and developers, the more it can abuse that power. Government, the people's representatives (at least in theory), should have every right to deal with that.


If you want to provide services to 100 percent of the population, you need to bend the knee to Apple.

I don't, and it means 10 percent of the population can't use my free apps that save people time and money.

I suppose that's the cost of Apple being Evil and people buying from such a company.


I assume you aren't in the USA? Imagine if that slice was 45-50% of the market. It's pretty bad here.

While this is certainly true, computers and especially mobile ones need to allow consumers to run whatever software they want period. While in the US, it becomes a small inconvenience for us that companies like Netflix and Spotify are having their business sidelined by apple, Apples lock on phones becomes a human rights issue in places like Hong Kong, Russia and Saudi Arabia when Apple complies with local regulation. While consumers with money have the choice to leave iPhone and go with Android, we as a society need to push back on the idea that you as a consumer don’t have the final say of what software can and cannot be run on a device you own.

Plus long term, the technology industry would be healthier to push back against Big Tech keeping an iron grip on these platforms. In the last year that Apple has turned every default app on its phone into a $10 a month optional premium service. This marginal increase in service revenue will starve the news industry, compete unfairly against Netflix and HBO, eviscerate the remaining paid mobile game industry, and scare any fintech start up / vc playing anywhere near apples potential roadmap. And Apple isn’t even doing that good of a job at these new services - they just have the luxury of making the iPhone which is so good that it makes up for them doing everything else mediocrely


>While this is certainly true, computers and especially mobile ones need to allow consumers to run whatever software they want period.

GOOD LORD NO.

Apple's curation of the iOS environment is a FEATURE for me, not a bug. It leads to drastically increased stability and security, and means I don't have to sysadmin my telephone.

I'll fight whoever suggests this is a good model for the desktop, but on the phone it's EXACTLY what I want.

>While consumers with money have the choice to leave iPhone and go with Android

Uh, no. Android phones are generally CHEAPER, so why does it take "money" to leave iOS?


> Apple's curation of the iOS environment is a FEATURE for me, not a bug. It leads to drastically increased stability and security, and means I don't have to sysadmin my telephone.

That's fine. So why shouldn't it be possible to install apps on iOS via Google Play or Amazon, and if you trust only Apple you could just not use those?

> Uh, no. Android phones are generally CHEAPER, so why does it take "money" to leave iOS?

Because it's not just the price of the phone, it's the cost of transitioning to a different ecosystem, which can easily be more than the entire price of the phone.


It could be possible, but I see no reason to compel it. If you want other stores, use a different platform.

> If you want other stores, use a different platform.

But that's the problem. They're forcing you to choose both together when it should be an independent variable.

App developers also don't get to choose which phone their customers have already bought.


That isn't a problem, though. You're not entitled to dictate terms to the vendor here in any sense other than "I'll buy that" or "I won't buy that."

Computer developers don't get to choose which computer their customers have, either.

Seriously, I have no idea why people get so salty about this.


> You're not entitled to dictate terms to the vendor here in any sense other than "I'll buy that" or "I won't buy that."

Society, as a collective, does reserve that right through anti-trust laws.

> Computer developers don't get to choose which computer their customers have, either.

Both Microsoft, and Steam monopoly powers have been called into question previously. Microsoft was specifically required to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows.


Antitrust laws are applicable when one company controls an entire market.

As has been noted exhaustively, Apple is a MINORITY player in the smartphone market. Antitrust doesn't enter into it.

MSFT, OTOH, absolutely WAS in a monopolistic position when the browser wars were raging, and was found to have abused that monopoly power. Apple isn't even CLOSE to that level of dominance, unless you define the market as "people who use Apple devices," which is transparently risible.


Out of curiosity, do you own any consoles?

Apple has lied to us to make us believe that in order to have a secure device, we have to allow them to hand review every app that goes into the store. This is a false dichotomy.

We can have alternate App Stores run by other trusted/neutral entities or app side loading or certificates and tools like gatekeeper for iOS. We can have an App Store where Apple does not censor things that don’t meet its curation preferences (like nudity, vape/weed apps and previously crypto). I don’t even understand consumers who defend apples right to make these choices on our behalf

> I'll fight whoever suggests this is a good model for the desktop, but on the phone it's EXACTLY what I want.

This should apply to mobile too. Keep our phones secure, but give us the freedom to make our own choices


They haven't lied. They've said that this is HOW they're keeping the platform secure. Perhaps there are other ways, but this is the path they've chosen.

>We can have alternate App Stores run by other trusted/neutral entities or app side loading or certificates and tools like gatekeeper for iOS.

You could, if Apple wanted. Apple doesn't want to. If you want that, use another platform.

I'm 100% fine with the phone being curated by the vendor in this way, largely because I trust Apple and Apple's motivations here. (I wouldn't trust Google in a similar situation, since their revenue is dependent on advertising and monetizing data about their users.)


But you get to choose who to trust and who not to. If you dont trust "3rd party app store" then dont use it. The whole point of monopoly (or monopsoly) powers and why they are bad isnt because of now, its because of tomorrow. You buy a device, fully trusting apple. Its your device, you own it, you trust apple. Tomorrow, you find out that company-you-dont-trust is a partner with apple, and the entire app store is potentially compromised because of it (according to your values). You now have no option to change you are stuck. Forced into their system which you no longer want. They changed and you dont have another option.

But there IS another option, so your argument falls apart.

Which is what? Use a different phone? Thats not always an option except maybe to the priveledged

> and means I don't have to sysadmin my telephone.

This is exactly why I've stuck with Apple for my phone. I don't upgrade every year and all that nonsense, but I prefer their ecosystem for just that reason.

I don't want to use my phone that much that I would want to load all kinds of different software onto it, especially if it compromises the privacy and security in any way.

I even consider the limited software a feature in that way.

The simplicity is what I like about it.


"computers and especially mobile ones need to allow consumers to run whatever software they want period."

I should expect to be able to run Windows on my coffee maker?

That's a bit of an exaggeration of course, but I do not think this is an important "need".

It's Utopian garbage. A top down "simple solution" that is appealing on the surface but deeply flawed in the complex interconnected systems of reality.

You can already buy an Android device if you want more flexibility, and you can even get a developer account with Apple and make your own custom software if you really wanted. But telling everyone that they must have what you have decided is important is a garbage idea.


We can play this game for any appliance but we know that your mobile phone and laptop is uniquely special in this regard.

When Apple gets to decide everything that runs on your device, it’s bad for you in the long term. As an iOS developer who loves my phone, I’ve worked on teams that have dealt with complete bs that I shouldn’t divulge here, trying to get Apple to approve our app. we werent doing onerous data collection. we weren’t writing spam or malware. Just Apple’s bureaucratic and anti-competitive nonsense.

Apples should not have the decision about whether to allow or pull the Hong Kong protesting app. It’s too much power for a private company to make


The root of the problems with Apple's approvals (and I totally agree it's very messed up!) is in the top-down central management. The same kind of problems would inevitably arise from all top-down solutions like mandating all companies MUST act a certain way. I dont think we need more regulations, but LESS - and let markets decide.

> I should expect to be able to run Windows on my coffee maker?

Yes, of course. To satisfy your pedantry: You should be able to put whatever software you want on your personal property and expect the device to boot it rather than refusing because it isn't signed by the powers that be. It's about freedom, not omnipotence.

> That's a bit of an exaggeration of course, but I do not think this is an important "need".

You do not get to decide what's important to other people. If you don't want care about running custom software, just don't do it.

> You can already buy an Android device if you want more flexibility

If Apple's lock in tactics didn't work. Also it means you have to choose between the things that made you go with Apple to begin with and freedom – even though you could easily have both if not for Apple's artificial restrictions.


Apple made themselves an exclusive payment provider for all iOS in-app subscriptions and payments for digital products. Merely mentioning anywhere that cheaper payment options exist is an AppStore ToS violation.

I generally support Apple but this is inexcusable. Regulators need to come down hard on this kind of payment monopoly.

It makes perfect sense to me.

If I was a businessman running a store, I definitely would NOT allow anyone that wants to sell in my store any mentions that they could be found cheaper elsewhere or get a discount somehow that could reduce my cut.


Something odd about this argument is the fact that 30% is pretty much an industry standard. Apple isn't jacking up the price.

The argument here is that if you want to produce an app for iOS you have to provide it through the App Store and thus succumb to the 30% fee. The same applies if you're using Apples payment processing, which you actually have to use if you want to offer any in-app purchases on iOS. In addition Apple is the sole authority on what is and is not allowed on their storefront. If they deem your app is not acceptable, you have no alternative ways to distribute it to users. They can also kick you out if they think it's necessary, again leaving you with no alternatives.

Google does the same thing with Play Store. If you sell an app in Play Store, Google takes 30%. If you use Goolges payment processing, Google takes 30%. They can kick you out, not permit you in the store, etc. The difference is that a developer isn't forced to use the play Store or Googles payment processing.

You can distribute your APK in any way you want to and users can install any APK from any location they want to. You can absolutely sell your Android games on your own website and just provide an APK to a paying user and now you don't have to pay 30% out of every purchase. If you want to provide in-app purchases the user can provide their CC information and you're free to process the payment in any way you want to, again, circumventing Goolges cut.

This is the primary reason you can't get Fortnite from the play store, instead you have to download an install an APK. Epic also uses their own payment processing systems, so they don't need to pay anything to Google for IAPs. They can't do that on their iOS apps, meaning they're losing on some hefty profits simply because no alternative exists.

So it's not that Apple is jacking up the profits, rather you could say that you need to pay a hefty tax to provide your app to iOS users.


>This is the primary reason you can't get Fortnite from the play store, instead you have to download an install an APK. Epic also uses their own payment processing systems, so they don't need to pay anything to Google for IAPs.

One important point on this is that the Play Store does allow some apps distributed within it to do billing themselves [0], but not games, which is why Fortnite is distributed outside the Play store.

There are some other rules, but if you're building a cross-platform app, you should know that many Play Store distributed apps can do billing themselves on the grounds that they have "digital content that may be consumed outside of the app itself".

Spotify and Netflix do their own billing on Android, as opposed to iOS, where the Netflix app has a button to call a phone number that plays a voice recording telling you to go to netflix.com (web links to sign-up pages aren't allowed).

[0] https://play.google.com/about/monetization-ads/


I thought Apple was the originator of the 30% cut for app stores, and everybody else followed suit?

Yes, this is true.

People forget that there were phones before the iPhone decided all phones would be rectangles with touchscreens.

Those phones ran apps and games, and you downloaded them from app stores... there was in fact a cambrian explosion of app stores, when you made software you had to publish it to hundreds of them.

I can't remember the %, but it seems unlikely, in the fact of all that competition that it was as high as 30%.


> I can't remember the %, but it seems unlikely, in the fact of all that competition that it was as high as 30%.

Many of the J2ME etc app stores prior to Apple were run by network carriers, and their cuts were considerably higher than 30% - upwards of 50%, even more for things like direct carrier billing (the app would be charged to your phone bill).


Wouldn't Palm, Windows CE and Newton be a better analogue than dumbphones? The original iPhone had more in common with PDAs and the first wave of smartphones (Nokia N800 et al) than with little Motorola flip phones.

“dumbphones” had very useful and prolific apps with integrated carrier billing depending on the country.

Motorola phones might have been truely “dumb”, that wasn’t true for a Casio or a Panasonic phone for instance.


There were not really any public app stores like the Apple one. And cuts were, in general, much higher. Apple's app store took off so well because it offered a much better deal than the competition.

"App stores" were run by telcos back then. Usually a storefront selling J2ME apps via WAP and charging money to your phone bill. To be fair the most popular content was ringtones (of the MIDI type).

I think the BREW ecosystem had some solution to set up a store of this kind that they used to supply to carriers?


I have to give credit to Apple for taking power away from the telcos. They wanted to nickel and dime you for every app and feature. Getting even a dumb feature phone out the door required months of certification and the OS might get an update once in the device lifetime if at all.

Sometimes it takes an 800 lb gorilla (with fresh iPod $$$$$) to take on the other 800 lb gorillas, even if it mostly meant we spent the first 8 years or so paying ridiculous 2-year contracts for "subsidized" $700 phones.


>OS might get an update once in the device lifetime if at all.

And some how the lifetime of those phones were much longer than the iPhones, until they had to stop forcing updates which degraded performance.


Apple's updates often improve performance, and very rarely degrade it.

I can only speak for Japan, but all three major carriers here had app stores years before the iPhone launched.

(Apple's may have been the first store operated by a hardware maker rather than a carrier though.)


Yes, carriers had app stores, that were not generally open to anyone, and that took a much bigger cut than Apple.

> that were not generally open to anyone

Apple's store isn't open to anyone.

> and that took a much bigger cut than Apple.

AFAIK Docomo (largest carrier in Japan) took 9%. Are you sure you know what you're talking about here?


I don't see a reasonable definition by which the Apple app store is not open to anyone to publish in.

It's open to anyone Apple certifies, and not to anyone else. How is that different from Docomo's model 5-6 years earlier?

This is just wrong. Nokia had the Ovi store launched at around the same time as Apple’s App Store. Palm OS also had its own if I remember correctly.

"Around the same time" means it wasn't around before, no?

Sure there were in Europe.

I had plenty of J2ME and Symbian apps before iOS was even born.


You didn't get them from an app store open to the public like the Apple one, though, and neither did their developer get to keep a full 70% of the price.

How come it wasn't open to the public?

Send SMS, get download link, done.

Use the Web store from the phone provider, done.


Open for publishing, not buying.

Easy, one just had to have a business and apply to it.

They even had contests for apps. I did apply to one at Vodafone when the Sharp GX20 was released, to show off the device capabilities.

https://www.gamedev.net/forums/topic/166989-vodafone-javatm-...

> Vodafone is pleased to annouce the Vodafone Java(tm) Games Challenge 2003 - a competition for J2ME games developers. The top three winners will receive: - A Sharp-GX20 - The new Vodafone live! handset with QVGA screen resolution - A commercial contract with Vodafone to deploy the winning games onto Vodafone live! in several countries Vodafone live! currently attracts 1.5 million customers across 13 countries. Register at www.via.vodafone.com and submit your games by August, 1st !

And while they had lots of trash, the gatekeeping kept it lower than current store offerings full of copy-cats.


Apple's App Store didn't really have competition. The iPhone was pretty much an entirely new class of smartphone. The sheer volume of users compared to early smartphones meant you could sell an app for $1.99 and make loads of money, compared to Palm/WinMo apps that were more like $10+.

It took off because it was a good experience (one stop shopping) and because of the popularity of the iPhone. And of course it doesn't hurt that it was the only App Store for iOS.


In Europe your phone providers were also one stop shopping.

Yes, it used to be much higher before Apple.

What are you referring to exactly?

The carrier-run app stores that existed before Apple's. They charged much more than 30%, and were much harder to deal with.

Presumably Nintendo, etc

Nintendo doesn't take >30%

Game stores (e.g. consoles) always took at least 30%. Someone else already said they think Valve took (takes?) 30%. Carriers probably took more.

I think Valve takes a 30% cut on Steam and Steam predates the iOS App Store.

Industry standard compared to what? Certainly not credit card processing, which typically runs 3% to 5%. If you're referring to Google Play, well they just copied Apple. And at least on Android you can side-load.

Sony. Microsoft. Steam. Nintendo. Many physical retailers.

> If you're referring to Google Play, well they just copied Apple. And at least on Android you can side-load.

It's ironic how some people seem to like saying "well they just copied Apple" and expect Google to be absolved of the actions they think are bad, but for everything else they would vehemently deny Google copying Apple.


I think the 30% is a rough industry standard in most Retail sectors. Apple was basically pricing the App Store like an Online Retail store.

Yes, it was a reasonable take way back. But technology moved on and is fact that most of the technology advances accrued with Apple and not with consumers or developers. And this power position is locked by technical and legal means thus there is no possibility for others to wade in.

The issue is that Apple is not allowing cheaper app stores even in theory. Android does.

There is more going on besides price. The review process is also completely arbitrary. I don't like the whole thing that the only place to get apps is the app store. I will never buy any apple device as long as that is in place.

That’s exactly what keeps me buying Apple for my family and I. I credit their locked down App Store with saving me from spending hundreds of hours of my time dealing with malware over the last 10 years.

I've used android phones for a decade now and never once been affected by malware. If the issue is kids installing shady apps, you should probably use a parental lock for that.

The issue is people clicking on every link that comes their way via email or whatsapp.

And since I can’t stop them from clicking them, my only solution is to have them use iOS devices.


I don't see it mentioned (at all), but my hypothesis for 30% is that it is because of money laundering. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to provide gift cards, would have to limit spending per app, cap all the prices, monitor whale spenders, etc. Easiest just to make it unprofitable.

Considering that:

* iTunes gift cards regularly go on sale for 60-70% of its value on third party markets, and * 30% is a reasonable, to cheap, price to pay for money laundering,

I think your theory is unfounded.


Where did you get the "30%"? Last time I researched, it was much less than that. Even at casual glance now, highest figures seem to be at most 15%.

https://www.piie.com/publications/chapters_preview/381/3iie3...

Gift cards would be the least efficient method here for large amounts, so I guess it would not surprise me it's not used there. No one's gonna go hunting small amounts of gift cards on discount on ebay to launder tens of millions of dollars. But who knows...


30% is a pretty small price to pay for money laundering.

Next up: Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony's game consoles?

And that would be a good thing. Why would anyone argue to have less control over the hardware they purchased?

Because there was the very real threat of piracy and poor quality control destroying the console industry. The crash of 1983 and the Dreamcast are the industry poster boys of why open consoles are a bad thing™.

As the only buyer of goods sold to me, and the only seller of goods sold by me, I suppose I'm running a monopsony and then some. May as well add me to the list.

On a serious note: would a judgement in this case have immediate impact on other companies, or would it set a precedent? Also, what are the proposed damages? How is Apple supposed to repair the situation?

Honestly, this feels entirely arbitrary (Apple is far from the only one that leverages their position as digital goods market makers). I'm not saying conspiracy or anything, but I wonder if this is related to the POTUS's vendetta against AAPL.


> As the only buyer of goods sold to me

Eh, it doesn't work like that, if I spent a lot of time coding an iOS app, but Apple rejects it, that's my investment gone. Of course I can learn Android development, but I still spent a lot of time learning about iOS without any benefit.

Meanwhile, someone sold you a burger, if you didn't buy it, it doesn't mean someone else couldn't buy it...


It's not arbitrary, the appstore is a de-facto monopsony, the ordinary user doesn't install apps from anywhere.

Most Android phones come with an alternate appstore installed (e.g. Samsung come with their own one as well as google play) and you can easily install others.

To install alternates on the iPhone you have to root it.


That applies to game consoles too, since the 1980s.

In the 80s, the game console makers did not operate the store where you were buying games. Even, you could buy second-hand games without Atari or Nintendo receiving any part of the fee!

Even back in the 80s, the console makers “controlled distribution”. Nintendo forced third parties to use their manufacturing facilities and they all force third parties to distribute their haves with a license key.

Console makers have always forced third parties to pay a fee to distribute their games.


Yes, and for distribution, that's fine.

The ruling is less about Apple forcing consumers to buy only through the AppStore, and more about only allowing sellers to sell through the AppStore.

If I make a PS4 game, or a Nintendo Switch game, I can sell it on the PSN store and/or Nintendo e-Shop, sure, but I can also produce a physical copy that I can obtain outside of the store, and that is definitely not the case for Apple software developers.

Apple software developers MUST go through the AppStore and they MUST pay that fee, no matter what.

It is that specific lack of competition; the lack of other places to sell your iOS applications, that the USSC judged against, by my reading.


What’s the practical difference? The console makers still control physical distribution by forcing third parties to obtain a key, they have to approve all software that goes on their console, and they get a cut of each game sold.

Today, almost all games have an online component - that only work on console controlled networks.


> If I make a PS4 game, or a Nintendo Switch game, I can sell it on the PSN store and/or Nintendo e-Shop, sure, but I can also produce a physical copy that I can obtain outside of the store, and that is definitely not the case for Apple software developers.

> Apple software developers MUST go through the AppStore and they MUST pay that fee, no matter what.

I think you also need to pay a fee to publish any PS4 or Switch game that would run on untampered consoles.


I think that is a different to business model. Game consoles are sold at break even or loss leader. That is why EPIC wasn't against the 30% cut from Games on Consoles.

Although it is likely Apple has started to "subsidise" some of its iPhone margin in 2019 with its Services Revenue. And likely continue to do so in 2020 and onwards.


Business model is different but the situation from the consumer and developper point of view is the same.

There was a good interview in the vergecast with a lawyer preparing the case against Apple. The answer to “is it a different case for console ?” was more in the vain of “let’s do this case first”.


While their consoles still support physical media they aren't monopsonies. A monopsony is a single buyer. As a game developer you have the choice to sell on the xbox store or get physical discs printed and sell them either through a retailer e.g. amazon, or directly from your own site if you wanted.

If/when they produce a generation of consoles that don't support physical media things will probably start to get a lot more questionable


You must have Microsoft's approval and pay them a cut before your software will work on their console, physical disk or not.

Exactly as is the case with iOS, Nintendo, or PlayStation.


But in the case of Microsoft, Nintendo and PlayStation those aren't (necessarily) the only costs of selling. If I choose to, I might decide to exclusively distribute through Amazon, who will take their own cut of the sale price (or cost price depending on the arrangement). Or I might decide to distribute through Walmart as well at a different cost to me. In all cases I have to pay Microsoft(or Nintendo or Sony) but I get to decide, overall that I make more money selling it on Amazon and paying them than selling it myself.

What this boils down to is, what my options are when selling my game. On Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation I have choice over how I sell my game and can choose different avenues that have different pros and cons (More sales with Amazon, but less profit per copy sold vs. More profit per copy, but less sales when sold direct). With iOS you don't have that choice, hence they are a single buyer.


Yup.

The key point I presume is the definition of "market" here; and I'm not convinced the market "software that runs on iOS" is so large that monopwhatever can be declared there and used to justify price control.

Though as a thought experiment Apple is like a wealthy landed gentleman who sets up a well maintained outdoor market for the tradesmen to bring goods and the lower classes to buy them. If Apple owns so much land they are the only ones capable of setting up a large enough market, maybe we should regulate that gentleman's fees to the tradesmen? By virtue of people's need to be fashionable and the enormous cost to develop a smartphone and OS, Apple effectively controls enough "land" to warrant regulation. I don't know...

Finally, this rationale also it seems causes a dilemma with B2B relationships. What if your market is quite specialized? Are you a "monopsony"?


I don't think we need to divide the market into specialized segments (iOS devices, luxury smartphone, etc) to make the case against Apple. They have somewhere around 50% of the global market in terms of smartphone revenue (not devices shipped).

For the App Store, which is what matters to developers, revenue was around $25 billion in the first half of 2019, vs $14 billion for Google Play Store.

It's not literally mono- but as the article notes, just having a significant share of the market (I would say 30% would be enough) allows companies to dictate prices, and iOS has more like 2/3rds of the revenue.

That's not even getting into all the restrictions that Apple puts on third-party developers, including categories of apps that you can't even make if you wanted to -- unless you're willing to sit out half the market, and assuming that Google doesn't do the same thing. As a software guy, I consider that a bigger deal than the % cut (which is not entirely unreasonable given how much of that goes to credit card fees for low-dollar-amount transactions)


The use of monopoly as the primary measure of whether market abuse is happening or not is a flawed presupposition to begin with. There are only two mobile phone platforms, which are easily more dominant general computing platforms than desktop operating systems, and the proprietors of both routinely use their influential positions in various ways to manipulate secondary markets that depend on them. This is no different than Standard Oil and the railroads.

Quite simply, if the legal tools don't exist to deal with this abuse, they need to be created...just like the Sherman Antitrust Act.


> They have somewhere around 50% of the global market in terms of smartphone revenue (not devices shipped).

On a monopoly/monopsony theory, devices shipped is the relevant metric, and revenue isn't.


Are you sure? I was looking for this and everything mentioned market share but it didn't specify unit vs revenue market share.

This has been well documented for years, the average iOS app earns nearly a multiple of close to 10 what other mobile platforms earn. Their share of revenue from apps is massive compared to their market share of devices.

Whether the market is 60:35 is favor of Apple or 60:35 in favor of Google, either way there's no real competition in the market. It's two local monopolies milking their captive audiences for everything they're worth.

The relevant metric is the ability to move the market. The % don't directly matter.

for me the relevant metric is they have the 100% of ios devices market, at least on Android you have several app stores. That is a problem for me, but one that I can't foresee a solution in the future.

"Reasonable" would be to charge a fixed transaction fee plus a percentage that doesn't scream "dysfunctional market!".

Microsoft takes 5% for selling apps in the Windows store. That may be a bit desperate given that these stores aren't just payment services but act as merchants of record, taking care of international taxes, billing and running an actual store.

I wouldn't complain for a second if store fees were in the neighbourhood of 10% plus transaction fee.

But charging 30% irrespective of price is not reasonable by any reasonable definition of reasonable.


It made sense in the early days when apps were $0.99 and credit cards charged approx $0.19 + 3% per transaction (Apple likely gets better rates, but just as an approximation).

There's still a lot of apps that fall in that range, but I'd agree with you that it's completely unfair for subscriptions and more expensive apps.

Steam is probably also overcharging with their 30% cut (once upon a time that was an amazing deal compared to boxed retail) and most games are $30+ so it's a pretty hefty chunk of change. I don't necessarily agree with the exclusivity tactics taken by Epic or EA/Ubisoft but having more diverse options for buying PC games is a good thing.


Steam's store page promotions provides up to 80% of the revenue for indie games. 30% is a steal for what they offer. Discord nitro offered a selection of games along with its premium subscription. People would take the subscription for the chat features and very few if any played the games offered with it, to the point where discord just cut the games out. Nobody cared.

I've spoken to a few silicon valley guys who believe steam will be disrupted, but I just don't see it at all. Epic has a chance because of fortnite users. Steam was built on hl2, epic on fortnite. Features and cut %s aren't the deciding factor.


The non-standard features like Steam multiplayer and mods Workshop that lock out non-Steam users pretty much forever are IMHO even worse than the 1-year exclusivity (as long as it's not retroactive).

Steam multiplayer? You mean the friends list? Steam doesn't provide hosted mp servers for games. Mods are made by community members that can be released anywhere. Workshop is just a distribution channel.

Battle.net and origin are lock in services. Nothing about them is open to the public or accessible. Steam is pretty open and reasonably successful at it.


Mods can be released anywhere, but in practice, usually aren't ! Steam might not provide hosted MP servers for non-Valve games (are you sure it doesn't ?), but we've even seen older games having Internet multiplayer removed to the exclusivity of Steam's own "VPN" : Dawn of War 1, Civilization 4 (for which they also managed to break most mods for no seemingly valid reason)...

In practice mods are definitely released outside of Steam Workshop. I don't think I've ever used Steam Workshop for a Skyrim mod for example.

Skyrim had mods before Workshop even existed. Things are very different for games released with Workshop support.

In my experience they aren't different at all. Steam Workshop is just a distribution platform for mods. It's a mod installer and manager. It doesn't stop you doing it manually.

Steam doesn't host multiplayer servers, but it does offer services for match making, lobbies, voice chat and P2P networking (including the use of Valve's network as a relay).

https://partner.steamgames.com/doc/features/multiplayer


Also, Battle.net is in a somewhat different category, as, as far as I know, is only used for Activision-BLizzard games ? (No possible monopsony issues when it's the same company !)

"Reasonable" is defined by the market. But since they are a monopsony...

Under traditional antitrust regulation, a monopoly is one that has "undue market control." The key terms here are "undue", "market", and "control", which will all be subject to tons of lawyers making a bunch of arguments.

Your point is about the "market": if the market is iOS devices, then there is no question Apple has "control". If "market" is smartphone apps, the argument gets shakier.

Antitrust violations are notoriously difficult to prove in court. Even if Apple were to lose in some iOS app antitrust case, the prospect that it leads to general B2B applications is quite negligible.


The market is too small? Let's try comparing it to a more "conventional" market, like cable TV.

Total iOS app store revenue is somewhere within the neighborhood of $50-100 billion per year. That puts it roughly on par with the US's cable television industry.

There are about 100 million people using iPhones in the US alone. That's about twice the number of cable TV households in the US.

So, it seems like the market for iOS apps is similar to the market for cable TV, and there's also less competition, as I may have other options for getting TV shows, but I don't have any other options for getting apps onto my iPhone.


But you had other smartphone options, and you chose to buy Apple's solution. In making that choice, you were not just buying a piece of general-purpose hand-held computing hardware, you were buying into to a specific, explicitly-curated ecosystem of software and services. Apple's gatekeeping role here was a significant part of the iPhone's value proposition. If that's not what you want, or if you think it is overpriced, why would you choose to buy it? Other devices are available.

(As someone who doesn't use either an iPhone or an Android phone, I don't really have a dog in this fight. Just an observer trying to see various points of view.)


Yeah, I don't care about Apple. You know very well what you are getting into if you buy their products or make these mobile apps. I do care about Google's bait-and-switch where running a "Google-free" Android is starting to be very problematic, a lot of apps just not being provided outside of Google Play, and/or not working without Google Services anymore...

> and I'm not convinced the market "software that runs on iOS" is so large that monopwhatever can be declared there and used to justify price control.

The size of the market is not relevant here. The real question is whether customers have viable alternatives or not. If not, then you're in a "monopwhatever" situation. We don't yet know if DoJ thinks iOS users have alternatives or not though.


Large by what measure? Size of the market in dollar amount? % of market?

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: