Is Apple building a monopoly?

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by jcgnu, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. jcgnu macrumors regular

    Dec 30, 2006
    Hello there.

    I want to throw a question to all Mac fans and those who are not so much. "Is Apple building a monopoly?" It is the question I've been asking myself lately with all the new cool stuff that I've seen from them.

    First off, I'd like to say that I'm a huge fan. I recently bought my first Mac ever and I really love it. But still, I want to know the opinion of other people on this subject.

    Let's look at some facts. The Macintosh community around the world has grown up dramatically over the last few years. The marketshare has risen from a couple of percentual points to over 7 right now. The most popular MP3 player in the world is the iPod, and the iPhone is on its way to become the most popular smartphone. And basically you could take a look at every single product made by Apple and it falls into one of these two: either it is already the most popular of its type, or it's going there really quickly.

    The good thing is, they're not pulling this off by incorporating bad practices such as fooling their customers, but by releasing innovative products that people identify themselves with and simply love. So far, so good.

    I only see a problem here. Their products are completely closed to be used with other Apple products. Of couse, there are some exceptions, in which they were obligated to do it or they wouldn't survive (e.g. the ipod wouldn't be what it is today if Apple hadn't released a Windows version of iTunes). DRM-free music is the only point were they have done things in an admirable manner. But basically, if you want to use an Apple product you have to use it with other Apple products.

    The most dramatic example that I find is the fact that Mac OS (any version) can only be installed on a Mac. It is not legal to install it on a Dell, for example, nor easy. So if you really like Apple's operating system, you're stuck with Apple's hardware. Then, if you want to get Mac OS, you can only get it with a very reduced (and kind of expensive) number of computer models.

    Perhaps the most popular example of my point is the iPhone. When it was released, the iPhone was closed to third-party development. The pressure was so big, that they had to back down and create an SDK (which is not fully open to do everything with all of the iPhone's features).

    I believe that if things keep following the same path, one day Apple will be leading the market, not only of the products they currently have, but also the one of products to come. If Apple doesn't become much more open, they will have an amazing monopoly. For example, the iPhone is the best smartphone in the world, and it is rapidly becoming the most popular one. Since a lot of the good features that it offers us are patented (which I'm not against to), one day maybe it will be like the only option. The problem is that it only comes in ONE flavor. There is no more than one version of it. And, of course, there's no way to install its operating system on another device. And buying another brand doesn't give you the features that it has.

    It'll probably happen the same way than with the iPod. It is today's most sold MP3 Player. It has practically no competition. And if you want to own those features that make it unique, you're stuck with the few models they make.

    Other expamples are easy to notice. For example, if you own an iPod, you need iTunes. Same with the iPhone.

    Basically, Apple is wanting to focus on every single aspect they can. They don't like leaving any room for competition. They have to do it sometimes, but they don't like doing it.

    On the other hand, Microsoft has been criticized for implementing monopoly practices. It certainly has, I won't deny it. But it has permitted, in some areas, the possibility for many companies to grow. They focus on developing some things, while delegating others to other organizations. For example, they create Windows, but not the computers that host it, allowing companies like Dell, HP, Sony, etc., to innovate in that field, but more importantly, to compete, resulting in better and cheaper computers everytime. Of course, Microsoft has other issues, but here, no complaints.

    I think Apple should start doing this, unless one day we want to be stuck with only one brand and no options. I'm not saying they should stop building the hardware, but they should allow you to buy a Dell (which is cheaper) and install Mac OS on it. They should allow you to use your iPhone with any carrier. One day, they sould allow you to install the iPhone software on another phone. Basically, they should start making products that are more universal, unless they don't mind becoming as (or even more) hated as Microsoft is by a lot of people for implementing monopoly practices that don't allow competition and, therefore, better and cheaper stuff.

    And again, I really love their products, they're awsome, but I like having options when I buy something.

    Please, tell me what you think. I believe it is time someone points this out, and Apple listens to the customer's point of view.


    Juan Carlos

    PS. Excuse me if I made any spelling or grammar mistakes. I'm not a native English speaker.
  2. gauchogolfer macrumors 603


    Jan 28, 2005
    American Riviera
    Monopolies aren't inherently bad. Anti-competitive practices are. The two are not the same.
  3. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    Apple doesn't really have a monopoly, it just maintains a very tight integration between its products. Outside of the tech industry, this is fairly standard practice (ie you need to buy razor blades from the same company that made your handle).

    That said, however, I do think that Apple has a few anti-competitive practices that could be a problem if market share continues to explode.

    The most obvious one that comes to mind is how it isn't as easy to buy music from non-iTunes stores and put it on your iPod.

    However, I think that most of the time Apple has a legitimate excuse for doing what it does. It wants to maximize the end user experience. by tightly integrating various factors of the consumer's computing experience, Apple is able to deliver a better product.

    So, I think that as long as the consumer doesn't suffer by getting an inferior product (or a dramatically overpriced one), it's ok.
  4. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    You reached an incorrect conclusion based on a fundamentally flawed premise based on the perceptions of a relatively new Apple customer. There is no need to rebut your "facts" point-by-point. However, it is illustrative to rebut a few of them:
    • The iPod is not limited to the iTunes Music Store as its source of music. It can play any non-DRMed MP3 title, whatever its source. It can also play music that you RIP from your CDs. Except for FairPlay DRMed files, the formats played by the iPod is available to all digital music player manufacturers.
    • Mac users are not locked-into Apple's OS. All Mac laptop and desktop computers in Apple's current product line have the ability to run natively just about any distribution of Linux or Microsoft's Windows XP or Windows Vista.
    • For more than a decade, Apple has made its QuickTime audio-visual frameworks available to users of Microsoft Windows free of charge. Not only does this allow Windows users to play .mov files, but it also allows them to use industry standard open formats like TIFF.
  5. clevin macrumors G3


    Aug 6, 2006
    in Mac, in iPhone, iPT, there is some hint that apple is the only provider of many stuff.

    Apple is the only one who can "self-claimed-legally" put app on iPhone/iPT
    Apple is the only one who offers native drivers for certain versions of windows.

    Apple does NOT have a large computer market share, however, apple intentionally set mac apart from pc, and apple is obviously dominate in "mac" market (is this bs logic interesting? apple always claims itself to be different from "pc", yet, when talking about monopoly, it can't wait to claim itself a personal computer that has only 5 % of market?).

    Apple uses secret API to give its own app different treatment.
    Evry update of iPT breaks 3rd party apps.

    Everybody call M$ monopoly, which I tend to agree, a bundled media player costs M$ $600,000,000. Well, how many stuff apple has bundled with its OS? Some people here accuse M$ of monopoly by bundling, in other discussions, they praise apple's bundling of this and that. What type of double standard is this?
  6. Unspeaked macrumors 68020


    Dec 29, 2003
    West Coast
    Get back to me when Apple adds the option to get a MacPro shipped with Windows (and only Windows) or OS-free from their online and retail stores.

    Until then, they're essentially forcing their OS down your throat if you purchase the hardware, making the fact that it's able to be wiped clean and have a different OS installed on it a weak point.
  7. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    No double standard. After providing us with the correct definition of a monopoly, you then miss the most important qualifier in this definition. The key phrase is "in a particular market." A single product is rarely a "market." If it was, then every proprietary product would be an automatic monopoly, which I think we all know instinctively isn't true. Bundling is also not an inherently monopolistic practice. It only becomes so when it is designed to be anticompetitive or predatory.
  8. jcgnu thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 30, 2006
    • I never said the iPod was limited to the iTunes Music Store. I've had an iPod for like 4 years now, and we don't have an iTMS over here. I said you need iTunes to synchronize it. I don't think that's possible to be done with Windows Media Player, for example.
    • They only let you install Windows because that gives them more users.
    • They released a version of Quicktime only to try to make it a standard. Otherwise, why would they still use Quicktime as their default media for everything on their Web site, instead of Flash, which is the standard right now? They're basically forcing you to download their product to surf their site.

    And for all the people who are saying it is not a monopoloy, (I said this with all your respect) read the title again, I'm not saying that it is right now. I'm saying they are building one, and one day it might be.
  9. killmoms macrumors 68040


    Jun 23, 2003
    Washington, DC
    And we're saying that having a monopoly is not necessarily bad nor illegal, but using a monopoly in one market to gain an anti-competitive foothold in another market can be illegal. So yes, Apple has a monopoly of "OS X on Apple computers," but that's a single market. You can get Intel-based computers with any OS you want from other manufacturers. Nothing about Apple's policies stifle competition or innovation, except perhaps within their own devices like the iPod or iPhone, which they are perfectly allowed to do (since there are plenty of competitors making more tweakable, open devices, if that's what you want).

    This is like saying Microsoft not releasing the source code to Windows is "illegal and wrong." It's their product, and they have the right to control it as they wish.
  10. BowZinger macrumors member

    Dec 8, 2007
    How is this different then Dell shipping there computers with Windows already installed? You can run OSX on a dell computer if you want to screw around with a bunch of emulation stuff to get it to run.

    Personally I like how apple makes it so you get THEIR OS with THEIR computers, it is the way the product was originaly designed.

    I do not think Apple is creating an monopoly, I think they are just using the software (OSX) that they have to work best with their hardware (ipods and the such).

  11. kuwisdelu macrumors 65816

    Jan 13, 2008
    Calling Apple a monopoly in the computer software/hardware industry is just silly. Yes, Apple practices vertical integration, meaning they control all parts of their final product from the hardware and computer components to the software that goes on it, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Vertical integration is a form of monopoly, yes, but it's not illegal. And besides, it's especially silly since Mac makes up such a small share of the computer market overall. You still have the choice to buy a PC from Dell, HP, Sony, etc., and put whatever OS you want on them.

    If you want want to talk about the iPod, then you're a lot closer to a monopoly. But Apple still hasn't done anything wrong there, either. I don't think they've done anything to discourage competition with other portable music devices. MS prices the Zune competitively with the iPod and people usually see them right next to each other whenever they buy an mp3 player. As long as the iPod is succeeding, it's still because it's a superior device, because there are plenty of evenly priced alternatives.
  12. Unspeaked macrumors 68020


    Dec 29, 2003
    West Coast
    Someone correct me if I'm wrong - because I'm not a Windows expert and might be - but I was under the impression that nearly all PC makers, including Dell - allow you to order their boxes without an OS installed.

    And some even allow you to order them with Linux instead of Windows.
  13. sadilak macrumors member

    Feb 27, 2008
    Your question does not make sense. In business, everybody aims for absolute monopoly. There is no room for philanthropic organizations.
  14. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004

    Plugged into my MacBook Pro is a Dell monitor, running on my Mac is software from a variety of vendors. If I wanted, I could run Windows or a variety of Linux on here. My iPod contains only music ripped from CDs, from dozens of labels; I can put a number of file types on it to listen to.

    The Airport Express in the room I'm sitting in now is plugged into a Denon amp. My black MacBook — the Mac that gets taken out and about — can connect to open networks anywhere, not just those using Apple routers. With a password, anyone bringing their PC laptop to my place could log on to the network running from the Airport Extreme.

    The iPod HiFi that also gets taken out from time to time runs from generic D cell batteries, not proprietary Apple batteries, and connects to other peripherals using standard audio connectors.

    Natively supported at the Quartz layer of OS X is the PDF file format, an Adobe format.

    You know, just saying...
  15. karenflower macrumors 6502a


    Dec 7, 2007
    There are actually a number of third party programs to add/remove music from your iPod. There's a utility called XPlay which lets you synchronize it with Windows Media Player.

    Most people do use iTunes, but there's still plenty of choice if you look around.
  16. clevin macrumors G3


    Aug 6, 2006
    well, at least I first offered the definition of monopoly. :)

    In a particular market, yes indeed, I also would like mac users to understand there is no "mac" against "PC", mac is a "personal computer", mac users aren't different from a "PC" user.

    The term "PC" has been intentionally distorted by apple to equal to "windows computer". Which is spreading ignorance, if you ask me.

    The clear definitions of terms are very important, without which the discussion won't go anywhere.
  17. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    Actually, Mac computers aren't a market, they're a product within a market. The market is personal computers. Lest we forget, Microsoft (at the time of the antitrust trial) had by most reckonings a 95% share of the personal computer market, and a nearly 100% share of the IBM-PC compatible market. That, and how they used that market share to stifle competition, was the real issue.

    Perhaps now, but not always. In fact even when some of the OEMs started offering PCs without Windows installed, the models offered this way were always different than the models shipped with Windows. IOW, Windows was not an option which you could add or delete from a given model. This is how Microsoft kept how much the end-user was paying for Windows a secret. In fact I think this is still the case.

    That was good. ;)

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