The blogosphere is buzzing with reaction to Jason Calacanis’s epic post on Apple’s uncompetitive practices. Basically, as concerns iPod, iTunes, switching off apps it doesn’t like or who it thinks are a competitive threat, Calcanis thinks that Apple is acting like a monopolist and should probably be investigated by the DoJ. His most telling points come in the comparison between the current behaviour of Apple and the ex-great monopolist Microsoft:
Think for a moment about what your reaction would be if Microsoft made the Zune the only MP3 player compatible with Windows. There would be 4chan riots, denial of service attacks and Digg’s front page would be plastered with pundit editorials claiming Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were Borg.
On Apple’s draconian apps policy for iPhone:
Imagine for a moment if every application on Windows Mobile or Windows XP had to be approved by Microsoft–how would you react? Exactly.
On banning other browsers on the iPhone
Apple was more than willing to pile on after Microsoft’s disasterous inclusion of Internet Explorer with Windows. In fact, what Apple is doing is 100x worse than what Microsoft did. You see, Microsoft simply included their browser in Windows, still allowing other browsers to be installed. In Apple’s case, they are not only bundling their browser with the iPhone, but they are BLOCKING other browsers from being installed.
The standard Apple response to all this is that the restrictions Apple places on its products are necessary to ensure the quality of the user experience, that Apple deserves to be paid for the innovations it has brought to the marketplace and the consumer freedom it has enabled to use things like the mobile internet, to make online music easy and fun to use etc. But these remain the classic arguments of all monopolists, and are identical to the ones Microsoft used back in the days it was being investigated.
Baruch has often thought of what would have happened had Apple actually won the market share wars of the early 1990s; its instincts are much more controlling than Microsoft’s. Would we really have had an open-source internet? Would we really have had all the innovation spawned by cheap and ubiquitous computing?
Needless to say, this is not being well received by the hordes of Apple aficionados, the self-confessed fanboys. Baruch is constantly amazed at the level of brand loyalty Apple has managed to instil in its punters. I certainly don’t feel the same way about my crappy old Toshiba (although I would be cross with anyone who disparaged my Subaru).
Count me firmly in the Calcanis camp on this. As every reader knows, I make no secret of my dislike of the company, for very much the same reasons Calcanis does. Reader Verec, in the comments attached to the last post, accuses me of “anti AAPL bias.” But “bias” is a loaded word. Is a well thought out position against something, a consistently held position, bias? For those utterly convinced of the righteousness of the other, the pro, side, it may appear so. And that is probably why it is generally very hard to have a proper conversation about Apple on the interblogs.
At the risk of throwing lighter fluid on the flames, I blogged this on Apple, almost 2 years ago:
. . . I do so very strongly dislike Apple as a company. They sell high quality hardware it is true, but so overpriced; you pay a premium to be unable to use 90% of the world’s software without running some other complex program to do so. I hate the cutsie-coo operating system and the self satisfied “pop” when you close a window. I find the advertising unbelievably irritating, with its “Think Different” slogan, which when you think about it is a pean to its lack of market share; if they had managed to sell more Macs than PCs would they be telling us to “Carry on Thinking the Same” to make us buy more Macs? More than that, I pity the ponytailed, smug, pseudo-individualist, and above all gullible Apple fanboys, who all believe they are part of some greater social movement representing god knows what but who are in fact the victims of some corporate succubus which cares not a jot for them except how much more they can milk them. And the fanboy’s anger at the Wintel axis ignores the fact that the only thing which kept the company afloat during the dark times was Microsoft’s charity; that and the need to pretend that Windows was not in fact a monopoly.
No, Apple is the antithesis of what a Spinozist technology company should look like: closed, not open systems; overly pleased with itself and arrogant; and its advertising and brand values appeal to the grossest of the Passions: envy, pride, confusion and fear. In their defence, the flip side of their arrogance is a certain appealing audacity. The company from time to time (but not as often as we think) creates attractive and innovative products. But net net they have to go in the Stupid Cartesian bucket.
It’s nice to finally have company. And now we have that out of our system, let’s hope that ‘s the last blogpost about Apple here for a while.