Apple’s antitrust mess could easily be ended, at likely minimal cost


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The majority of people would still prefer Apple’s gated garden.

Even if Apple’s fear tales were true – that only Apple could adequately safeguard consumers from the great and frightening world outside its own walled garden – that isn’t the point.

While the rare proposal that Apple be split up exists, the great majority of antitrust authorities are not telling Apple that it cannot have its own app store, music streaming service, mobile payment product, weather app, gaming subscription, or anything else.

All regulators agree that Apple should enable third-party firms to compete on a fair playing field—that is, Apple should continue to provide the official App Store while also allowing third-party ones.

Owners of iPhones may then choose which app store to use. Continue to accept Apple Pay while enabling bank applications to utilize the NFC chip. And so on.

For two reasons, my guess is that Apple won’t have to spend much money on this

First and foremost, the ordinary nontechnical Apple client will always select Apple. Give them the choice between an Apple app store and an Epic Games app store, and the vast, vast majority will select the Apple one.

Second, even techies will generally remain with Apple. One of the primary reasons I purchase Apple gear is that I actively like and value the Apple environment. I enjoy how everything is connected since it is all controlled by one firm.

Even people who look for other options and think about what they have to offer are likely to stay with Apple’s products.

Apple is putting itself in legal jeopardy for no reason.

This is why I’m perplexed by Apple’s antitrust obstinacy: It costs almost nothing to open things up, yet there is a big danger in not doing so.

If Apple chooses to open things up freely, it may (within limits) set its own rules. Politicians will have little incentive to push for it to go a little further as long as it is done fairly.

However, if it waits until lawmakers clarify the terms, it risks getting an even worse bargain. For example, many people are now saying that Apple’s 30% charge for major developers is excessive.

If Apple waits until lawmakers intervene, it may be compelled to accept even less. If Apple just enables third-party app shops (which few iPhone users would use), it can keep taking its cut while shrugging and assuring lawmakers that developers and customers alike are free to utilize any of the other iPhone app stores available.


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