Slate: Apple is nearly as evil as Amazon, Facebook and Google

From Cory Doctorow’s “Against the Cult of Apple: Hostile to customers and in thrall to China, the beloved company doesn’t deserve a pass” posted Wednesday:

Apple’s alpha and omega is control: The App Store is designed to ensure Apple gets to decide who provides code to Apple customers, and the company has used this power to block apps on capricious and political grounds, from a dictionary (it had dirty words) to an app that told you whenever a U.S. drone strike killed a civilian to an app used by Hong Kong protesters to evade the city-state’s police forces during pro-democracy demonstrations.

But the most important reason to control apps is to get a bigger cut—a 30 percent cut that Apple takes out of every software developer’s hide (don’t worry, the developers recoup by charging you more)…

There’s a touchstone of the techlash: “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product.” But the reality is that monopolists are endlessly inventing ways of extracting rents from their customers and suppliers. In fact, the saying works even outside the free-for-data model of Facebook and Google. When it comes to Apple, even if you’re paying for the product, you’re still the product: sold to app programmers as a captive market, or gouged on parts and service by official Apple depots.

None of this is to let Google, Facebook, Oracle, or Microsoft off the hook. These companies are all monopolists that have spent the young century engaged in abusive and anti-competitive conduct, from buying up their nascent competitors (Apple bought 20 to 25 companies in the first six months of 2019) to merging with their largest competitors to cornering vertical markets, then abusing suppliers, retailers, and customers with verve not seen since the days of Carnegie and Rockefeller. Google isn’t your friend, and neither is Facebook, nor Twitter, nor Airbnb.

And neither is Apple.

My take: Doctorow‘s not-uninformed rant accompanies Slate’s Evil List, a ranking by a “poll of experts” of the 30 most dangerous or worrisome companies in tech. The top 10:

  1. Amazon
  2. Facebook
  3. Google (Alphabet)
  4. Palantir
  5. Uber
  6. Apple
  7. Microsoft
  8. Twitter
  9. ByteDance
  10. Exxon Mobil

7 Comments

  1. Gregg Thurman said:

    His isn’t a rant about evil, it’s a rant against capitalism. It’s the nature of the beast to control as much of its destiny as possible, without control the beast dies.

    The issue then isn’t really about control, but whether the consumer benefits from that control, after all the customer has free will and can choose how much control they are willing to surrender in exchange for the benefits that control provides.

    When the benefits to the customer, vendor, supplier, banker, et al outweigh the loss of control, the firm thrives.

    Personally, when I buy Apple products I have chosen to give up whatever it is Doctorow is railing about in exchange for products that work with a minimal amount of interference (user interface), zero fear of system exploits allowing bad actors to steal my identity (malware),:upgradeable products (extended economic life), tremendous customer support, and, of course, functionality that improves my life, among many other reasons.

    As is everything in life it’s all about trade offs. In this case I’ve looked at the trade offs offered by competing firms, and despite their lower price points have found their products wanting.

    8
    January 15, 2020
  2. Fred Stein said:

    Cory does not deserve a pass. I did not, and will not, bother to read it.

    Are Boeing or PG&E evil? We could add many more to the list. Both Boeing and PG&E are regulated. Are their regulators evil, committing the sin of omission by not forcing public safety as is their mandate? Peer pressure and group think let good people do bad things.

    It’s too easy to pass judgement. It’s too easy to use inflammatory words like ‘evil’ to get clicks. Google and Facebook gives us openness and free info in exchange for access to info about us. Apple takes the opposite approach, asking for money and exerting control to give us safe services.

    4
    January 15, 2020
    • Paul Brindze said:

      Facebook, I believe, is inherently evil. It is not just the privacy issues (issues they share with other companies). It is things like their complicity with Russian interference in our elections and their current policy to allow political adds to lie 100% with no repercussions whatsoever. At my house we have 100% disconnected from them (which is not easy to do). To put Apple on the same list with them is outrageous.

      4
      January 15, 2020
  3. David Emery said:

    The top of my ‘inherently evil’ list is Twitter. I think the very model is bad. Facebook tops the list for behaviors (as opposed to models.)

    Can we do a ‘top ten evil publications’ list? I’m no fan of Slate, but since I almost never go there, I”m really not qualified to judge them. (The stuff I have read has generally had a very nasty bias, often concealed with a veneer of ‘objective journalism.’)

    0
    January 15, 2020
  4. Steven Philips said:

    But, but, but…they BOUGHT other companies! Isn’t that slavery – or something?
    Of course they didn’t force those companies to sell. And the companies made a profit. And how many of those companies would have ended up with sustained success?

    0
    January 15, 2020

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