Thursday, May 06, 2010

If Microsoft was running Iphone's AppStore instead of Apple, how would you and the antitrust bodies react?

It's not fair to compare the railroad system of the US with Japan's one: Japan has a very narrow island, so most traffic goes north/south. The US and Canada are huge country: they are large, long, AND interconnected. That's why both countries need standards, while Japan does not. It's better to compare US & Canada with Europe where the railroad standards were different (I know for sure between Spain and France at least), and it has only been a decade that they are really bringing one standard, and in the same time we are seeing super high speed trains between Madrid and Paris for example. So, I don't think that you have to link the standardization to lack of innovation. 

The lack of innovation comes from the lack of choice. One standard is fine, but a platform has to let the developer chose if he/she wants the standard coding language/compiler or go another way. By forcing this up on the developers, Apple is imposing an artificial comparative advantage of its phone over the others which I would call the "lock-in advantage".

Think about what Microsoft could have done with it's "platform" advantage on Windows Media Player if the Antitrust laws were not hanging on the neck of Bill Gates, imagine Microsoft sayging that Windows would not support the Ipod as it was a duplicate features on Windows because Microsoft has its Zune, same thing for Itunes as Microsoft had Windows Media Player, same thing for Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Chrome etc... as there was already Internet Explorer. Apple is doing the same, it's using it's platform advantage to impose a standard and dismiss competition.

I usually don't like government involvement but, as I pointed it out in this status on Twitter, if it was Microsoft who were acting like Apple we would get the Antitrust squad breaking Redmont's doors: just imagine MacOS' hardware lock-in (instalable only on Mac hardware), Itunes monopoly (what 70% of music online goes through it right?), AppStore monopoly (no third party store on Iphone!!!), Iphone OS language monopoly, Iphone OS compilation monopoly. If you think about it, it's like what Rockfeller did in the early oil-rush: selling the tools to dig, selling the platform to transport it, but what he did not is own the land, and that's what Apple is doing. Think about the "serf" in the middle-age: they didf not own the land (the platform), they did not own the tools (the language), they could not go anywhere else (the lock-in or the exit barriers), they only owned what they harvested (the software) and they had to share it with the master (30% goes to Apple, right?). 

Obviously the comparison is a little far-fetched, but I understand what Adobe is saying, while I also understand that Adobe has a quasi-monopoly on the web regarding Flash, it's only the format, there are litteraly dozens of tools that let you produce Flash software/games/videos etc. And there are hundreds of stores online where to buy flash. Apple is doing the opposit, and by doing this it increases the pressure on the developer while giving him little ways of getting out as the platform became so ubiquious among smartphones and high end phones. I know that's not what Apple is telling people, Apple talks about the quality of its platform and the quality of Iphone's software written in native language. But if people want to write in a language which renders poorly on their platform, let it be and let consumer chose to fly away and go  to a competitor who programs better directly in the native language, no? It shouldn't even be a debate! Isn't it what we call capitalism? Let the best developer win the customers? If customers don't like a program they will switch to the competitors. Point in case, people left Internet Explorer beside the massive and dominant market share until 2005. For that matter, I think that Apple talk are kind of B.S as when it comes to an end, it's mainly the bottom-line that counts and by locking the users and programmers in, and building big walls of "exit barriers" for software portability it helps imposing development for the main platform only. And the more time the government wait to react the more innovation will suffer among the community, and so will you as a consumer! 

I feel that I'm always ranting these days, but what Apple and Facebook are doing regarding different aspects of "users disrespect" goes beyond my understanding (not the financial understanding obviously). And the way people and the government reacts to that is concerning. The government should start questioning some practices Apple has and this is getting urgent: AppStore being the sole platform for selling software on Iphone, Iphone language and compiler being the sole for programming on Iphone, and the ViP ad network that gives insiders tracking information while in the same time forbidding competitors from tracking the users in their TOS are among the most proeminent example in my belief. 

Did I miss any? Am I just wrong? 

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