Reading Slashdot this morning, I read a post linking to an article on asking the question “Is Apple the New Evil Empire?”. The article goes on to describe the various ways that Apple has silently dominated various markets, especially the digital audio market, even though it is Microsoft who are the subject of discussion regarding monopoly and control.
Apple has certainly built themselves up into a powerful force in the technology industry. For example, Mac OS X has a small share of the operating system market compared to Microsoft Windows, but considering the fact that with every new Mac OS machine that comes online, they have sold a complete Apple computer along with it. Mac OS X is not (legally) available for ANY other computer except one bearing the Apple logo. Microsoft distribute their OS to dozens of manufacturers and retailers who then pass the OS on to consumers. Apple maintains tight control over the hardware inside their computers. If you try to replace the graphics card with a standard PC one, it will not work because it is not loaded with Apple-approved firmware. Therefore they can gouge you extra money because you must buy the card from them.
The iPod has been a HUGE success for Apple, more-so that anyone could have imagined. Players with more features, better battery life, and lower prices have come along but have never succeeded in challenging the iPod. Part of this is due to its strong ties to iTunes, and the iTunes Music Store. Finally it was simple to purchase songs legally over the internet and get them onto your digital audio player. But this simplicity comes at a price: it’s a closed system. Your legally purchased tracks are locked with Apple’s proprietary DRM, which is incompatible with every other music player available, and the iPod will not play tracks encoded with competitors DRM. While there are methods to circumvent these measures (whose legality has been questioned), for the average user they are locked in.
Another boon for Apple is its recently announced iPhone product, which was met with enormous media coverage and excitement, even though it will not be released for several months. It has been reported that the iPhone will be a closed system (seeing a pattern?) which will not allow third-party applications to be installed. One of the benefits of a smartphone (which Apple are touting the device as) is the ability to install applications to customize your device for your specific needs. Will this stop the sale of the iPhone? Heck no!! This phone will sell like crazy, simply because it’s Apple.
In Europe, Microsoft received huge fines, totaling almost a US$1 billion due to its anti-competitive activities regarding its Windows operating system. Could Apple not be accused of doing the same?