Posted in: Technology

Why is Apple even getting away with this shit?


Over the last couple of days there has been a mounting number of people calling out Apple over its pulling of Google Voice related apps. The newest victim is the official Google app but at this point there is some confusion as to whether it is Apple itself doing the pulling or doing so under pressure from AT&T. John Gruber from Daring Fireball came out with a post this morning that pointed the finger squarely at Apple and makes a valid point with this bit

But does anyone really think AT&T pulls the strings in this relationship? Google Voice doesn’t just interfere with the carrier’s business model, it interferes with Apple’s iPhone business model. Not just AT&T but all iPhone carrier partners pay Apple a hefty subsidy for every iPhone sold, and that subsidy is based on assumptions about how much the average iPhone customer is going to pay in monthly service charges for voice, data, and SMS.

However he has just updated that with news that some birdie whispered in his ear that it was indeed AT&T who has been applying the pressure to have the app removed.

[Update 1:40 pm: Well, so much for my speculation. A reliable little birdie has informed me that it was indeed AT&T that objected to Google Voice apps for the iPhone. It’s that simple.]

You know what – I don’t care which of these companies is responsible for this bonehead move. What I want to know is why is this kind of thing continuing to happen. While there has been some uproar previously over apps getting denied or pulled Apple seems to be taking a rather warped protectionist stance over the Apps store. On one hand they are letting other phone related applications for Skype etc have free run but Google gets a great big slapdown.

Apple is well known for its protection of its product line with some of the best attack lawyers around. Think you can market a PC with OS X on it? Be prepared to be sued into oblivion. Post some rumors that might be too close to the truth – get ready for the Apple lawyers to go for your jugular.

Now it appears that if you want to create an iPhone app that doesn’t met their totally screwed up submissions standards or threatens their partner AT&T you’ll have it yanked, or denied, for some bullshit excuse – that is if they give you one.

It is amazing that Apple continues to do business in this heavy handed way and still get away with it. If Microsoft ever did anything like this the howls of outrage would be resonating through the tech world an the Department of Justice would be seeing its phones ringing off the hook.

This is no-longer about a computer manufacturer with a minor market share. We are talking about the iPhone here which is now one of the biggest powerhouses in the mobile computing space. It is at the point that if Apple sneezes everyone runs to grab the Kleenex.

The fact that they able to get away with blocking a competitor to a business partner isn’t something that should be happening and yet it does.

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12 Responses to “Why is Apple even getting away with this shit?”

  1. Name

    Agree wholeheartedly with this.

    I'm sure the Apple zealots and apologists will be wading in with speculated excuses & justifications on their behalf, but as you said – if this were Microsoft, there would be howls of outrage & DOJ would be involved.

  2. Martha

    It's Apple. Everyone's favorite Corporation. Now that some birdie chirped to Gruber the righteous indignation at AT&T can began with earnest.

  3. StevenHodson

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if they waded in with the usual fanboi rhetoric but it won't get them far because it's a valid point.

  4. StevenHodson

    The problem is as pointed out by many blogs – GigaOM among them – this whole thing makes even less sense if it is AT&T but that doesn't change the fact that Apple is behaving in a heavy handed manner that has gotten more than one company slapped in the past.

  5. Still Breathing

    Guess that's the difference between being convicted of abusing a monopoly and having the DOJ watch you like hawks, and not having any sort of monopoly at all.

    In case it's not clear, I don't get the self-righteousness here – Apple's policy is Apple's to set. If they're not breaking the law (and they're not), they can do what they like and the market will decide; isn't that the whole *premise* of capitalism ?

  6. MikeInSyracuse

    Wow, call me crazy but this is just business. If AT&T feels threatened by Google Voice but not Skype, it's their call. They pay the subsidies that let consumers buy the iPhone at a low price, they build & support the networks (how good the results of their labors are is another question), so they get to make these kinds of decisions. Don't like it, buy another phone! I don't get the “moral” indignation about this. I don't think Apple's being capricious, for whatever reason AT&T green-lighted Skype and red-lighted GV and that's the bottom line.

  7. Hamranhansenhansen

    > if this were Microsoft, there would be howls of outrage & DOJ would be involved.

    Please tell me what Microsoft's lawbreaking has to do with Apple or with the price of a loaf of bread? Absolutely nothing.

    A market becomes a monopoly when 100% of the money in the market goes to only one player. At that point, it's no longer a market. The rules of business and accounting change. You can no longer get a “market price” through competition because there is no competition. All of the things you've been taught about markets do not apply to monopolies. There are separate rules for monopolies. These rules cannot be applied to markets and vice versa. You can't spank Apple with monopoly rules just because they're successful. You have to wait until they actually achieve a monopoly. Something the company has never, ever been able to do.

    Microsoft is involved in 2 monopolies: generic PC operating systems, and office software for Windows. The key thing is that every dollar that is spent on a generic PC operating system or office software for Windows goes to Microsoft. There is nobody else to pay. There is no market anymore for either of those things, thus there is no “market price” for either of those things. The price is whatever Microsoft dreams up. That's why the average retail price of a generic PC is $515 and the retail price of Windows is $399. When you consider market principles you say that can't be, but there are no market principles involved. Only monopoly principles, monopoly pricing.

    Microsoft is also involved in many markets, such as video game consoles and music players. The key thing is that a company that is involved in both markets and monopolies can't use their monopolies as leverage in their markets. There has to be a kind of wall between them, they don't mix. It is illegal for Microsoft to say to Sony: “stop making the PlayStation or we'll stop selling you Windows for your generic PCs” because there is no alternate vendor for Sony to buy generic PC operating systems from. Sony would be forced to stop competing in either video game consoles or generic PCs. That is not competition, that is anti-competition, anti-competitive behavior. Microsoft would be trying to win in the video game business without competing by using their monopoly as a kind of trump card.

    By comparison, Apple is involved in zero monopolies, and 3 major markets:

    – phones, where they have competed to achieve 1% of the market (Microsoft does not compete here)
    – music players, where they competed to achieve 75% of the market (Microsoft also competes here, and has about 0.1% of the market)
    – personal computers, where they competed to achieve 10% of the market (Microsoft does not compete here)

    The idea that Apple should be under special restrictions in those markets that their competitors in those markets are not is simply and completely ludicrous. It's also sour grapes of the most obvious kind.

    Generally speaking, in the same way that Hitler comparisons are almost always wrong because only a handful of people can accurately be compared directly with Hitler, I would say that if you're tempted to say “monopoly” or “anti-trust” you should remember that there have only been about 10 monopolies in all of US history, and not all of them were abused like Microsoft does. So with Microsoft you are looking at a very, very rare thing. The idea that you can say that anybody else in the tech industry is “just like Microsoft” is like a bozo detector because nobody, but nobody is like Microsoft. They are as unique in their own way (abusive monopolist cloners) as Apple is in their own way (product-oriented design and engineering freaks).

  8. Harvard Irving

    “If Microsoft ever did anything like this the howls of outrage would be resonating through the tech world an the Department of Justice would be seeing its phones ringing off the hook.”

    But howls of outrage ARE resonating through the tech world. Didn't you know? Apple-hating is all the rage these days, and Microsoft-hating is so passe. Before Jobs' return, the tech world basically ignored Apple. Since then, it has become more and more popular to actively hate Apple because of the success.

    As for the DOJ's phones, why would anybody be calling the DOJ over this? I don't see where anti-trust issues enter into it.

    But please, ease up on the “Apple always gets away with it” and “everybody loves Apple” nonsense. It's clearly not true, and has never been. If anything, Apple gets constantly raked over the coals, for things that are standard operating procedure at most companies.

  9. Vox

    Uhm…a 3% market owner is the big kahuna of mobiles? This is way beyond the tail wagging the dog…this is the tail's hair wagging the dog.

    Yes, the iPhone owns most of the mindshare…but marketshare? It's a very very small part. Hell, not even among smartphones it has a big market share! So…yes, it's a tragedy that apple blocked those apps, yes, it's a PITA that even those iPhone owners that aren't in the US will suffer with AT&T's incompetence and stupidity…but…if you are really that upset about it, there's a whole bunch of other phones and smartphones out there for you.

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