I think that Apple is going to lose whatever antitrust cases are eventually brought against it in the EU and in the US. I don’t actually think Apple should lose, because I don’t think it is correct to call Apple a monopoly.
The general antitrust argument against Apple is that its App Store platform is too locked down, and that is unfair because Apple is a monopoly (insert eye roll here) of its own platform. App is a platform owner. Of course it has a “monopoly” over the platform it owns. That doesn’t make it a monopoly in the overall marketplace. Moreover, while iOS is undoubtedly popular, it is a minority smartphone platform, which in the broadest legal terms that I understand, makes monopoly-related antitrust law not apply to them.
App developers have to accept Apple’s terms, and pay a pretty large commission to Apple, to distribute apps in the store or to take in-app purchases. That may not feel fair to developers, but I can’t take seriously the arguments that it is illegal. It is the same way that game consoles work. Will we go after Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft next? Shouldn’t they open up their game consoles to alternative payment systems and alternate app stores, too? I have heard of no one seriously arguing this.
The most compelling argument against Apple’s App Store requirements is that Apple demands too much money from developers for distribution and payment solutions that other companies now offer at lower prices. I am sympathetic to this argument because I too think Apple should have lowered its commission over the years, as marginal costs for these technologies and services have declined. However, the size of Apple’s cut is not really at issue here. Apple, rather clumsily, lowered its commission for a majority of its developers to 15%, starting in January 2021, but the antitrust talk just keeps rolling on.
The second most compelling argument against Apple is that it uses its platform-owner advantage to position its own software and services over third-party competitors. Again, I sympathize. Apple Sherlocks developers sometimes, and can position its own software and services over anyone else’s. So does Microsoft (ever use Windows?). Amazon exercises a tremendous advantage over third party sellers in its online marketplace.
I could argue that even Linux vendors, such as Ubuntu, position their own, preferred software over that of third-party developers. Software platform owners always have advantages over third parties that operate on their platform. Extracting as much value from that as is possible is the entire point of creating and owning a platform. I think it only becomes an antitrust problem when a company has majority market share, which Apple does not have.
If developers can’t accept Apple’s terms, then they shouldn’t. They should develop for Android instead, which has the majority market share anyway, or create progressive web apps. (Remember, the web is an app platform, too, not just a way to collect credit card payments for software.) If developers “need” to develop for iOS because iOS users, on average, spend way more money on apps than Android users, then that just shows the value Apple’s marketplace has, and is worth paying for.
Despite my views, I still think Apple is poised to lose any legal actions about them regarding monopoly. It won’t lose based on the merits of whatever case is brought against it; it will lose because enough political sentiment is against Apple, at least in this area, and that is all that matters. Perhaps all the tech giants will fall under this scrutiny, and all will be forced to open up their platforms more widely, and will be forced to renounce their first-party advantage when distributing applications and features. I just don’t see that actually happening, and if it does happen, I don’t think it will benefit anybody in the way government regulators would expect. It could even stifle the development of the next generation of technology platforms.