Apple the bully

Spotlight on Apple’s Tile killer and Opt-in tracking in advance of today’s Senate hearing on Apple’s and Google’s market power.

From the New York Times’ “Apple’s New Devices Target Markets Led by Smaller Rivals” posted Wednesday:

Apple unveiled a series of new products on Tuesday that showed how it continues to center its marketing pitch on consumer privacy, at the potential expense of other companies, while muscling into markets pioneered by much smaller competitors.

In an hourlong infomercial that was streamed from its Silicon Valley headquarters, Apple showed off a new high-end iPad and an iMac desktop computer based on new computer processors that Apple now makes itself. The company also said it was redesigning its podcast app, which competes with companies like Spotify, to enable creators to charge for their shows. And it revealed the AirTag, a $29 disc that attaches to key rings or wallets so they can be found if lost.

But after its product show, Apple made other news that could have far more significant, industrywide implications. The company said in a news release that it planned to release highly anticipated iPhone software next week with a privacy feature that worries digital-advertising companies, most notably Facebook…

On Tuesday, Apple’s AirTag immediately drew criticism from Tile, a company that for years has made similar devices for finding lost items. “We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition,” said CJ Prober, Tile’s chief executive. “Unfortunately, given Apple’s well-documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we’re skeptical.”

Tile has accused Apple of anticompetitive practices since Apple began working on a competing product. Last year, Tile’s general counsel testified to Congress that, shortly after reports that Apple was working on similar gadgets surfaced, Apple pulled Tile’s devices from its stores and made it more difficult for them to work with iPhones.

Tile’s general counsel, along with executives from Apple, Google, Spotify and the dating company Match Group, is set to testify on Wednesday at a Senate hearing on Apple’s and Google’s market power and control over mobile apps.

My take: As a long-time Tile user who’s planning to order a couple of AirTag four-packs early Friday, I can see why CJ Prober’s nose might be out of joint.

14 Comments

  1. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Isn’t Chipolo, the tracking tag maker with FindMy, challenging Tile’s market dominance of tracking devices as well? Who’s being anti-competitive again?

    21
    April 21, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      I just checked online (for what its worth. Tile has 90% share.

      7
      April 21, 2021
  2. George Row said:
    Is:
    “In an hourlong infomercial …”
    New-York-Times-speak for:
    “let us first declare our bias”?

    19
    April 21, 2021
  3. Robert Varipapa said:
    I had a few of the Tile devices and was very disappointed that I had to throw them out when the battery dies, so no regrets about their loss of a near monopoly – and glad to see that Apple’s devices have disposable batteries and seem more functional with ‘Precision Finding’ with iPhone 11/12.

    14
    April 21, 2021
  4. Gregg Thurman said:
    There is nothing unique in Tile’s technology. Everything in a Tile is off the self, glommed together in a half assed manner. I’m surprised others (especially the Chinese) haven’t entered the fray. Oh wait the market isn’t big enough to get excited about it.

    15
    April 21, 2021
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    Big is not bad. Congress seems to apply that theory more to tech these days. If big is bad, Congress should have Amazon and Walmart at the table too, as these two businesses are little different in their incursion into new competitive areas. Didn’t I read somewhere yesterday that Amazon is going into the hair salon business?

    14
    April 21, 2021
    • S Lawton said:
      Seriously? You don’t think Amazon is in their crosshairs?

      6
      April 21, 2021
  6. As I read this NYT hit piece this AM I thought I want Apple to compete fairly in the markets it enters. ‘Fairly’ means competing with better hardware, improved features and even a more environmentally friendly production and operation. The new products & services score highly on all my gauges.

    12
    April 21, 2021
  7. Fred Stein said:
    I upvoted all my colleagues and did not read the NYT bit. Their language reveals bias.

    Tile has 90% share. I’ve bought and used them; And found they’re not so great, especially with my poor hearing.

    The big story is the U1 chip. It gives Apple a giant moat in another new market. And what else Apple might Apple do with that chip?

    9
    April 21, 2021
  8. David Emery said:
    2 complaints:
    1. Dropped Tile from their stores. Yeah, that’s what companies with retail outlets do. I don’t see the problem.

    2. Made it harder to work with Apple products. Need more details here.

    Without some specific details for #2, this just comes across as more whining.

    6
    April 21, 2021
  9. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Apple has built the proverbial: “Better Mousetrap.”

    5
    April 21, 2021
  10. John Frantz said:
    The key feature of these tracking devices is being located anonymously by passersby that have the tracking software running on their phones. The software senses the lost tracker via bluetooth and silently and anonymously sends the location info to the owner.

    For Tile a passerby needs to be a Tile user. The same goes for other brands that offer trackers, and there are many. The problem is there aren’t enough users of any one particular brand to make it really useful. Tile managed to grab market share early so at least in some populated areas their trackers were useful. The rest of the brands don’t really stand a chance to overcome the chicken and egg problem because they aren’t working together to create a unified tracker platform.

    Enter Apple with Airtags. Instantly every iPhone on the planet becomes a location reporter through Apple’s famed privacy based system. Once again Apple’s ecosystem effortlessly adds the value. All other tracker platforms become essentially worthless.

    However, long before Airtags were announced this week, Apple’s Find-my network was opened up to third parties. The third party has to be certified by Apple to make sure it operates correctly with the Find-my API. I believe Chipolo has already been selling a tracker tag that uses Apple’s Find-my network. Tile opted to not go that route.

    I’m not sure what Apple could have done to make this more fair.

    5
    April 22, 2021

Leave a Reply