Friend-of-the-blog Tommo_UK, commenting on “Apple threatens European ‘digital sovereignty’,” sounds the alarm.
I think the importance of the underlying narrative is being missed in the arguments about how right or wrong they might be.
Rightly or wrongly, Apple is facing antitrust allegations and charges of abusing its position all over the world, involving labor conditions, monopolistic practices, and anti-consumer behavior in regions as large and developed as the UK, EU, India, and China. Its position in the US keeps coming under scrutiny too.
This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Especially India, where Apple has just hauled up its new manufacturing partners for poor labor conditions, the company is now being investigated for abusing its alleged dominant market position with the App Store. Don’t forget that India is the world’s software engineering sweatshop which represents a huge part of India’s growing economy, on which the world is utterly hooked and dependent.
Coincidence? I think not.
Apple is not playing this well and is mounting weak defenses akin to Microsoft when Windows dominated as the development platform many years ago. Look how that ended.
For those who don’t remember those days, Apple at the time was perceived the liberator. Now, from a regulatory point of view, Apple is the behemoth charging 30% fees for a walled garden, and constantly fighting fires to do with poor labor practices year on year seemingly powerless to stop them.
Now, unfairly in my view but reasonable depending on an uninformed perspective, the App Store is now a “rip off” for developers, hence all the antitrust actions and related charges.
Personally I am shocked at Tim Cook’s ineptitude in managing these mushroom cloud bad news stories, especially the situation in India, given the country’s key strategic role in reducing dependency on China long term. Apple’s loss of control of the narrative in the EU is alarming.
I’m watching with interest but wary of seeing a story like this spiral out of control. Regulators have a nasty habit of following one another, so with Apple now under such scrutiny by so many regulators, the risk is real and tangible. Given the contribution from services and the App Store to Apple’s earnings, this risk should not be dismissed in a typical “those stupid foreigners” manner.
No they don’t understand, they exist to protect their markets and Apple is a prime target. Optics are worsening and Apple need to get a grip.
I’m afraid Apple corporate is taking its eye off the ball.
Let’s look at the Indian situation for a moment. Step out of the US and see this from Indian app developers perspective. It may sound unreasonable to you but Indian IT and app development resources are vital to iOS app developers because of the expertise and cheapness of Indian app developers. The sector is also of strategic importance to the Indian Government and its financial supporters. They all have a huge stake in this market and have a valid point to investigate especially given Apple’s undeniable dominance of such a key area of the Indian economy.
The fact that Apple is hauling up Its Indian manufacturing partners for potentially highly impactful charges of atrocious labor conditions is undoubtedly part of the dynamics behind this too. India has a lot of … vested interests. Don’t forget Apple has invested huge resources and goodwill getting the Indian government to back its manufacturing base in India and benefits from considerable support and customs & duties exemptions, and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm with Apple on the back foot.
I am stunned how Apple has failed to deal with this with this looming conflict of interest and view with a degree of disbelief that Apple corporate would allow itself to be suckered into such a vulnerable position given the strategic significance of its investment in India and supply chain commitments. Anyone who has done business with Indian tech and IT companies and had to strike deals with the Indian government will understand what I’m talking about.
I am not impressed by Cook’s tactical and strategic mistakes given his otherwise incredible track record. From the US to the U.K. to the EU and now India, Apple is treading in a mess of its own creation and is unable to manage the message. Cook had better get moving quickly or this global movement to demonize Apple will escalate into what we saw Microsoft face with antimonopoly charges and abuse-20 years ago which paved the way for the rise of web app and iOS app developers to outflank Microsoft, Windows and the then-PC dominated ecosystem. The antitrust allegations — however misguided — have been allowed to build in the background and now form part of the narrative behind Apple’s success of its ecosystem and alleged abuse of it. To say this is anything other than a huge strategic corporate misstep is an understatement.
I hope Cook et al. catch up and deal with what I feel is the most egregious misstep in Apple’s supply chain and manufacturing plans I have seen in 20 years.
My take: I remember well the complaints against Microsoft back in the day. I don’t remember the company getting attacked on so many fronts and from so many places as Apple is today.