10 Reasons Why Apple's Battles Will Bolster Competition

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-08-05 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Apple is in the middle of a serious battle with both Google and Palm. Apple has much to lose by its icy determination to keep competitors out of the App Store and away from iTunes. But users might gain from this market battle if it results in greater competition and new application development, and if it shows there are limits to even Apple's market power.

Apple is in an enviable position in the tech industry. Its iPhone is a major hit. Its App Store is quickly becoming an important component of its business. Everything seems to be going well. But there's one problem with Apple that could lead to serious trouble down the road: It doesn't know how to play nice with others. Believe it or not, that could be good for us all.

Earlier this week, word leaked that Palm filed a complaint with an industry watchdog group that monitors USB standards. Palm claimed that Apple is "hampering" competition in the market by not allowing Palm Pre users to access iTunes. The complaint also discussed how the Pre makes iTunes think it's an iPod and thus allows users to work with Apple's software as if it were running on an Apple device.

That news came on the heels of Apple's decision to block Google Voice, an up-and-coming telephony service from the search giant. Apple claimed that it denied Google Voice entrance into the App Store because it offered features too similar to those already in the iPhone.

The blogosphere exploded in outrage. Apple was getting hit from all sides over its decision to block the app. And yet, the company stayed silent, waiting as it always does for the news to blow over. Only, Google Voice hasn't blown over. A quick search around the Web reveals that people are still upset with Apple over its decision to block Google Voice. They're also miffed that Steve Jobs and co. won't play nice with the Pre.

It's good that Apple is facing so much pressure. It's good for consumers. It's good for the enterprise. It's good for everyone-even Apple itself, although it refuses to see it that way. Apple has been able to do what it wants for too long. It has bullied small developers. But now, it's facing some real competition and, for the first time in a while, it's facing the blogosphere. It's a three-front war right now. And it could benefit users. Here's why:

1. Competition is good
Palm has a point when it claims Apple is "hampering" competition in the marketplace. Although I can understand that Apple wouldn't want the Pre, an iPhone competitor, to access iTunes, Apple would still get a benefit from that. It might make Pre owners want to buy more songs. They might even fall in love with iTunes and want some Apple hardware. Everybody wins.

2. Apple has been a bully
If nothing else, these battles with Google and Palm have highlighted the fact that if Apple bullies the wrong group, it will face repercussions. How many times has Apple blocked third-party developers' apps in the App Store for little or no reason? When it happens, it's forgotten because, to be quite honest, those developers aren't newsworthy. But Google and Palm are. And they won't be bullied. That can only be good for consumers.

3. Apple needed pressure
It's about time Apple felt some pressure. Apple has seemed almost above criticism with its unbroken string of successes with the iPod, iPhone and iTunes. But if Apple continues to come under pressure for the way it is wielding its market power, it will eventually realize that it needs to mend its ways. It can't continue to be so cavalier in its dismissal of complaints-especially if it starts to fall under serious regulatory scrutiny.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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