United States files antitrust lawsuit against Apple

For many years, Apple has built a dominant iPhone platform and ecosystem that has driven the company’s astronomical valuation. At the same time, it has long understood that disruptive technologies and innovative apps, products, and services threatened that dominance by making users less reliant on the iPhone or making it easier to switch to a non-Apple smartphone. Rather than respond to competitive threats by offering lower smartphone prices to consumers or better monetization for developers, Apple would meet competitive threats by imposing a series of shapeshifting rules and restrictions in its App Store guidelines and developer agreements that would allow Apple to extract higher fees, thwart innovation, offer a less secure or degraded user experience, and throttle competitive alternatives. It has deployed this playbook across many technologies, products, and services, including super apps, text messaging, smartwatches, and digital wallets, among many others.

Apple’s conduct also stifles new paradigms that threaten Apple’s smartphone dominance, including the cloud, which could make it easier for users to enjoy high-end functionality on a lower priced smartphone—or make users device-agnostic altogether. As one Apple manager recently observed, “Imagine buying a [expletive] Android for 25 bux at a garage sale and it works fine … And you have a solid cloud computing device. Imagine how many cases like that there are.” Simply put, Apple feared the disintermediation of its iPhone platform and undertook a course of conduct that locked in users and developers while protecting its profits.

Critically, Apple’s anticompetitive conduct not only limits competition in the smartphone market, but also reverberates through the industries that are affected by these restrictions, including financial services, fitness, gaming, social media, news media, entertainment, and more. Unless Apple’s anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct is stopped, it will likely extend and entrench its iPhone monopoly to other markets and parts of the economy. For example, Apple is rapidly expanding its influence and growing its power in the automotive, content creation and entertainment, and financial services industries–and often by doing so in exclusionary ways that further reinforce and deepen the competitive moat around the iPhone.

↫ DoJ antitrust lawsuit vs. Apple

The United States Department of Justice is filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.


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