Spotify's antitrust complaint against Apple is a neat parable about Big Tech's monopoly


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/13/30-pct-vig.html


#2

Spotify is also a second-class citizen on the iPhone. The only first-class music player is Apple’s Music app. Want to play a song in any player that’s not Music? Too bad, jump through hoops. “Hey, Siri, play me some Led Zeppelin.” “Sorry. Led Zeppelin not found.” “But it’s in Spotify!” “Sorry, it must suck to be an Apple customer.”

Not only should iTunes be charged the 30% App Store vigorish, but as a music player Spotify should also have the right to be the default music player app, if that’s what the user wants.


#3

But then it’s just funny money at that point. They are paying 30% more… to themselves?


#4

Spin them off into their own entity. It’s part of the monopoly - break them up and let them compete in an open marketplace. The EU forced Microsoft to extricate IE from Windows for the same reason.

I’d also love for Apple to learn how despised their horrible Music app really is. If it had to compete on its own merits, the bottom line would show them how much they’ve ruined it since the iPod days of yore.


#5

But Microsoft didn’t charge anything for IE.

Roger that! It really is awful and seems to get worse with every iteration - just like iTunes.


#6

I’ve been listening to people gripe about Apple since 1984.


#7

That isn’t really what you are describing. The issue here is that Siri’s entire “understanding” of media/music doesn’t go through the “new” intents system. If it did “play led zeppelin” would check all registered media (or music, or whatever they call it) providers checking to see if they had a “led Zeppelin” to play, or one to merely talk a little about. If one exists to play, then it plays. If two exist to play then disambiguation comes into play, and the policy there could be “most recently selected wins”, or “most recent selected as long as it was in the last N hours”, or “just ask to clarify”.

Apple does this with “online cash” (like pay pal) where they are a bit player, ride sharing (where I think they have an investment or partnership in China but not most of the world), audio/video calling (where I’ll claim FaceTime is a decent sized player), “Fitness activities” (Apple has a app for that, and while it is pretty popular on the watch, other companies have nicer ones), text-type messaging (where Apple’s iMessage is a big deal), some minor “photo management”, vehicle integration (like “start the car, set the heat to 70º”), and a few other things.

I don’t think “music/media” was left out because it gives Apple an advantage, it was left out because it is a lot more complex then all the other systems they do support (none of them have open ended sets of items “all bands” is a huge set of things, and adding all the tracks makes it far worse). Well, and also because they launched Siri with music integration (or it was an early addition) so it isn’t a big gaping hole…unless you don’t like Apple’s music service…

…and one of the places where Apple’s famous “we don’t use focus groups, we know what people want” fails them is Apple’s employee tend to be all-in on Apple’s services. So if Apple provides a foo Apple’s other products will work well with that foo, but anyone else’s? Not so much. It isn’t that Apple wants to lock you in, just that by and large they exist in an alternate world where their products and services are the ones “everyone” uses and doing a “perfect” job making them all integrate is better then a merely OK job making some new Apple thing integrate with everyone else’s foo. (exceptions exist for super popular services, and integrations predating Apple’s entry into a market segment).


#8

This type of thing is a separate issue. If Spotify could seamlessly replace Apple’s Music app, Apple would pocket that 30% cut without shouldering any of the operational or political costs. It’s not about revenue, it’s about the technical challenges of making it work, and sooner or later they’ll probably sort that (just as, for example, they’ve now made an API that lets Amazon and BBC shows appear as first-class citizens of the new Apple TV home screen).

But the 30% cut is a problem. I think that’s a figure they pulled out of their corporate anus, and now that it’s a non-trivial revenue stream, they have a strong incentive not to reconsider it.

When I think about what would be a reasonable way to regulate this, I just end up wishing that Apple would have the vision to fucking not do it. Because, yeah, it’s great if the state can enforce fairness, but a handful of people in Apple’s C suite would just choose to make it happen. Just cover their costs, and continue to make ungodly sums from selling hardware, and let regulation be a moot point.

It’s like, Apple is a hippy business that faced oblivion rather than compromise on its principles (about how its products work), and then become the world’s most profitable company. If they can’t make capitalism work in the interests of civilisation, then the question is closed for good.

Thinking about it, I might write to Woz about this.


#9

For FIFTEEN bucks a month, Spotify needs to quit complaining.


#10

SO this. And I say this as a user and even customer of Apple Music. THE DAMN MUSIC PLAYER SUCKS, APPLE! To go from the current song that’s playing to the full list of songs on the album is downright Kafkaesque.


#11

Spotify has been systematically screwing over its artists for years by hiding profits, reducing percentage payouts, and mysteriously erasing royalties. They treat everyone on their platform horribly. This antitrust complaint is meant solely to distract from their own behavior.


#12

Apple’s not paying attention to that any more. (And I agree, it sucks.)

This is how Internet Explorer went so quickly from dominant to an afterthought. Apple: you have to do maintenance on your products from time to time. There’s a reason that shit costs money.


#13

What’s weird is that about a year or so ago, Apple made a big deal about saying “yeah, we know, it’s terrible,” and said they were hiring Trent Reznor and the UI team from Beats (which was terrific before they shut it down) to overhaul the app. I had a bit of hope, but nothing’s changed thus far.


#14

On iPhone? Hmm. All you do is tap on the artist/album name and then Go to Album.


#15

I stand corrected for my comments about Apple on the last thread. This is classic anti-competitive behavior.


#16

Newbie.
 


#17

Oh, you just goddamn made my day! :slight_smile: I had NO IDEA you could do that!

So thank you, but considering I’ve been using computers for about 35 years and consider myself “good at it,” they are failing if I can’t figure out that that’s a clickable UI widget.


#18

It’s kind of weird to hear it in the context of them as the encumbent behemoth instead of the scrappy street fighter though. I know its been a long time but that image was a strong one in my life in the past.


#19

Remember when Wall Street’s favorite descriptor of Apple was “beleaguered?” Hah! We’re old. :wink:


#20

I think it was 96 or 97 that both time and newsweek cover stories were about their certain death.