Monday, September 13, 2021

Why Apple Should Compromise With Antitrust Regulators

Roger McNamee:

Recent news reports alleging mistreatment of some employees, internal policies that conflict with the company’s outward-facing stance on privacy, and efforts to prevent the passage of state laws to enable competition with the AppStore, along with a high profile lawsuit related to AppStore policies have tarnished Apple’s reputation. Despite this, the company has taken a stance towards Congress and regulators that the latter describe as ranging from arrogant to inflexible.

Unless Apple rethinks its approach, regulators will likely have no choice but to undermine its advantage in privacy and security. As a customer, that will piss me off. As an activist trying to reform the tech industry, it will leave me wondering what might have been. I would like to suggest a path to a better outcome.


It is a strategic error for Apple’s lobbyists and surrogates in Washington to argue against every new antitrust law targeting the tech industry. Apple has made itself a target by being incredibly successful and by adopting communications strategies that mimic tech giants whose anticompetitive behavior is substantially more damaging. Apple is almost certain to lose something, but there is still room to protect your most valuable assets. There may also be an opportunity to gain competitive advantage.

Via Nick Heer:

If there is some ambiguity as to what rules the permanent injunction permits Apple to create around in-app purchases, my hope is that the company uses this as an opportunity to ease off a little. I am not saying that I expect this to happen — today’s judgement indicates that Apple has little reason to stop pursuing its existing App Store strategy, with only the aforementioned exception. But a world in which Apple is not in an antagonistic role with developers is a better one for everyone, assuming that Apple can maintain or improve upon iOS’ privacy and security reputation. These fights are just noise.

M.G. Siegler (Hacker News):

My read is that Apple did win — exactly what everyone always knew they would win. But in winning that battle, they actually lost something far more important. There is no way around it: the judge’s order to stop App Store anti-steering is a big one. And seemingly one Apple did see coming given the Japanese settlement a few weeks back. But this is still a major blow because it both continues and accelerates the boulder rolling down the hill of real reforms to the App Store.

Apple may think that they’re doing enough in a piecemeal fashion to stave off major change, but they’re not. If anything, they need to make a major change to stanch the bleeding. But they won’t do that. They’re both too proud and too arrogant. They’re so sure that they’re in the right here that they don’t see that it actually doesn’t matter.


They should open things up to win these arguments on the product side of the equation — something which they’re uniquely situated to do thanks to about two dozen aspects of the iPhone. They should compete on the playing field in which they already have home field advantage.


Update (2021-09-16): Michael Love:

At some point either Apple will allow sideloading or Safari will (foot-draggingly) reach a threshold where large numbers of apps start going web-only; I think option a is much healthier for iOS than option b, but absent legislative intervention the latter seems more likely.


Update (2021-10-20): Jean-Louis Gassée:

Rather than proactively, preventatively combatting these criticisms, Cook has let his company fall into a defensive posture that has led to significant PR damage and potential legal, regulatory, and financial impact. Was the App Store windfall so unexpected it blinded company execs and their chief?

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