I’m Not Convinced Apple Domination Is a Good Idea

by James R. Stoup Mar 17, 2008

So, apparently the iPhone is a big deal. Yeah, who knew? And Apple hasn’t calmed things down by releasing an SDK for the iPhone either. In fact, it seems like Apple has been in the press a bit more than usual lately. That’s great, I have no problem with that.

And pundits have been saying all types of crazy things about the iPhone. Words like “revolutionary,” “absolutely amazing,” “game changing,” and “I sold a kidney for this thing” have been bandied about. I also don’t have a problem with any of this.

In fact, the consensus seems to be that the iPhone will positively impact cellphone design (if you could call it design) for years to come in virtually every level of every market. Great. Woo-waa. I’m loving it (to steal a phrase from McDonalds).

And then someone had to go and make the claim that Apple (via the iPhone) is going to dominate this next era of computing. And that is when I started having a problem.

When I first read that I immediately had two questions. One, will Apple really dominate the next era? And two, will it be a good thing? I have a feeling the answer to my first question is going to be yes. Simply because Apple is just too good to beat for the indefinite future. And it isn’t just the iPhone, it is the entire ecosystem they are creating of which the iPhone is merely a piece. An expensive, beautiful, and highly lucrative piece, but a piece nonetheless. And so Apple’s competitors aren’t going to be able to beat them by designing a better phone. They are going to have to try and take on the entire system that Apple has designed and that is going to prove to be an almost impossible task. The only company out there who even has a chance of competing with Apple in all areas is Microsoft. But they are so unbelievably inept they will offer no real challenges in the years to come.

So, if we assume that Apple is indeed going to be top dog for the next decade or so, the next question of course is “is this a good thing?” Well, relative to what, you might say. If we are going to compare the years of Apple’s domination with that of Microsoft, then yes it will probably be a good thing. But that one was kind of a no brainer, because at this point in time I think it’s hard to find anyone, even the most die hard MS fan, who will agree that Microsoft’s years as a monopoly greatly benefited your average consumer. So perhaps that isn’t a fair question.

A more valid comparison would be to look at the past ten years of the cell phone industry, then look at the past 6 months of the iPhone industry, and ask which system seems better. Once again, I think Apple would come out ahead because the iPhone is just such a compelling product and the experience is so much better than anything currently out there. But even taking that into account, and even if Apple runs a benevolent monopoly, in the long run the consumers are going to suffer.

Now, they are probably going to suffer with sleek, easy-to-use devices that are a joy to use…but they will also slowly get locked into the world that Apple is creating. And Apple has shown time and again that they will gladly give up user control in favor of doing things the way they feel they should be done. Will this mean that things will degenerate into the worst days of Microsoft’s rule? No, probably not. But no monopoly, regardless of how initially benevolent it starts off as, is ever anything but a nightmare for consumers. And while I do love Apple and all the products they make, I’m really hoping that they get some competition soon. It seems unlikely, but I sure hope it happens. I have no desire to for any company to completely control this next era, even a company as well loved as Apple.


  • Amen to that Brother…

    I have spent 20 years supporting Apple - pushing the Mac to the poor benighted souls of the Windows Hedgemony. Even in the dark days I kept the faith - and then things started to get better - Steve came back and the iMac was released and then X and the rest as they say is history

    But much as I am loving the rise and rise of Apple and X and Mac - would I want Apple to “dominate” the next ten years? No way - monopolies are like dictatorships - ultimately they turn bad (even if they start out with high ideals… power corrupts and all that

    Anyway no competition makes corporations fat and lazy and fall to the “good enough” malaise - I would like to see MS brought down a few pegs, I would like to see Apple taking a decent slice of the market, I would like to see Linux become a mainstream player too… but I don’t really want anyone to “dominate” - maybe that can’t be - perhaps the market does abhor a vaccuum and someone has to “dominate” - but the automobile market and the cell phone market and the PC hardware market tend to tell me otherwise.

    Yes, we get a bit of a tingle when we read “Apple will rule the next decade” - a certain amount of pent up “validation” and even desire for revenge in there I think - but after the “Ha! Take that you who called us all fools” the reality is we don’t want Apple to rule the world - lead the world maybe, show the way definitely but not actually be the only game in town. Apple got to be Apple by having to be better than “good enough” to stay alive.

    It is nice not to be living on the edge of extinction every day anymore - but let’s have enough challenge in the game to make it worth competing…

    Serenak had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 26
  • This is one of the side effects of the decrepit school system; the misunderstanding of plain English. Monopoly means “one supplier”. AT&T;was once a monopoly, and so was Standard Oil. Apple isn’t now and never will be a monopoly.

    They are the best, however, and apparently the larger public is getting that now. Free markets means the customer can choose what he wants. Anyone who doesn’t like Apple’s success is free to build something better.

    Jim Stead had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 10
  • Despite their success with the iPod, I doubt that Apple will ever dominate the market for smart phones, personal computers, and especially business computers.  While they certainly stand to gain significantly in all three areas, market-share increases will stall at a point well shy of monopoly.

    Apple tends to limit features and configurations to those most commonly needed, and caters to upscale customers willing to pay for ease of use and elegance.  Apple can’t be all things to all people, nor should they try.

    There will always be customers who want complete flexibility, or have needs that Apple refuses to address.  Some people will always resist a solution that relies on a single hardware supplier.  Others are attracted to the cheapest cost products even if they have to add their own labor and expertise to get them working satisfactorily.  And there is much inertia, as people tend to keep using the technology they are most familiar with regardless of the potential benefits of switching to Apple.  Some people will simply avoid Apple out of principle as they perceive the company as arrogant and its users to be hoodwinked zealots.

    So while I don’t fear Apple becoming the next Microsoft, I do look forward to Apple earning the respect and rewards they are entitled to.

    Brett Sher had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 7
  • “In fact, it seems like Apple has been in the press a bit more than usual lately. That’s great, I have no problem with that.”

    Obviously your bosses at Microsoft have a problem.

    zato3 had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 26
  • Apple isn’t now and never will be a monopoly.

    By that standard, neither is Microsoft.  Someone better tell the government!

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • I’m Not Convinced Apple Domination Is a Good Idea

    Well, that’s certainly a plus.  But the gist of your article is basically:  an Apple dominated world would be all peaches, sunshine and rainbows, and no one else makes products nearly as good as them.

    I’m wondering if you’re convinced that Apple domination is a BAD idea.  You mention that monopolies are bad for consumers (welcome to the club) but you don’t really say why.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • And why again does this have to be a zero-sum game?  Who ever said Apple would “dominate” any market?  Why can’t people just get their heads around Apple selling well because they make good products?  The iPod has gotten better because competition has forced it to, and because Apple is no slouch when it comes to making quality products.  Can’t that be enough?  Why think of things in terms of “domination”?

    Zamyatin had this to say on Mar 18, 2008 Posts: 7
  • By that standard, neither is Microsoft.  Someone better tell the government! -Bebox

    I don’t think you have any clue as to what makes a monopoly or the word “trust” as in anti-trust?

    As defined in the antitrust laws of the U.S., when any entity grows to control an industry (hence the PC one here) and has the potential to control prices and competition at all levels - manufacturing, distribution, retail, etc. Plus, if that entity has capabilities to prevent competition by unilaterally stiffling information, price dumping (a.k.a. free), and artificially raising “cost-of-entry” barricades as in exclusivivity deals with partners.

    This has defined “monopoly” in the Sherman Act, as far as I know. This same Act is what broke apart Standard Oil, the Bell Telephone (old Ma Bell AT&T;) system, threatened IBM and labeled MSFT as a monopolist for its Windows OS.

    Bebox, read ye,  MSFT is a monopolist due to its choking hold of the “PC” industry. Over 90% of the PC hardware is controlled by MSFT. Apple? Merely 8% in the US, <5% worldwide.

    90% of PC hardware makers are beholden to MSFT for their business life. Doesn’t this make one cringe at the thought why Vista Ultimate was priced unilaterally at $399 big ones? Do you think this choice came from the h/w makers? Thought so.

    Now, we go to Apple. Apple’s iPod music business is just one of a handful of other mobile music devices being offered to customers. Again, the iPod business is just one of many offerings. Compare that to MSFT’s Windows.

    The countless PC makers must install the Wincrap OS for their very lives. What is that make MSFT? A monopolist and an obligation to itself and the public to make sure this PC market is not stiffled, provides fair & square competition, and no one-sided deals to prop its monopoly position.

    Being a monopolist is not at all a badge of dishonor and shame. It is branded by our justice system to label an entity whereby its industry power has grown to such unilateral control. A monopolist is either broken up or watched with an unblinking eye of the justice system - IBM two decades past and MSFT today.

    Back to Apple, yes it controls 70% or so of the portable music devices. Apple have branding power and control BUT Apple do not control this segment of the PC industry. Other portable device makers are free to offer their solutions, prices, and features. Apple do not control nor provide them their software stack as to beholden these device makers to Apple.

    Apple do not fit the Sherman Act simple definitions for what makes up a monopolist.

    Conclusion: Apple must not be a monopolist. It only has strong branding and better, the public sees Apple products as superior to the fair and square competition. You envious shills should and must stop thinking otherwise.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer of any kind just a self-confessed technologist with a garden-variety, practical sense.

    Robomac had this to say on Mar 30, 2008 Posts: 846
  • an Apple dominated world would be all peaches, sunshine and rainbows, and no one else makes products nearly as good as them. -Bebox

    Wow, Bebox, that is indeed one of your creative output in ages!

    Well, that is as old a news as this morning’s paper. We all know Apple makes elegant, functional products that millions like you loves to use. I wonder who publishes those Final Cut & Logic Pro creative apps that you depend on for your “creative” endeavors? Don’t tell me your employer shoves those down your throat as XP and Vista at 90% of workplaces because MSFT said so?  Hmmm…another Bebox hyper-H examples, as usual.

    If and when, hypothetically of course, Apple ends up “dominating” in its fields of expertise - PC, media, music, & creative apps - the situation might not be as dire as MS once had done by giving us crap DOS then Win95-Me. MS locked the PC market illegally by having its hardware makers to <u>only</u> preinstall Wincrap OS or face the consequences. This very action by MS got itself almost sliced by the US Justice’s guillotine but branded a “monopolist”, otherwise.

    Only when good genuine competition from Apple’s and Linux in the beginning of this decade and a watchful eye of Justice that MS have improved their acts. XP and Office 2007 are good examples of good efforts. I even like and use Entourage Mac 2008 on a daily basis and enjoying it.

    But MS is far away from complete compliance of the Justice’s and EU court’s remedies. MS is still paying huge sums on fines and court losses today for its “abusive monopoly” behaviors in all its businesses that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s stupidity and utter boneheadedness in my opinion.

    Another, without fierce competition from Firefox, Opera, and Safari on the web front, I really have doubts we would have seen IE 7 and now IE 8. MS would have been content on recycling rotted, moldy IE 6 code to the apathetic Wincrap crowd.

    Competition does work and if given a chance (hello, MS? Bill? Balmer, you hear that?) of a fair and equal rights of access it will fluorish.

    Last, have you visited the online Apple Store or any of the brick-n-mortar Apple boutiques? Have you noticed they also carry software and accessories from ALL Mac vendors of all kinds? If Apple had “domination” in mind, they would only carry Apple-branded items for Apple-branded devices.

    No exception to the rule. But to be labeled a monopolist, the first criteria is the control of such market not just its majority percentage share of such market. Having a dominant market share will not make one a “monopolist”. Use of that market share power to unilaterally control prices (vice what the market can bear) and stiffle competition by the use of such market power - that is a monopoly.

    Apple neither controls the whole music, PC, and media industries, nor stiffles competition in those markets. So, how will this make Apple’s design leadership in PC, portable device, media & creative software markets lead to domination and monopoly?

    Robomac had this to say on Mar 30, 2008 Posts: 846
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