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Apple App Store monopoly case a tent peg in the sand Featured

Ask any tech industry analyst where the sector’s growth is going to come from over the next five years and the answer will almost certainly be services. This is precisely why the current anti-trust court case against Apple and its App Store hegemony is important to both Apple and its iPhone user opponents.

Over the past decade, Apple has figuratively been allowed to get away with murder by both regulators and an ever-forgiving customer base. The company has continually expanded the boundaries of unethical business practices in its never-ending quest for growth in revenues and profits aided in  no small part by customer lock-in.

Whereas once upon a time if you spent your hard-earned cash on an Apple computer you could quite rightly say that the machine is yours to do with as you please, that is no longer the case. As far as Apple is concerned, it has the right to exert its control over your property by modifying its hardware and firmware in order to prevent you from doing your own maintenance and repairs.

The same holds true for the iPhone range. From day one, iPhone users were forced to jailbreak their own devices in order to customise them for their own use. Under Apple’s terms this automatically voided the warranty and quite often resulted in the device being deliberately rendered inoperable – bricked.

With regard to the ongoing litigation by users against Apple’s App Store monopoly, the issue in not about price gouging by Apple, although the media appears to be presenting it as such. The 30% cut taken by Apple for each downloaded app is no different to that of the Google Play Store.

The real issue is Apple’s platform monopoly.

On an Android device, you can have multiple app stores and you can load any compatible app without restriction. Samsung phones, for instance, come pre-installed with both the Google Play Store and the Samsung Galaxy App Store.

By contrast, on an iPhone, the only apps allowed are those purchased through the iPhone App Store. If users want to load an app not to be found in the company store, they must jailbreak their device and thus void the warranty.

This type of monopolistic practice has been a trademark of Apple from its early days, but in recent times the severity has increased. Apple has now hamstrung its user base to the point where they can neither easily move to an alternative supplier nor even economically service their own devices, whether through Apple or a third party.

In days gone by, Apple Mac computers, like PCs, were relatively easy to service and expand using, in many instances, third-party products. Today, Mac computers are non-expandable, non-repairable and deliberately planned to be obsolete well within their usable life span.

The same holds true for the iPhone. If you find that your device has run out of storage, forget about adding more via a micro SD card. Instead, Apple will advise you to upgrade to a newer model or bolster the company’s growing services annuity revenue and buy some storage on iCloud.

Unfortunately, users who wish to move off the Apple platform discover very quickly that Apple’s so-called “walled garden” is really more like a prison. Apple deliberately puts your data into a proprietary format tightly locked to its own platform, making it very difficult to port elsewhere.

iPhone users wishing to move to an Android device often find it exceedingly difficult to transfer photos, messaging chat histories, music and even contacts, because Apple has deliberately made it hard.

The iPhone App Store court case initiated by Apple users is really just a tent peg in the sand, which is why it is important.

There are growing numbers of longstanding Apple users searching for second-hand MacBooks and iPhones and ways to repair their existing devices, rather than be forced into buying new devices that need dongles and wireless headphones and chargers and which can’t be serviced.

And with Apple charging like a wounded bull these days, one could not blame these users for advising their children not to make the same mistake they did, and keep well clear of Apple.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

 

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