Friday, March 17, 2006

Apple: The New Microsoft. No, Really.

So there's a computer company that's managed to build an incredibly successful product line, but has used the success of that same product to try and monopolize the delivery of content over the internet.

Quick question: Am I talking about MSFT and Internet Explorer, or Apple and iTunes?

Answer: Both. Steve Jobs is attempting to build a monopoly on content delivery on the back of the near-monopoly Apple already has on portable media players. iPods are built to not work with any other music service, which has pissed off Sony and other music companies to no end. It's as if GE built TVs that could only receive NBC content.

Not to put too fine a point on it, if Apple got it's way we could end up with a more closed, consumer-hostile media system than we've ever had before. If we're being honest, we should be willing to say that Jobs is playing exactly the same game the Gates tried to. But for some reasons, iPods are cuter or something.

Apple has gotten away with this kind of practice largely by virtue of not being Microsoft. Except in France, apparently. The French government is introducing legislation to force Apple to open the iPod to non-iTunes music services. Here's one example of the French being way ahead of us in tech regulation. So I say way to go Paris.


Anonymous said...

The big difference is that Apple isn't trying to deliberately sabotage other companies like Microsoft did.

al said...

Umm, the iPod works with many onlinemusic services, those being the ones that sell their music in mp3 format, a good example (and one that I recommend) is eMusic. The ones it doesn't work with are the Microsoft-allied services that use Microsoft's proprietary WMA format for their songs.

Keep looking, though, you may find something. Just not here.

Also, Apple doesn't have a monopoly on the player market in remotely the same way as Microsoft has a monopoly in the software market, with regards to barriers to entry for competitors. With Windows there were many barriers for a ocmpetitor to overcome, but any two-bit Korean electronics company can start making portable mp3 players and sell them along side iPods. Not remotely the same situation. There's more to a monopoly than just selling the most widgets in a given year.

john said...

Al: Why should Apple ban ANY online music store, even if they do use Microsoft. After all, fairplay (Apple's DRM) is proprietary, so they don't really have any high ground on this. It's blatantly anti-competitive behaviour. If the roles were reversed (with Sony locking out Apple users) we'd be screaming bloody murder.

And I think you're unfairly downplaying the power that Apple has in the portable music player market, considering not a single company, aside from Apple, has double-digit market penetration. The nearest competitors are Sony and Creative, and neither has more than 10% in MP3 players. Apple, meanwhile, is more than 80%.

In this one area, Apple is the 800lb gorilla. When they behave like Sony or Microsoft we should call them on it. How is this at all controversial?