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Apple's culture of lies, Part 2: A different way of looking at it

One thing I've often thought with Apple is how much worse off the PC industry would be if they were ever dominant, because they're such a belligerent company. But a more level-headed way to view Apple's recent push-backs from the top of the heap is that they're suffering from exactly the same problematic mind-set that doomed Microsoft a decade/decade-and-a-half ago, back when antitrust regulators from the FTC and DOJ first accused the company of illegal anti-competitive behavior. That is, they're just a product of their history.

What I mean is, until very recently, Apple was the underdog, and they've been the underdog for almost their entire existence. This creates a certain mindset, and under Steve Jobs especially, it's created a very aggressive competitive spirit. This aggressiveness is fine when you are literally the underdog, just as was the case with Microsoft early in its career and it was trying to wrest the PC industry from IBM, Lotus, WordPerfect, and other tech dinosaurs. But once you have a dominant market position, that aggressive behavior--so important for an up-and-comer--isn't just bad, it's illegal. It's just hard to turn it off when it's been part of the corporate psyche for so long.

Microsoft got into antitrust trouble because they behaved in a manner that was illegal, but only for a company that holds monopoly power. During this time, I fielded innumerable emails from people wondering why it was OK for Apple or Linux to bundle applications in their OSes when it wasn't OK for Microsoft. (Answer: Apple and Linux didn't/doesn't have a desktop OS monopoly.) And so on. The answer was always the same: If Microsoft didn't have a monopoly, what it did in the mid-1990s would have been legal.

As I write this, Apple doesn't quite have a monopoly in any given market, but they are pretty darned close in a few, and getting closer all the time. And you can see how aggressive this company is, and how they're protecting their core products at the expense of users. The time to stop this behavior is now, not after Apple has secured the digital music market (arguably already done), the digital movie and TV show markets, and the consumer smart phone market. These are the markets that Apple is set to monopolize, and we've already arguably passed the point where that is no longer a given, a certainty. You can argue that we're not there yet, possibly. But we will be.

So. With this obvious comparison of two very similarly belligerent companies--Microsoft of the mid-1990s and Apple of today--in mind, I think the time has come to rein Apple in. To examine Apple's exclusive relationships with wireless carriers. To force it to open up iTunes to competing players, and its iPhone and iPod devices to competing software and services. If we don't do this now, it will only be more difficult in the future. All you have to do is look at Microsoft's never-ending antitrust saga--which has now stretched on for 15 years, involved regulatory bodies on three continents, and gone on far longer than its actual bad behavior--to see why it's time.

We spend too much time worrying about whether Microsoft will be the next IBM. What we should be worrying about is that Apple has already become the next Microsoft. Let's fix that. Let's nip this one in the bud. Let's do it now.

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