Linked by Eugenia Loli on Fri 24th Jul 2009 22:52 UTC
Editorial Every few years we geeks have our own kind of popcorn show to watch: tech companies showing teeth to one another. This time around, it's Palm vs Apple. In all seriousness though, how ethical is the battle around iTunes?
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So impart your infinite wisdom to us Thom and tell us how exactly they are abusing their monopoly at all, let alone in a way anything close to being Microsoftesque?

They are knowingly and intentionally configuring their software to lock out a competitor's ability to interact with it optimally - for no other reason than to artificially bolster the appeal of their own competing hardware.

The Sherman Anti-trust Act Section 2 Part 2 forbids:

"The willful acquisition or maintenance of power as distinguished from growth or development as a consequence of a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident"

The point is if Apple is considered a monopoly (and I think they probably would be now), then they can't do stuff like this - its illegal. Locking out 3rd party hardware clearly does not make their product better - it serves no other purpose than to stifle a competitor.

iTunes is open - stock standard XML that ANYONE can write an app to interface with. iTunes provides methods for manually exporting and importing content if the user so wishes, thus allowing for manual transfer to another device. iTunes isn't tied in any way to the OS, and can be installed and uninstalled at will. iTunes supports industry standard file formats for Music, Audio and Audiobooks. The iPod and iPhone can be used with third party apps, and iTunes doesn't break the Pre or any other device you connect to it - it simply doesn't support them, just like the Canon scanner software will only talk to a Canon scanner.

Anyone can interface with iTunes - but not optimally. Apple does not disclose the mechanism their hardware uses to interface with iTunes - which is fine. Apple is not required to support the efforts of their competitors - no one says they should do that. But at the same time, they cannot legally implement measures that serve no other purpose than to block interoperability - not if they are a monopoly.

But Thom, if I hear you correctly you are saying that it is OK for a company to restrict what devices their software supports until those devices become successful - or a so-called monopoly - at which point they have to then support other devices. Is that what you're trying to tell us Thom? So who determines the magical point at which it is a monopoly?

When there are enough competing products/users of said products to point out abuse and raise some hell about it... When that reaches critical mass - the "magical" point is reached. That simple - there is no obvious line that gets crossed. The Federal government generally doesn't go after monopolies based on their observation of abuse - they go after them when there are enough (justified) complaints from competitors/consumers to warrant it.

All that said - iTunes sucks balls - Palm should just write their own sync app or use Songbird... ;)

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