With the App Store monopoly case, the Supreme Court could reverse decades of frustrated antitrust enforcement

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/19/apple-v-pepper.html

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The SCOTUS isn’t hearing any cases right now. The first sentence “On Monday the SCOTUS will hear Apple v Pepper…” is wrong.

A better, more accurate way to phrase it would be “On Monday the SCOTUS agreed to review the antitrust case Apple v Pepper…” or “…accepted Apple’s request to review the 9th Circuit decision…”


Saying that Apple has monopoly control over app sales for iOS is like saying the Four Seasons has a monopoly on selling food to Four Seasons patrons. Not only is this not a change of course in antitrust enforcement, it extends the focus on retail prices to the point of clinical insanity.

If you doubt that, consider what would happen if Apple were ordered to allow sideloaded apps on the grounds that they take a cut of App Store sales. Almost certainly, they would simply stop taking their cut and continue to forbid sideloading (App Store fees are a minor side hustle for Apple). Nothing would change in terms of freedom to tinker etc., and – assuming most developers would pocket the extra 30% – nothing would change in terms of app prices either. Meanwhile, you’d have the aforementioned batshit Supreme Court precedent affecting every business in America that sells anything to anyone.

The only noticeable change I can think of is that suddenly Amazon would stop refusing to sell content directly through iOS apps, increasing their dominance. That would be an intriguing echo of the last bizarre antitrust case against Apple. You know, where they were found guilty of ebook price-fixing, because they failed to fix the price of ebooks, which threatened to interfere with Amazon’s program of abusing its monopoly power to force publishers to sell ebooks at unsustainably low prices.

I have no idea what the story might be behind the scenes, but it seems fishy as fuck, and most definitely not anything to cheer for regardless of one’s strong feelings about Apple.


Delta Airlines controls 80% of the seats in and out of Atlanta.

One cable company controls 100% of the cable tv and internet for most Americans.

Compared to those examples, it is laughable to think of the Apple apps store as a “monopoly”


This Supreme Court is not paid to decide against monopolists. Anybody taking odds?

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I can use the Amazon app store to get apps for my Android device. What would you consider to be a monopoly when it comes to an app store and a device?

SCOTUS has been punting and making a lot of bad decisions lately, so I have no hope for this one.


I can’t think of any possible monopoly, given that it is quite possible to live a happy, successful and fulfilled life without ever possessing an iDevice of any kind.

If I could not get a job, drive a car, buy a cheeseburger, birth a child, walk my dog without owning an iDevice, damn right it would be a monopoly.

So you’re not operating on a legal definition of a monopoly and just commenting to say that you define monopolies in oddly specific ways?


Here is the definition of monopoly from the U.S. FTC. Apple does not meet this definition.

“That is how that term is used here: a “monopolist” is a firm with significant and durable market power. Courts look at the firm’s market share, but typically do not find monopoly power if the firm (or a group of firms acting in concert) has less than 50 percent of the sales of a particular product or service within a certain geographic area. Some courts have required much higher percentages. In addition, that leading position must be sustainable over time: if competitive forces or the entry of new firms could discipline the conduct of the leading firm, courts are unlikely to find that the firm has lasting market power.”

In addition, courts and governments have more frequently applied sanctions where the product or service involved is considered necessary for life or health. Smartphone apps are not in that category.

Apple has 100% of the iPhone app market. They’re more exclusive than Microsoft was when their control over IBM systems was called an illegal monopoly. And that definition you provided mentioned nothing of jobs, cars, or cheeseburgers.


General Motors has 100% of the Corvette market. So what?

(edit - twelve posts in this thread so far, eight of them by you or me. If BB is any measure, no one seems too worked up about this.)

Cars are not equivalent to app stores. This is more like GM making the car not work unless you buy gas from their branded gas stations.

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That would make buying a GM car a stupid idea. It still does not make GM a monopoly. Ford, Volvo, Nissan, Hyundai, or a motorcycle, or an EV.

It would be complete control of the gas market for GM cars. That is a monopoly. Did you read your provided definition?

Yes, it would make buying a GM car stupid as well. It would make buying a DRM’d coffee maker or juicer stupid, and those are monopolized platforms.

If the product is “Apple iDevices” then Apple is a monopoly by that definition. I reject that. To me, the product is “portable Web access devices”.

And unless those “monopolized platforms” have successfully crowded other platforms out of the marketplace, nobody cares.

If the only way I could fix my morning coffee was with a DRM’d coffee maker, antitrust action would be one hundred percent appropriate. But it isn’t, and it’s not.

If the only way I could message people, get driving directions or check the weather was with an Apple device, antitrust action would be one hundred percent appropriate. But it isn’t, and it’s not.

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Ah, the Nobody Cares legal standard. Which SCOTUS decision codified that in case law?

You’re ignoring the Microsoft precedent. Apple’s exclusivity on their devices is worse than what Microsoft did, so if Windows was deemed a monopoly, then the app store is a monopoly. You’re confusing devices with software. There’s a market for devices, which is not a monopoly. But the market for apps compatible with iOS devices is a monopoly because it’s 100% controlled by Apple. This is a software monopoly on a hardware platform. You can’t use software to message people, get driving directions or check the weather on an iOS device without Apple’s approval.


True. And that’s one of the reasons why I own no iOS devices. The absence of iOS devices from my life has not yet caused me to cry myself to sleep.

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