[LINK] Apple is turning into the evil empire

Brendan brendansweb at optusnet.com.au
Thu Mar 10 11:34:30 AEDT 2011

On 03/10/2011 02:51 AM, Tom Koltai wrote:


> Until last year, I  was  a confirmed open systems man and against
> monopolistic policies.
> However, I am becoming enamoured of the Apple business model which would
> appear to be based on functional form, design, operation, co-operation
> and useable functionality [with the exception of the i4 antenna
> resistance problem].
> And one other factor that most open systems persons omit from the
> equation...
> The Apple closed system "AAC" was the clincher that enabled the iTunes
> Shop (digital delivery of content), which in turn became the APP shop
> which created a global interest in smart phones and a whole new ICT
> development cycle.
> I'll repeat that. 


I don't think anyone would argue that a tyranny is the best way to get things started. 
However, the last 10,000 years of history suggest it's the worst way to keep things going. 

As to whether closed is necessary - I don't buy it.  iTunes (ie be a sales platform and take a share of all sales) is what Microsoft tried to do with MSN - the Microsoft Network (as it originally was, not the content portal it later became) and what Compuserve tried to do with its platform.  Sooner or later it would happen.  Looking back it's a fantastic thing that they failed. Just as it's a fantastic thing that Communism failed, because these are all command economies. For a similar reason it will be fantastic if Apple fails.

It will be awful if Apple succeeds for much the reason that it was awful that Communism "succeeded".  Because once established these systems use their power to maintain their power.  Hence why so many people had to suffer under communism for so long.   

I also don't buy the argument that iTunes supports a burgeoning ecosystem.  Apparently, the return per developer is about $5,000, so it's not economics which is motivating it. 

> Economically, the regulators would unfortunately, be right.

We disagree.  Further, when people secure monopolies they depress subsequent innovation.  I believe that, if there were no patents, then all of the inventions mentioned in every patent in the world would have been invented anyway before the expiry of the patent term for the patent. 

This is the important point.  Trading off a monopoly has compounding long term harmful effects. In return for getting X a little bit sooner, we end up getting A, B and C much later and for more expense. 

> IT appears to need a closed eco-system to encourage development [if only
> to assure the investors that they have a chance of return independent of
> the stock market results, if any].
> The problem would appear to be the disagreement over the length of time
> such "protection" is granted an innovator.

No.  This is a seductive (but, I believe, wrong) idea.  

Once monopolists secure power, they use it to leverage more power.  

Copyright was originally for periods of 3-5 years a shot, possibly renewable and limited to small geographical areas. (On this see the first two chapters of Armstrong, Before Copyright, The French Book-Privilege System 1498-1526).  We now have copyright which is unlimited in time and space.   (and don't quote life of author plus 50 I mean 70 years at me -> this depends wholly on parliament not further extending the copyright term when the next tranche of works comes up for expiry and not extending the DMCA at any time in the interim).

Patents were granted for roughly half the time it took to establish a distribution chain (a couple of decades in the early 1800s) for the invention, now it's about 5x or 6x (or up to 10x depending on how you look at it)

Well, yes, if I thought there would be no creep, then I would be in favour of extremely long monopoly terms (like, say, 3 years) in order to establish an innovation. But, on the contrary, I think the world of monopolies is very creepy. 

> Without quoting reams of economists and studies, I would mention:
> Xerox Parc - Graphic operating system 1973, 
> Apple Lisa - 1983
> X Windows - 1984
> Microsoft Windows 1986
> X 11 -   1987
> GEM -  1988
> NEXT - 1988
> Therefore commercial research leads  to commercial knockoffs that lead
> to open source knockoffs that lead to more commercial knockoffs that
> lead to fat profits.

Evidence of harm - people choosing to not do things because of these monopolies - is always invisible.  However, evidence of benefit is always visible.  Arguments in support of copyright and patents are always subject to confirmation biases. 

I suspect the harm these days is much greater because the speed of information is greater. 

>> That said, I'm more sanguine on the issue of Apple b/c I'm 
>> not convinced Android won't cause Apple to change its iTune 
>> (so to speak). 
> My above comments notwithstanding, I think you may be right Brendan.
> When corps like Nokia join forces with Microsoft to weather the phone OS
> wars together, one has to sit up and take notice.

Nokia-MS for another post. 

> Qualifying Disclaimer:  I own only one Apple product. It is a 2004

> My portable music library now resides in 320 kbps MP3 format on a 32 Gb
> USB stick... (Much cheaper and far more ubiquitous [and open] than any
> Apple product]).

My disclaimer:
I have no portable music library, although I have a lot of UCB Lectures loaded on my phone.

More information about the Link mailing list