Quick Thoughts on DoJ v. Apple

U.S. Sues Apple, Alleges Tech Giant Exploits Illegal Monopoly
The US DOJ sues Apple, alleging the company blocked its competitors from accessing iPhone features, made switching to non-Apple devices more difficult, and more...

With the very large caveats that I'm not a lawyer – let alone an antitrust lawyer – and that I haven't yet fully read through all 88 pages of the Department of Justice's case against Apple – and I do mean, "yet", as it's actually sort of an interesting, if humorous read, so far – here are a few initial quick takes on this.

First, I have to imagine Apple's case is going to be pretty strong here. If nothing else, their market position simply doesn't scream monopoly – let alone illegal monopoly – on the surface. According to recent estimates, the iPhone has something between 50 to 60 percent market share in the US. This isn't Microsoft Windows with 90 percent+ market share. And yes, there's obviously more to it than just market share. But that fundamental aspect is going to linger over this entire case. You can disagree with the current laws and definitions (profit share, anyone?), but it's hard to see a world in which the smartphone market isn't competitive from a pure market share perspective.

Second, even just on a quick scan, there are some comically bad misunderstandings both of how technology and specifically Apple actually work. Honestly, it feels a bit like ChatGPT wrote some of these, just scanning a bunch of information and cramming bits together to make arguments. And really, that's undoubtedly a disservice to ChatGPT's capabilities. A lot of this feels cherry-picked for compelling sound bites against Apple. And Apple does themselves no favors in this regard over years of correspondence. But the reality here is that no companies really do in these circumstances. Internal emails are almost always salacious given enough of them. People say provocative things in private. But that alone doesn't constitute breaking the law.

Third, along those lines, Apple has done themselves absolutely no favors over many years now leading up to this case. There's without question been a vibe shift from underdog to arrogance and it's really unbecoming to the company. And they clearly can't see that, at least at the top, where many of the executives have been there so long that they still think of themselves as the David fighting Goliath. They may not have a traditional monopoly, but they have been the most valuable company in the world for a long period now outside of the recent incredible run by Microsoft. Goliath's revenge!

Fourth, Apple is under assault from all sides now. And they probably should have done more to get ahead of this inevitability. By proactively updating App Store rules. By working more closely with developers. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered for this particular case, but a better overall sentiment around the company with various groups certainly couldn't have hurt!

Fifth, clearly, the DoJ is hellbent on going after all of "big tech", all at once. My personal assessment here is that while there are a number of things they could and should focus on in specific markets, overall, this is all pretty misguided. America has created the most valuable companies in the world and it's a feature of the system, not a bug. These companies are the envy of the rest of the world in many respects. And, as history has proven time and again, they tend to rise and fall by market dynamics, not due to regulation. Everyone will cite Microsoft here, but it's a completely different situation. And even there, Microsoft didn't fall because of the DoJ. Microsoft fell because the web disintermediated Windows. And in a way, Microsoft actually helped that to happen while trying not to be disrupted.

And wait. What the fuck are we talking about? Microsoft didn't fall. Microsoft is currently worth $3.2 trillion dollars. They're the most valuable company in the world again, by far. That metric above all else certainly seems to matter to this DoJ! They should probably file a case...