Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Apple Facing Antitrust Scrutiny

According to recent reports Belgian officials have begun investigating Apple over what officials believe may be "an abuse of market power" following complaints over Apple’s terms for selling iPad newspaper and magazine subscriptions via iTunes only.

Vincent Van Quickenborne, the Belgian economy minister, urged Belgian antitrust authorities to investigate possible abuses of Apple's dominant position and tying software and subscriptions to iTunes and the App Store on the iPad and other iOS devices.

The Belgian minister suspects that Apple is abusing its dominant position on the tablet computer market by selling exclusive newspaper subscriptions from its online shop iTunes. "If newspapers will no longer be able to sell their subscriptions with their own channels, but only by using iTunes, this will look like an abuse of a dominant position," Van Quickenborne said.

At the heart of the issues is Apple’s demand that iPad versions of Belgian and Dutch newspapers and magazines only be sold via iTunes or throug apps downloaed via the App Store. Apple is then charging the publishing companies a fee of 30 percent of the subscription price. Several publishers including NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch publisher owned by Reed Elsevier NV, have raised concerns and voiced their opposition to the stringent regulations

According to reports via the Belgian ministry for economic affairs may not stop at probing just the iTunes regulations. The ministry may investigate the lack of interoperability of the iPad with competitors' products namely the tying of software such as Apple's Safari web browser and the lack of foreseeable competition from other browsers such as FireFox.

Its about time!!

Readers of Geek News know that I've always been critical of Apple and the tight control in which the exhibit over not only their device but their software and more specifically the control they exhibit over the App store. Several times I've voiced my opinion to the tune of calling Apple's tight fisted policies nothing short of anti-competitive and antitrust in nature.

Microsoft for years has faced antitrust lawsuits, fines and extraordinary pressure from the US and the European Union for tying Internet Explorer into Windows and "undermining competitors such as Mozilla's Firefox or Apple's Safari."

Unlike Apple, Microsoft had never disallowed other browsers to operate through Windows, but the fact that it offered immediate access to Internet Explorer on the computer's desktop was deemed to be a breach of competition rules. MS has since faced similar scrutiny over tying Windows Media player as well as other MS software into Windows yet Apple has been able to exhibit total control over the software allowed and disallowed on iOS devices.

The iPad and other iOS related Apple products have gone far beyond the limits crossed by Microsoft. Apple's iOS does not allow any browser (or any other software) that Apple does not want to run on its platform. In fact outside of Safari Opera Mini is the only other browser that is currently available. So while Microsoft only favored Internet Explorer and other software over their competitors, Apple does not give competitors a chance.

Add to that the fact that Apple forces developers to pay for inclusion into the App Store, the arbitrary approach the company has to denial into the store and the fact that they have knowing and willing removed apps that provide "duplicate functionality" I think its about time someone has stepped up. These policies are the pure definition of anti-competitive.

Check your 'Apple is not a monopoly' arguments at the door!

Every Apple fanboy I've discussed the issue with has made the same ridiculous argument. Apple is not a monopoly therefore they can't be acting in an antitrust, anti-competitive nature. Well I hate to say it but Apple by means of its astonishing success has become that antitrust giant that they so loved to bash in the past. The company by means of its success has become it's own market and Apple clearly holds a dominate position in the 'Apple Market'.

Apple sold 4.13 million Macs during the last quarter, 16.24 million iPhones, 19.45 million iPods and 7.33 million iPads. Recently the App Store crossed the 10 billion apps downloaded mark and the company touts usage by more than 160 million iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users worldwide.

Apple can no longer be considered the under dog or the little guy out there struggling to stay alive. Apple and Apple devices may not as a singular market (smartphones, computers, MP3 players ect) hold the lions share but their is no denying that taken as a whole they have a fairly large position and Apple holds a tight monopoly on that position. No other company has been allowed to participate in the anti-competitive practices Apple has. So I say again its about time we see someone taking a closer look at their policies!

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