Apple might control their own app store on their own devices, but they do not control the internet.
Apple might control their own app store on their own devices, but they do not control the internet. Most people simply don’t know the difference between a “monopoly” and “one of the biggest companies in the market.”
Elon Musk and Tim Cook began the week in controversy, but at least one part of the disagreement has been resolved. On Monday, Musk announced on Twitter that Apple was considering removing Twitter from the App Store, with no explanation.
This revelation brought a barrage of hate on Apple; some deserved, some misplaced.
Wednesday, Musk announced he had spoken with Cook, and the potential for Twitter’s removal was nothing more than a misunderstanding. “We resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store. Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so,” Musk tweeted on Wednesday.
Many are still quick to call Apple a “monopoly.” The word monopoly gets its roots from the Greek words monos (one or single) and polein (to sell). In other words, monopoly translates to “single seller.” This fact doesn’t prevent great economic minds like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren from listing 4 companies in a given market and calling them all a monopoly.
Apple did not build a public marketplace. They built a store for app builders to do their best selling apps to iPhone customers. A basic requirement for a legitimate monopoly is the ability to prevent competition from entering the market. Having control over your own store does not equate to a monopoly over anything other than your own products. Apple’s terms may be inconvenient for app developers, or even consumers, but we all have the choice to shop elsewhere.
Elon Musk may very well position himself as a legitimate competitor to Apple. We already know he can build sophisticated tech. He even has a large network of satellites via Starlink, giving him a leg up on the competition. Should someone like Musk come along and make a better phone, Apple has no monopolistic control to stop it. The claim of “control over X% of the market” is nothing more than saying what percentage of that market uses a given company’s products. There is no such thing as “control” without the ability to prevent others from entering the market as competition.
While we are on the topic of marketshare, it’s important to get the numbers out in the open. In September of this year, 9to5mac announced that Apple had finally surpassed Android in US marketshare. Worldwide, iPhones account for 17% of the smartphone market. How is a company with the second highest worldwide marketshare (second to Samsung) a monopoly? Only two months ago, Android had a higher US marketshare than Apple, but did you hear constant complaining about Android’s monopoly?
Some may disagree with the 70/30 revenue split, others may disagree with the Apple Pay requirements for in-app sales, but none of those equate to a monopoly on anything other than Apple’s own products.
None of this makes Apple a morally virtuous actor on the world stage. Recent revelations that Apple limited the use of Airdrop in the weeks leading up to the largest protests in decades are troubling. There are coincidences, and then there is Apple pushing out a China specific update that limits a form of communication that evades China’s surveillance apparatus immediately after President Xi assumes total control. Coincidences happen, but this isn’t one of them.