With Apple finally pulling the cover off its subscription pricing plan for iPad content, vendors are screaming about antitrust violations. Now there are reports that Justice and the FTC as well as the European Commission are taking a look. Only on Superman's Bizarro world in a parallel universe could this be true.
According to the "experts," the determination is about whether Apple dominates the market, and even what exactly comprises the market. Is it all media, spanning print and digital, or just digital. And what exactly is "digital" here? Is it the hardware platform, the format, the store and development tools?
But, [Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust professor at the University of Iowa College of Law] said, if Apple gets to a point where it is selling 60 percent or more of all digital subscriptions through its App Store, "then you might move into territory where an antitrust challenge would seem feasible."
Mr. Ghosh said courts in antitrust inquiries may look favorably when a company can articulate a legitimate business justification for behavior alleged to be anticompetitive. For this reason, Apple may "come up with a business justification" for some of its restrictive subscription terms, he said. "They have invested in a platform so they need to create incentives to use the platform."
But what do the numbers really tell us at this moment?
If we're taking about e-readers, then the iPad is still trailing by some 15 percent the Amazon Kindle. Of course, the Kindle is losing share and the iPad is gaining but the share figures measured a few months ago showed the Kindle at 47 percent and the iPad at 32 percent.
If we're talking about mobile app share, then Apple is in third place: RIM is on top with 33.5 percent share, Google Android is in second with 26 percent and Apple a close third place with 25 percent.
And even in the mobile video market, where Cupertino has dominated for years with the iPod, Apple is only somewhat over 60 percent. In a recent survey, Apple iTunes movie downloads accounted for 64.5 percent of the market, Microsoft Zune Video Store rose to 17.9 percent and Sony had a 7.2 percent share.
Maybe the problem is about apps. If you look at actual 2010 sales of apps, then Apple had an 82.7 percent share, with Android coming in with a 4.7 percent share. And perhaps it's a reflection on early-adopters of the Android platform refusing to actually pay for their apps. That will certainly change over time.
So, what am I missing, other than a bunch of whining content creators, that there's a real antitrust issue here? There's no there there.