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From: Jon Koplik12/12/2023 11:28:13 AM
   of 32570
 
Bloomberg / Google’s Epic legal defeat threatens $200 billion app store industry .....................

Bloomberg

December 12, 2023

Google’s Epic Legal Defeat Threatens $200 Billion App Store Industry

-------------------------------------

Jury decision poised to accelerate crumbling of business model

Case takes aim at app store commissions of up to 30%

Google Loses App Store Antitrust Fight With Fortnite Maker Epic Games

------------------------------------

By Mark Gurman and Davey Alba

Google’s legal defeat at the hands of Fortnite maker Epic Games Inc. threatens to roil an app store duopoly with Apple Inc. that generates close to $200 billion a year and dictates how billions of consumers use mobile devices.

The loss -- handed down by a San Francisco jury on Monday -- is a blow to the two companies’ business model in apps, where they charge commissions of as much as 30% to software developers who typically have few other options. Google shares were down less than 1% in New York Tuesday morning at $132.62.

Epic has spent years railing against the practice and got a federal jury to agree that Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit had acted unfairly as a monopoly. The case is likely to accelerate the weakening of app store rules, which have already come under fire from regulators and lawmakers around the world.

“The dominoes are going to start falling here,” Tim Sweeney, chief executive officer of Epic, said in an interview after the verdict. “The end of 30% is in sight.”

Though Apple won a similar case against Epic in 2021, that ruling was made by a single judge. The nature of the Google suit -- where a jury sided unanimously with Epic -- let actual consumers weigh in on the world of smartphone apps. In under four hours of deliberations, they found that Google had engaged in anti-competitive conduct, harmed Epic and illegally forced its own billing system on developers.

There were other significant differences between the Apple and Google trials. During the current case, Epic highlighted agreements Google reached with top game developers, including Activision Blizzard Inc. and Nintendo Co., for smaller fees.

“Revenue sharing deals among Google, smartphone makers and game developers came to light during the trial,” Justin Patterson and other analysts at KeyBanc Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients. “We believe this was a key difference between the cases that contributed to Apple’s victory and Google’s loss.”

In Apple’s App Store, the same 30% take rate was applied evenly, while Google was attempting to steer traffic away from rival app stores on Android, analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note. “Meanwhile, Apple simply does not allow any rival app stores whatsoever.”

The battle began in 2020, when Fortnite was kicked off the Apple and Google Play app stores because the game developer installed its own payment system. The idea was to bypass the up-to-30% revenue share that the two tech giants take from in-app purchases and subscriptions on their platforms. In response, Epic sued both companies.

Google also has drawn criticism for making side deals with big developers like Spotify Technology SA where it offers lower commissions. In Monday’s decision, the jury found that Google shouldn’t require Android app developers to use its billing system for software sold through its store ­ and that it shouldn’t offer custom agreements to certain developers.

“The immediate aftereffect is we will see a shift in the marketplace where big tech companies will have to make accommodations -- whether it is more access, better terms, more options for developers -- to stave off legal exposure,” said Paul Swanson, a partner at Holland & Hart who specializes in technology and antitrust law.

The case also underscores a sentiment among many consumers that major technology companies have gained too much power. Google also faced scrutiny from a Justice Department judge this fall over its power in search, though the outcome of that trial won’t be clear for months.

Epic’s Sweeney predicted that -- as Google starts making changes to its operations and public pressure mounts -- its app store peer will be forced to act as well. “The same thing will start happening with Apple,” he said.

And that will ultimately help consumers, Sweeney said. “The economics is real,” he said. “When you remove a 30% tax from an ecosystem, consumer prices will get better. Or quality will get better and selection will increase.”

There’s a fortune at stake for both Apple and Google. In-app spending is forecast to reach $182 billion next year and $207 billion in 2025, according to research firm Sensor Tower. Google will get about $10.3 billion in revenue from app sales and in-app purchases from the Play Store in 2023, according to analysts at Wells Fargo. For every 5 points that the Play Store fee rate decreases, Google loses about $1.3 billion in operating income or 9 cents of earnings per share, the analysts wrote.

Already, the Digital Markets Act in the European Union will spur changes. For the first time, Apple will need to allow third-party app stores and billing systems in the region. A ruling against Apple or requirements imposed by the EU’s DMA “represent more meaningful potential changes for the industry,” than the Google ruling alone, the KeyBanc analysts said.

Even before the DMA takes effect next year, the two companies have been making adjustments. Apple now lets so-called reader apps -- such as software for cloud storage, watching video and reading books -- link to outside websites to let users pay. That bypasses Apple’s revenue cut.

Both Apple and Google also have changed their policies to take a commission on subscription apps. And Apple has been forced to let dating apps in the Netherlands bypass its billing system.

Apple’s and Google’s aren’t even the only app stores that Sweeney has targeted. He has used Fortnite’s popularity to take aim at Valve Corp.’s Steam, the dominant video game marketplace, which also takes a 30% cut of sales. In 2018, Epic launched its own game store, offering exclusives to draw in audiences. Five years later, Epic’s game store isn’t profitable, according to Steve Allison, who runs the store, and Steam remains the market leader for video game apps. Valve is facing its own antitrust lawsuit from game developers angry about the 30% revenue split.

“In the long run, the cat’s out of the bag,” said Joost Van Dreunen, an entrepreneur and lecturer at NYU Stern School of Business who has expertise in video games. “The unanimous verdict from a jury -- which took only a short term to decide -- has the potential to cascade across other ecosystems considering how blatantly Google sought to optimize its interests.”

The Epic win against Google has the potential to bring major changes to the companies’ home country. That includes shifting internet software back to a more open environment, rather than the app stores’ closed ecosystems, according to Stanford Law professor Mark Lemley.

“The last two decades have seen a profound shift away from the open internet towards walled gardens,” Lemley said. “That is one of the things that has kept the internet market so concentrated. This verdict just knocked a big hole in the garden wall.”

Though Apple won nine out of 10 counts against Epic when that decision was made in 2021, one issue is still up in the air: whether Apple should let all third-party developers point customers to websites to pay for purchases, bypassing Apple’s fees. It may now be harder for the iPhone maker to avoid that fate.

Google, which plans to appeal its verdict, said it “will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners and the broader Android ecosystem.” Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Apple has said it doesn’t have any side deals with developers, though it offers discounted rates to some video streaming partners like Amazon.com Inc. During the trial, Epic’s lawyers said Google also didn’t properly retain some internal records relevant to the case.

“I don’t think there’s much of a debate that the monopoly finding with Google holds true with Apple too,” said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association for digital content companies. “The distinction that will be pored over is whether or not Apple abused that.”

-- With assistance from Leah Nylen, Malathi Nayak, Subrat Patnaik, and Cecilia D'Anastasio

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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From: Jon Koplik12/16/2023 1:55:30 PM
   of 32570
 
Bloomberg -- China’s iPhone Ban Accelerates Across Government and State Firms ..........................

Bloomberg

December 15, 2023

China’s iPhone Ban Accelerates Across Government and State Firms

Agencies from Beijing to Tianjin instruct staff to go local

The formal directives follow a general mandate from months ago

By Bloomberg News

More Chinese agencies and government-backed firms across the country have ordered staff to stop bringing iPhones and other foreign devices to work, setting in motion an unprecedented prohibition that’s likely to block Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. from parts of the world’s biggest mobile market.

Multiple state firms and government departments across at least eight provinces -- including the prosperous coast -- instructed employees in the past month or two to start carrying local brands, according to people familiar with the matter. That’s a major step-up from around September, when a small number of agencies in Beijing and Tianjin began telling staff to leave foreign devices at home, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential orders.

The much broader, coordinated effort marks a dramatic quickening of Beijing’s campaign to wean itself off American technology, coinciding with the resurgent popularity of homegrown brand Huawei Technologies Co. Xi Jinping’s administration this year decided to expand a ban on foreign devices beyond the most sensitive departments -- a directive that had been in place for years -- to encompass many more government agencies and even state firms, Bloomberg News reported in September.

Apple shares dipped to a session low after Bloomberg reported on the widening bans. The stock fell less than 1% to $197.57 at the close Friday in New York and then declined further in after-hours trading. Apple had reached a record high earlier in the week.

While Chinese software and hardware have gradually replaced American products over the years -- from Microsoft Corp. software to Dell computers and Intel Corp. chips -- the edict threatens to deal a swift and direct hit to Apple’s market share.

This month, smaller firms and agencies in lower-tier cities have issued their own verbal directives, suggesting a much broader movement is kicking in, the people said. The orders originated from cities across at least eight provinces from prosperous Zhejiang, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Anhui to northern Shanxi, Shandong, Liaoning and central Hebei -- home to the world’s largest iPhone factory.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. The State Council Information Office and the Cyberspace Administration of China, which oversees online security, didn’t respond to faxed requests for comment.

The Chinese government has previously pushed back on reports about iPhone restrictions, while also raising concerns about the security of the device. “China has not issued laws and regulations to ban the purchase of Apple or foreign brands’ phones,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said during a press briefing in September.

It’s unclear how many government agencies precisely have issued directives, nor how widespread they’ve been. Different organizations will likely vary in how zealously they enforce internal edicts, with some forbidding Apple devices from the workplace and others barring their use entirely.

Collectively however, they present a major challenge for Samsung and Apple, which are both struggling to sustain growth in a key market. For Apple, which also uses China to produce the majority of its devices, the country yields about a fifth of its revenue.

Apple gets the majority of the world’s iPhones from sprawling factories run by suppliers like Foxconn Technology Group that together employ millions of Chinese. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook was the architect of the company’s strategy to outsource manufacturing to China two decades ago. He has worked hard since to maintain positive ties with Beijing, even as Apple has begun shifting more production capacity to other countries including India.

Independent data has indicated that the iPhone 15 is selling worse in the country than the previous model, prompting some analysts to scale back revenue projections.

Analysts believe that part of the slowdown stems from the August release of a Huawei smartphone that contained an advanced made-in-China processor. State media celebrated it as a triumph against US sanctions, while American lawmakers called for an investigation into possible violations of those curbs.

While Apple’s revenue from Greater China fell 2% in the fourth quarter, the company blamed the decline on the iPad and Mac. Cook said the iPhone 15 Pro did well in the region and that is is “very optimistic” about the company’s performance there. Apple still enjoys popularity in China and its devices remain common in both the government and private sector.

Chinese state firms like oil giant PetroChina Co. employ millions and still control vast swaths of a centrally planned economy. The state sector provides jobs for an estimated 80 million people and the figure could have grown by as much as 2 million on a net basis in 2022. Government agencies employ millions more.

----------------------------------------------

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

The possibility of weak iPhone sales in China is a risk to Apple’s financial performance in 2024, but our analysis indicates that the $7.4 billion drop in consensus sales since fiscal 4Q23 results adequately accounts for that threat. We expect more press coverage of Huawei’s success in China versus Apple, which is supported by our own smartphone survey, but see little risk of more estimate cuts.

-- Anurag Rana and Andrew Girard, analysts

---------------------------------------------

Even with US-China ties fraying, the US company is highly dependent on the Asian country -- both as a manufacturing partner and a market for its products. Cook celebrated that relationship during a trip to China earlier this year, calling it “symbiotic.”

But the blockade on the devices is the culmination of a years-long effort to root out foreign technology in sensitive environments, and coincides with China’s push to become self-sufficient in critical areas.

In 2022, Beijing ordered central government agencies and state-backed corporations to replace foreign-branded personal computers with domestic alternatives within two years, marking one of the most aggressive efforts to eradicate key overseas technology from within its most sensitive organs.

-- with assistance from Steven Yang and Debby Wu

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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To: Jon Koplik who wrote (32541)1/11/2024 7:49:05 PM
From: zax
1 Recommendation   of 32570
 

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From: zax1/17/2024 3:42:29 PM
1 Recommendation   of 32570
 
Apple Watch imports banned in America - again

cnn.com



New York CNN — A federal appeals court has denied Apple’s motion to temporarily pause a ban on imports of advanced models of the Apple Watch and the ban will be reinstated on Thursday, according to a Wednesday court filing.

Apple had requested a stay on the ban while it appealed a US International Trade Commission ruling that went into effect last month. That ITC order prevented Apple from importing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, among other newer models, to the United States because they violate patents registered to another company.

Apple last month was granted an interim pause on the ban until a judge could rule on a longer stay that would last through the appeal process, which will likely take months.

... cnn.com

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From: Jon Koplik1/30/2024 2:13:57 AM
   of 32570
 
speaking of that word : "titanium" -- I have noticed that in one AT&T Wireless ad, the words (regarding the latest over-priced Apple Crapple smart phone) are : "made WITH titanium."

I remember learning (decades ago) that when a vitamin C manufacturer said :

"made WITH rose hips"

-----------------------------------------------------------

Wikipedia on : rose hips : en.wikipedia.org

<<<<< The rose hip or rosehip, also called rose haw and rose hep, is the accessory fruit of the various species of rose plant.

It is typically red to orange, but ranges from dark purple to black in some species.

Rose hips begin to form after pollination of flowers in spring or early summer, and ripen in late summer through autumn. >>>>>

-------------------------------------------------------------

that . . . if the "rose hips" were actually a meaningful portion of the vitamin C tablet,

then, the tablet would be absurdly enormous.

So . . . all that "made WITH rose hips" meant was : more than 0% rose hips,

the rest : all synthetic, normal, typical vitamin C

apparently made as follows :

glucose (1) ---> sorbitol (2) --->fermentation---> sorbose (3) --->fermentation---> ketogluconic acid (5) ---> ascorbic acid (6)

------------------------------------------------------

I assume that Apple Crapple is similarly full of s****

regarding proudly saying : made WITH titanium
.

Anyone know for sure ?

Jon.

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From: Jon Koplik2/5/2024 12:53:07 PM
   of 32570
 
AP News -- Apple has had its first box office flop .....................................

and, from below :

<<<<< “Killers of the Flower Moon,” though not profitable with $156 million in global sales, was one of the most celebrated films of 2023 and is nominated for 10 Academy Awards. “Napoleon,” released in November, has raked in $219 million worldwide -- also not enough to turn a profit. >>>>>

****************************************

February 4, 2024

‘Argylle,’ with checkered reviews, flops with $18M for the big-budget Apple release

By JAKE COYLE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Apple has had its first box office flop.

“Argylle,” the $200-million star-studded spy thriller from Apple Studios, debuted with $18 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film, directed by Matthew Vaughn, managed to lead the weekend box office, but still found little interest from moviegoers.

Although Apple has been in the original film business since 2019 and won the Oscar for best picture with 2021’s “CODA,” the company has only recently produced its own lineup of big-budget releases. The first two -- Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” -- could be called successful.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” though not profitable with $156 million in global sales, was one of the most celebrated films of 2023 and is nominated for 10 Academy Awards. “Napoleon,” released in November, has raked in $219 million worldwide -- also not enough to turn a profit. But both films raised Apple’s reputation as a home to top directors and prestige filmmaking.

The same can’t be said for “Argylle,” a twisty thriller starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell and Henry Cavill. The movie was badly dinged by critics, who gave it a Rotten Tomatoes score of 35% “fresh.” Ticket buyers also gave it a thumbs down, with a C+ CinemaScore.

Apple has paired with traditional studios for each of those releases. Universal Pictures handled the rollout of “Argylle,” which opened in 3,605 North American venues and took in an additional $17.3 million in 78 international markets. Paramount handled “Killers of the Flower Moon,” while Sony steered “Napoleon.”

“Argylle,” with “Kingsman” director Vaughn at the helm, was made with aspirations of starting a new franchise. But one of its biggest talking points ahead of its release was conjecture that Taylor Swift might have been involved with the movie thanks to the prominent presence of argyle patterns and a cat in the promotional materials. Despite plenty of online discussion, Swift had no involvement in the film.

Second place on the weekend went to the Christian drama series “The Chosen.” The first three episodes of the fourth season of the series, which dramatizes the life of Jesus, played in 2,263 theaters. The Angel Studios release grossed $6 million Friday through Sunday.

On another quiet weekend in cinemas, the rest of ticket sales went mainly to holdovers and awards contenders.

Warner Bros.’ “Wonka,” in its eighth week, crossed $200 million domestically. After four weeks in theaters, Paramount’s “Mean Girls” crossed $100 million. “The Beekeeper,” from the Amazon MGM, neared $50 million in its fourth week.

Although many Oscar contenders hit theaters months ago, the top choices of those in theaters remain Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” ($15 million thus far for MGM), starring Jeffrey Wright, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” ($28.2 million, plus $40.1 million overseas), starring Emma Stone.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Argylle,” $18 million.

2. “The Chosen,” $6 million.

3. “The Beekeeper,” $5.3 million.

4. “Wonka,” $4.8 million.

5. “Migration,” $4.1 million.

6. “Mean Girls,” $4 million.

7. “Anyone But You,” $3.5 million.

8. “American Fiction,” $2.3 million.

9. “Poor Things,” $2.1 million.

10. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” $2 million.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle at twitter.com

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press.

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From: Jon Koplik2/14/2024 12:35:23 AM
   of 32570
 
tidbits from NYT / Vision Pro Review: Apple’s First Headset Lacks Polish and Purpose ..................

nytimes.com

or

archive.ph

*****************************************

NYT

TECH FIX

Updated Feb. 12, 2024

Vision Pro Review: Apple’s First Headset Lacks Polish and Purpose

Billed as the future of computing, the $3,500 goggles can’t replace a laptop for work. At times, wearing them also made our columnist feel nauseated.

By Brian X. Chen

Brian X. Chen, the personal tech columnist for The New York Times, has worn more than a dozen tech headsets over 12 years.

------------------------------------

Apple declined to provide an early review unit to The New York Times, so I bought a Vision Pro on Friday. (It costs much more than $3,500 with the add-ons that many people will want, including a $200 carrying case, $180 AirPods and $150 prescription lens inserts.) After using the headset for about five days, I’m unconvinced that people will get much value from it.

The device feels less polished than past first-generation Apple products I’ve used. It’s not better for doing work than a computer, and the games I’ve tried so far aren’t fun, which makes it difficult to recommend. An important feature ­ the ability to place video calls with a human-like digital avatar that resembles the wearer -- terrified children during a family FaceTime call.

-----------------------------------------

... it’s slightly heavier than Meta’s cheaper Quest headsets, and it plugs into an external battery pack that lasts only two hours.

The ski-goggle aesthetic of the Apple product looks better than the bulky plastic headset visors of the past. But the videos posted by early adopters walking around outside with the headset -- men I call Vision Bros -- confirm that people still look ridiculous wearing tech goggles, even when they are designed by Apple.

---------------------------------------

I preferred to see into physical reality most of the time, but I still felt isolated. The headset cuts off part of your periphery, creating a binoculars-like effect. I confess that it was hard at times to remember to walk my dogs because I didn’t see them or hear their whining, and in another session, I tripped over a stool. An Apple spokeswoman referred to the Vision Pro’s safety guidelines, which advise users to clear away obstacles.

When using the headset for work, you can surround yourself with multiple floating apps ­ your spreadsheet can be in the center, a notes app to your right and a browser to your left, for example. It’s the 3-D version of juggling windows on a computer screen. As neat as that sounds, pinching floating screens doesn’t make working more efficient because you need to keep twisting your head to see them.

I could tolerate juggling a notes app, a browser and the Microsoft Word app for no longer than 15 minutes before feeling nauseated.

The least joyful part of the Vision Pro is typing with its floating keyboard, which requires poking one key at a time
. I had planned to write this review with the headset before realizing I wouldn’t make my deadline.

There’s an option to connect a physical keyboard, but at that point I’d rather use a laptop that doesn’t add weight to my face.

------------------------------------------------

Next I tried the headset in the kitchen, loading a pizza recipe in the web browser while I grabbed and measured ingredients. Moving around while looking through the camera, I became nauseated again and had to remove the headset.

---------------------------------------------

Video calling is now an essential part of office life, and here the Vision Pro is especially inferior to a laptop with a camera. The headset uses its cameras to snap photos of your face that are stitched into a 3-D avatar called a Persona, which Apple has labeled a “beta” feature because it is unfinished.

Personas are so cringe that people will be embarrassed to use these in a work call. The Vision Pro produced an unflattering portrait of me with no cheekbones and blurred ears. In a FaceTime call with my in-laws, they said the blur conjured 1980s studio portrait vibes.

One of my nieces, a 3-year-old, turned around and walked away at the sight of virtual Uncle Brian. The other, a 7-year-old, hid behind her father, whispering in his ear, “He looks fake.”

--------------------------------------------

The headset’s two-hour battery life is not long enough to last through most feature-length movies, but in my experience, this turned out to be moot because I couldn’t watch movies for more than 20 to 30 minutes before needing to rest my neck and eyes from the heavy headset.

----------------------------------------------

Not many games have been made for the headset yet. I tried some new Vision Pro games such as Blackbox, which involves moving around a 3-D environment to pop bubbles and solve puzzles. It looked nice, but after the novelty wore off, my interest fizzled out. It’s tough to recommend the Vision Pro for virtual-reality gaming when Meta’s $250 Quest 2 and $500 Quest 3 headsets have a deeper library of games.

-----------------------------------------------

The Vision Pro is the start of something -- of what, exactly, I’m not sure.

But the point of a product review is to evaluate the here and now. In its current state, the Vision Pro is an impressive but incomplete first-generation product with problems and big trade-offs. Other than being a fancy personal TV, it lacks purpose.

Most striking to me about the Vision Pro is, for such an expensive computer, how difficult it is to share the headset with others. There’s a guest mode, but there’s no ability to create profiles for different family members to load their own apps and videos.

So it’s a computer for people to use alone, arriving at a time when we are seeking to reconnect after years of masked solitude. That may be the Vision Pro’s biggest blind spot.

------------------------------------------------

END.

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From: Jon Koplik2/27/2024 12:51:07 AM
   of 32570
 
WSJ Opinion / William Barr / Siri, Does Apple Violate Antitrust Law ? .............................

WSJ

Feb. 26, 2024

Siri, Does Apple Violate Antitrust Law ?

The Justice Department reportedly plans a major lawsuit against the firm -- with good reason.

By William P. Barr

Politicians in both parties broadly agree that a handful of tech companies hold too much power. As attorney general in 2019, I launched an antitrust review of the problem. The Justice Department filed suit the following year against Google for monopolizing internet search and search advertising. Under Attorney General Merrick Garland the department has pressed forward with the Google case and the Big Tech review and is now reportedly preparing to file a major antitrust suit against Apple. This is a good development.

Big Tech firms like Apple require rigorous antitrust scrutiny. Today, virtually all aspects of life -- finance, commerce, entertainment, social relations, news and public discourse -- are conducted over a handful of digital platforms. Giant tech companies have the power to snuff out challenges to their dominance; collect mountains of customers’ personal data, which they can exploit to manipulate users’ decisions and beliefs; and control what we hear and read. This overwhelming economic and social power is antithetical to the founding principles of our democratic republic.

While antitrust enforcement under President Biden, particularly at the Federal Trade Commission, has gone too far, the Justice Department’s concerns about Apple are justified. Keeping markets free requires confronting anti-competitive abuses. For many years, competitors have credibly complained that Apple has used its dominant market position and heavy-handed tactics to cripple competition.

More than half of the mobile devices in the U.S. are Apple devices using its proprietary iOS operating system. Apple has made its App Store the only way for software developers to reach this vast market, and it uses technical and contractual restrictions to box out competitors. Apple does this in two ways: by prohibiting iOS users from downloading software from any other source, and by making developers agree not to distribute their apps through any other store as a condition of getting access to the tools necessary to make iOS-compatible apps.

A significant part of Apple’s business now is distributing other companies’ applications to iOS users. The App Store’s dominance allows Apple to take up to a 30% cut on sales of paid apps, demand the same fee for subsequent “in-app” purchases, and insist that developers not communicate with customers about less expensive ways to download their apps. This arrangement limits competition and raises prices. With surging sales of more than $89 billion in 2023, the App Store by itself would rank in the Fortune 100.

Apple allegedly uses its control over iOS and the App Store to impose technical limitations on competing apps that impair their performance. A 2020 House Judiciary Committee investigation cited Apple’s treatment of Tile Inc., a company that makes hardware and software enabling users to track lost items. Tile told the committee that in 2019 Apple made changes to iOS 13 that increased the difficulty of using the Tile app and devices, while at the same time rolling out and pre-installing its own competing Find My app.

Another example of Apple’s anti-competitive behavior is how it gives preference to Apple Pay over other mobile payment services. Apple installs within its iPhones near field communication chips, or NFCs, so the devices themselves can complete tap-to-pay transactions. The European Union has challenged Apple for allegedly handicapping rivals by denying the same NFC access to competing mobile payment services.

Apple has also long pursued a strategy of weaving together an integrated ecosystem of easily inter-operable products and services. That is unobjectionable, but when the company moves into a new product market -- such as smartwatches or smart homes -- the regulators’ concern is that Apple makes hardware and software choices that optimize the inter-operability of its own new-market devices with Apple’s ecosystem, while degrading the inter-operability of incumbent devices. The Justice Department has reportedly been studying why iPhones work better with Apple smartwatches than with other smartwatches.

Smartwatches illustrate how impairing inter-operability can harm competition. Apple smartwatches, standing alone, would have no obvious competitive advantage over those made by Garmin. But if Garmin watches don’t work as smoothly with the ever-present iPhone, Apple’s product would gain an advantage. In essence, Apple would be using its power in the smartphone market as leverage to capture a new market with a less compelling product.

Nor is the inter-operability issue confined to rival devices. Two months ago, Apple blocked an Android message application, Beeper Mini, which allowed Android phones to exchange secure and encrypted messages using Apple’s iPhone-only iMessage service.

There is little question that Apple incorporates some hardware and software design choices that make it difficult for customers to leave the system and harder still for rivals to compete with any part of it. Apple typically claims that any anti-competitive effects are justified to protect the security and privacy of its ecosystem. But there is reason to think this security-privacy mantra is frequently used as a pretext when the real purpose is hobbling competitors.

In 2018, after launching its own parental-control application, Screen Time, Apple purged similar third-party apps from its App Store. Internal Apple communications proposed advancing the “narrative” that this was done for privacy reasons. According to a House report, when the Justice Department announced it was investigating the matter, Apple started reinstating the apps and found less-restrictive ways of satisfying supposed privacy concerns.

Apple uses an arsenal of tactics whose anticompetitive effects, taken individually, may operate subtly but, taken cumulatively, work powerfully to suppress competition. To make headway, a Justice Department challenge must address these tactics comprehensively and force Apple to demonstrate that the handicaps it inflicts on rivals are essential to achieving legitimate security and privacy requirements. The burden should be on Apple to prove that less restrictive alternatives don’t exist.

Mr. Barr is a co-founder of Torridon Law PLLC, a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the memoir “One Damn Thing After Another.” He served as U.S. attorney general, 1991-93 and 2019-20.

Copyright © 2024 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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From: zax3/5/2024 12:30:50 AM
1 Recommendation   of 32570
 
Apple fined almost $2 billion by EU for giving its music streaming service leg up over rivals'

cbsnews.com

London — The European Union leveled its first antitrust penalty against Apple on Monday, fining the U.S. tech giant nearly $2 billion for breaking the bloc's competition laws by unfairly favoring its own music streaming service over those of competitors.

...

The investigation found that Apple banned streaming services from telling users about how much subscription offers cost outside of their apps, including links in their apps to pay for alternative subscriptions or even emailing users to tell them about different pricing options.

The fine comes the same week that EU rules are set to kick in that are aimed at preventing tech companies from dominating digital markets.

... cbsnews.com

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From: Jon Koplik3/6/2024 11:00:32 PM
   of 32570
 
Bloomberg Opinion : If Apple Has Something Up Its Sleeve, Now’s the Time ...............................

Bloomberg

March 6, 2024

If Apple Has Something Up Its Sleeve, Now’s the Time

Sales of the iPhone are slumping in China, the App Store is under assault and the company is behind in AI. Worse, its reputation for having the next hot innovation is waning.

By Dave Lee

Dave Lee is Bloomberg Opinion's US technology columnist. He was previously a correspondent for the Financial Times and BBC News.

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Last year, when I described Apple Inc.’s 2023 as “miserable,” my inbox took something of a battering. Many readers questioned how I could suggest such a thing: The stock was up 48% that year !

But just as a rising stock market does not necessarily indicate a strong underlying economy, a rising share price doesn’t always take into account, or take seriously enough, the vulnerabilities of the underlying business. To me, by the end of 2023, it had become quite clear Apple had problems sprouting all around it. At that point, though, investors seemed happy with Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s multiple reassurances.

Now, some 66 days into 2024, Apple is clearly at a crossroads, falling short on expectations of growth through innovation and facing urgent threats to its legacy businesses. Its shares are down more than 11% this year.

On Monday, the European Union issued a $2 billion fine as part of an all-out assault on the economics of the App Store. To protect its walled garden, Apple has come out fighting, but it will lose -- the only question being how badly and with what consequences to its bottom line. As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Parmy Olson wrote on Monday, Apple is now in a new era of scrutiny that will be hugely costly -- the US is expected to file its suit against the company, on similar concerns, any day now.

Tuesday brought more bad news, this time out of China. New data from Counterpoint Research suggested sales of the iPhone were down 24% in the country in the first six weeks of this year in an overall smartphone market that fell by 7%. Part of this decline, Counterpoint notes, can be attributed to the fact that Apple enjoyed unusually strong iPhone sales in January 2023 thanks to pent up demand from 2022’s supply squeeze. But Apple’s drop in market share -- from 19% a year ago to 16% this year -- shows a shift. It’s now China’s fourth most popular smartphone maker after being on top a year ago.

Multiple headlines last year spoke to what was being seen as a shift in sentiment around Apple’s business in the country; consumers were growing more interested in buying smartphones from homegrown companies such as Huawei, which is banned in the US. Counterpoint’s data suggests these concerns may not be as overblown as they have been in the past, when rumors of an iPhone decline did not materialize.

It’s not just an issue of patriotism. While China is, in many respects, a tech trends silo, a possibly diminished interest in the iPhone crosses borders. It’s a product that has become a victim of its own quality. I was in an Apple Store this week, shopping for my own new device, when it occurred to me the last time I bought an iPhone was some five years ago. The quality of Apple’s hardware and its continued software upgrades mean the device feels every bit as capable as the day I got it ­ were it not for a recently cracked screen, a new device would not have crossed my mind. Counterpoint has observed this, too: “Consumers feel fine holding on to the older-generation iPhones for now,” it said.

As a result, the iPhone has become an item that people refresh in the same way they might buy a new television, refrigerator or car -- an expensive good that’s replaced once the existing model shows signs of aging rather than through an aspiration for the new technology of the most recent one. Price increases have offset this so far, but Apple will need to innovate its way to future growth. Minimal progress has been made so far.

Successful recent hardware, such as the Apple Watch and AirPods, are merely iPhone accessories. The Vision Pro mixed-reality headset remains a gamble. Judging by the sharp tailing off of demonstration videos on social media, it seems the only “killer app” the device has so far is the ability to make wearers go viral if they do something daft with it in public. If the company was hoping the Vision Pro would fill investors’ “what’s next?” void, it does not seem to have been the case.

For the longest time, Apple has traded on the belief that, at any given moment, it has something extraordinary locked away in a secret lab,
something it is perfecting with the help of its legendary design team. This perception is rapidly waning as symbolized by last week’s news that the company had abandoned efforts to build its own car, a project that had long suffered from a lack of direction.
The same could be said of Apple’s approach to artificial intelligence. Siri continues to be an embarrassment: The way many users feel about the voice assistant’s ability to assist was summed up by Larry David’s recent (very funny and very sweary) scene in the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Siri repeatedly misunderstands what is being asked of it.

Apple’s announcement that it would be redirecting resources from its car to AI comes as investors’ murmurs grow louder. Unlike Google, Amazon.com Inc. and especially Microsoft Corp. -- which is now more than $350 billion ahead of Apple in market value, having only overtaken it this past January -- Apple has yet to make any meaningful announcements about how AI will change its business other than to say it’s excited by the prospect.

It’s unclear what an AI strategy for Apple might look like. At a minimum, it could enhance the iPhone, but consumers will come to just expect that as standard in a new phone. And unlike the immense data centers owned by Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet Inc., Apple has no enterprise-facing cloud business on which it can offer companies (other than itself) access to cutting-edge AI capabilities.

“Everyone is clamoring for Apple to have a story” on AI, one investor told the Wall Street Journal last week, and the company certainly seems eager to present one. This week it promoted its latest MacBook Air as the “world’s best consumer laptop for AI” -- by which Apple means that it’s a great computer on which to run other companies’ AI software. That may well be enough to keep selling devices, but the worst-case scenario for Apple is that this temporary weakness becomes a generational one, much like Microsoft’s lack of foresight on the smartphone, a mistake that put it on the backfoot for more than a decade.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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