After Microsoft, Apple's next on the European Commission hit list

After Microsoft, Apple's next on the European Commission hit list

Summary: Apple fans might have cheered when the European Commission went after Microsoft for freezing out rivals in server software and products such as media players, but the rejoicing might be short-lived as Apple becomes the next target for the EU.

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Apple fans might have cheered when the European Commission went after Microsoft for freezing out rivals in server software and products itunes.jpgsuch as media players, but the rejoicing might be short-lived as Apple becomes the next target for the EU.

Steve Jobs is already facing pressure over allegations that Apple charged a different price for songs depending on where they were bought.  Back in 2005 a song from iTunes cost €0.99 (or $1.38) in France and Germany while the same song cost £0.79 (or $1.59) in the UK.

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But this issue isn't the main issue for the EU.  What the Commission lawyers really want to get tangled up in the the iPod/iTunes ecosystem that Apple has created.  Just in the same way that the Commission objected to how Microsoft forced Windows Media Player onto Windows users, Apple has done exact;y the same with iTunes.  In much the same way that the bundling of WMP froze out competition, forcing iPod users to go with iTunes does pretty much the same.  Just as the Commission forced Microsoft to carve off WMP from Windows (going as far as to make Microsoft offer  media player free version of Windows (a product which both consumers and OEMs alike have enthusiastically ignored), it's very likely that the iPod/iTunes ecosystem will be broken up. 

After all, bundling is bundling.

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Thoughts?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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75 comments
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  • What's the connection?

    I'm not sure it's a fair comparison, an operating system and software to interface with a specific device, in this case the iPod? Wasn't the problem with WMP that it was inexplicably built into the os itself and so could not be removed if someone wanted to use another media player exclusively?

    Will the EU be pursuing any company that builds devices and software to interface with them? My cell phone has to have software from Verizon to load songs onto it (disclaimer, I've never bought the software and don't listen to songs on my phone). Graphics cards have to have drivers from the companies that produce them (a big pain in Linux butt I understand). My old 256k mp3 player had a specific software to load songs on and off of it.

    I don't see the connection in the comparison you've made, but I'd be happy to rethink if you could clarify it for me?

    Thanks
    meelder
    • That's odd

      I can put songs on my Verizon phone by:

      1)Connecting the USB cable to the phone and synching it via Media Player
      2)Connecting the USB cable to the phone and treating it as a removable disk
      3)Removing the microSD card from the phone and plugging it into a card reader and managing the music on it directly.

      Also, I put (un-DRM'ed and converted) iTunes music on my Verizon phone, as well as tracks ripped from CDs I own. I have never purchased a song from Verizon.

      YMMV.
      Real World
      • Re: That's odd

        As I said, I've never cared to put music on my phone so I'm going by what the salesperson said. Where did you get this usb cable, it is perhaps part of whatever package they tried to sell me? I assume it's not a standard usb cable since I don't see either usb port on my phone? And I don't have a microSD card to load anything on either, so that method would not work.
        meelder
        • Read an article about Cell Phones

          Many cellular providers disable features on the phone that allow you to load directly. In the article they mentioned camera phones and how you were forced to email you pictures and be charged for that.
          voska
          • I access the pics with that same

            USB cable ($30 kit from Verizon that I bought with the phone, also came with some other junk) and Bitpim.
            Real World
          • Buyer Beware

            That's all I can say. Verizon may allow others might not.
            voska
  • And here was me thinking

    They are going to "look into" Intel next. Ah well, who knew?
    zkiwi
    • haven't they already

      started to explore the iPod/iTunes thing some time ago? <br>
      Anyway, clearly the majority see the need for this to happen. I konw you put stock in these polls based on past comments.
      <br>
      xuniL_z
      • Whatever

        They investigated both, but as far as I know they are closer to doing something (or perhaps deciding what to do is a better way to state it) about Intel sooner than Apple/iTunes. After all, the EC has a bunch of chip fabrication places in it that aren't run by Intel.
        zkiwi
        • I see

          charges of anti competitive behavior brought on 7/27/07. However this 6 year long case involves only competetive behavior related to AMD from what I see. What do you mean by:<br> <i>After all, the EC has a bunch of chip fabrication places in it that aren't run by Intel. </i><br>
          what is that to suggest? <br><br>
          Interesting side note in the meantime: <br>
          http://www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=article&articleid=CA6468353
          <br>
          xuniL_z
        • Well, since the sun is up.

          and it's 7:00am Friday there it's time for you to get some sleep. <br>
          Sleep tight and sweet dreams, hon. (i can only imagine what those might be for you... :) ) <br>
          Please reply to me or my other post here when you get up around 1:00 or 2:00 or so your time. It'll be 10:00pm or after here. <br>
          xuniL_z
  • This is insane

    Where do they start drawing a line here? What's part of the OS and what's not gets blurry, fast. Does this mean operating system makers can't bundle ANY software on their systems, unless they offer installers for all other comparable competitor apps? OK, MS bundles Notepad with every Windows XP box. Must they stop that, too? This is all going to hurt consumers more than help them. So what if MS ships with Windows Media Player. To use it effectively, you need broadband anyway...and if you have broadband, go download something else. It's not like the old days where your computer lived in a vacuum.
    vince@...
  • Big difference between Apple and MS situations

    The MS complaints revolved around MS?s monopoly on the desktop OS. There are only 2 alternatives available, OSX and Linux. Of course OSX requires the purchase of a new computer if you now use Windows. Linux is even more problematical for the average end user.

    In the mp3 music player market, Apple has many competitors. Amazon.com lists 50 competitors to Apple. Amazon has 1930 offerings from those competitors versus 122 from Apple. In fact, Amazon lists 111 offerings from Creative alone. That?s a big difference from having 2 competitors, as in the OS market.

    Apple does nothing to prevent users from buying music from other suppliers, both online and not online. There is no requirement for any iPod user to ever buy even one song from Apple and still use their iPod as much as they like. Apple has many, many competitors in the online music sales business and is not even in the non-online music business (cds, etc). In fact, Apple has stated that the average iPod buyer only buys about 30 songs, total, from Apple.
    j.m.galvin
    • Another big difference

      Even if Apple is considered to have a monopoly in the MP3 music player market, the big difference is that Apple's monopoly grew out of the combination of the iPod and iTunes. In contrast, MS had it's desktop monopoly before it bundled windows media player and IE into the OS.
      Randomly
    • ITMS

      J.M.:

      Before I get started, a disclaimer:

      I do not own a dedicated portable media player. I do not use iTunes or have an account with ITMS.


      The reasons why the EC may be interested in investigating Apple have to do with ITMS, the implied tying of AAC format music files with ITMS and the plethora of iPods in circulation, as well as the varying prices that ITMS charges for its wares in the several European States.

      Yes, I do understand that it is possible to burn iTunes-provided music files to a CD, then convert and transfer them back to an iPod (or any music player) as mp3 files, thereby removing Apple's "FairPlay" DRM. I also know it's possible to copy mp3 files ripped from a CD to an iPod.

      But doesn't this require additional applications that Apple doesn't supply or [b]allow to be supplied with OS X[/b]? If you want to push the monopoly "envelope" as far as possible, then yes, the iTunes/ITMS/iPod linkage is a "monopoly", and can be viewed as Apple unfairly and uncompetitively abusing their "monopoly power".

      This is/was the same argument levied against Microsoft by the EC for their (Microsoft's) inclusion of Windows Media Player with Windows.

      Don't think for a minute that the loons running the EC can't see the same illogical conclusion that I've just drawn. They can, and probably will.

      Bring on the ABM trolls and let them bay at the moon.
      M.R. Kennedy
      • Huh?

        Brother Mike: "Yes, I do understand that it is possible to burn iTunes-provided
        music files to a CD, then convert and transfer them back to an iPod (or any music
        player) as mp3 files, thereby removing Apple's "FairPlay" DRM. I also know it's
        possible to copy mp3 files ripped from a CD to an iPod.

        But doesn't this require additional applications that Apple doesn't supply or allow
        to be supplied with OS X? If you want to push the monopoly "envelope" as far as
        possible, then yes, the iTunes/ITMS/iPod linkage is a "monopoly", and can be
        viewed as Apple unfairly and uncompetitively abusing their "monopoly power"."

        You can strip the drm from any tune using the tools in the iTunes app--"Mix, Rip,
        Burn"

        How about just buying the non-drm'd songs from iTMS instead?

        You guys are really struggling to stitch Apple up as an abusive monopolist here.
        You're going to have to do a lot better. Reality and truth just not on your side.
        Len Rooney
        • Understand the EU laws

          Apple crows that it has 62 percent of the market. EU laws require a company with over 37 pecent market share to adhere to special laws requireing then to open up their business practices in order to give it's competitors a chance to compete.

          If it's good for MS, then it's good for Apple, too
          John Zern
          • Wrong

            First it must be proven that a company is actively hindering competition. That was
            proven to the EU and US government's satisfaction. It has yet to be proven in Apple's
            case. But good luck with that because once you remove the record company's price
            and drm requirements, you haven't got Apple on anything. iTunes, iPod and iTMS do
            not hinder competition. There's lots of competitors to choose from. There's more
            everyday.
            Len Rooney
          • re: Wrong

            Len:

            "First it must be proven that a company is actively hindering competition."

            Remember my disclaimer: I don't use iTunes nor do I own a dedicated portable media player.

            And you think that iTunes/ITMS isn't hindering competition in Europe? Or anywhere else? Let's see now... You use a Mac and iTunes is bundled as part of OS X. Plug in your shiny new iPod and...OS X detects it, and runs iTunes. It won't force you to go online to ITMS, but it certainly offers the option, doesn't it?

            What third-party media program(s) does Apple bundle with OS X?


            You also forget that Apple must make Neelie Kroes happy. She has already said that she would like to have Microsoft's market share reduced to 50%. I think that it would be safe to say that were she so inclined towards Apple's iTunes/ITMS/iPod combine, you'd howl at the moon in outrage.

            Do you feel an itchy spot in the middle of your back yet? No? Just wait. Microsoft can tell you what it feels like.
            M.R. Kennedy
        • re: Huh?

          Len:

          Not that I particularly consider you to be an ABM troll, but you *did* pick up that glove...

          [i]referring to previous question concerning additional third-party conversion software[/i]

          "You can strip the drm from any tune using the tools in the iTunes app--'Mix, Rip, Burn'"

          OIC. I suppose you are aware that iTunes is bundled with OS X, though it's not bundled with Windows. And I also suppose you're aware that applications that are bundled with Windows (specifically, WMP 10 and 11) can accomplish the same thing.

          But MS doesn't have 60%+ of the InterTubes media business, does it?

          But wait! There's more! If you're in Europe and you've chosen Vista Premium N, which was [b]mandated by the EC[/b] to be offered to PC purchasers in lieu of plain ol' Vista Premium, [b]which comes with WMP bundled[/b], you need third-party applications for those operations. <whaps self on forehead>

          Maybe the EC should consider requiring Apple to offer a version of OS X that doesn't contain iTunes or any part of iLife, so their precious consumers can have a choice and their precious third-party software companies can prosper on an artificially leveled playing field.

          How would it make you feel, as a loyal Mac user, to be on the opposite side of the firing line for once?


          As I said in the message to which you responded, don't think for a minute that the EC is incapable of thinking of such things and acting upon them in a manner detrimental to Apple. They certainly can, and very possibly will.
          M.R. Kennedy