Please forgive the dashed-off nature of this post. My plan was to spend yesterday writing something substantial and thought-out, but I got sidetracked with programming and the time sort of vanished. I don’t have many images to make it look pretty, but I’ve made up for it by having extra typos. Yo’ure welcome.
One of the great annoyances of talking about Big Tech is that for a lot of people, the word “monopoly” has come to mean “really big annoying company”. Facebook is a monopoly? Apple is a monopoly? Google is a monopoly? Microsoft is a monopoly? Steam is a monopoly? Monopolies everywhere!
In my understanding of the word, a monopoly is when you have one and only one company providing a good or service. My local gas company is a monopoly, because I can’t buy natural gas from anyone else. The pipes in my house lead directly to their… gas-making stuffLook, I have no idea how utilities work, okay?. Same goes for water, electricity, and garbage pickup. Not only are these companies monopolies, they provide essential services. And so there are all kinds of extra rules in place to keep an eye on them because of the special position they holdAre these laws any good? I don’t know..
But none of the big tech companies have the same sort of universal control. Apple users are always free to switch to AndroidHaving said that, I’m willing to bet that doing so is a massive pain in the ass.. Google users are free to switch to DuckDuckGo or (God help you) Bing.
I’m not sure if this shift in meaning is more international or generational. Maybe people outside the USA have different attitudes about what the word means and what should be permitted. Maybe young people have appropriated the word to mean roughly “companies that are so big it SHOULD be illegal.” I don’t know, but it really does make a mess of a lot of discussions.
I was surprised how many people were willing to cheer for Epic in the #FreeFortnite campaign. The thrust of the campaign is the idea that you should be able to sell stuff on Apple devices without paying Apple. That makes no sense to me.
For the record: I am not an Apple user and I only understand the platform by reputation. My Android phone is at least 3 years old and I’m not really into mobile gaming, so it’s likely I’m missing some context on how the top-tier phones work.
Epic launched a lawsuit against Apple and Google. The fact that there are two companies to sue sort of demonstrates that neither of them is a monopoly.
I get that the complaint is that Apple has a monopoly on Apple devices. Which, okay. But… so what?
Maybe this comes down to what mental model you use to think about the phones and their app stores. I think of the Apple Store like any other store. If I want to sell my goods at Walmart, then I need to give Walmart a cut. To me, Epic trying to sell Fornite V-bucks on an Apple phone without paying Apple is like me wandering into Walmart and selling wristwatches out of my trench coat. It makes total sense to me that you’re not allowed to do that.
This is doubly baffling to me because Apple has been doing stupid, infuriating stuff for years and nobody seems to care. Their hardware is shockingly overpriced. And on top of that, they love to hit you with crazy bullshit like randomly incompatible proprietary cables just so they can charge you five times what a standard recharging cable costs.
But despite years of painful price tags and hidden costs, Apple users still line up to buy these devices. People tolerate all of their shenanigans, but then Apple wants a 30% cut of things sold in their own store and suddenly they’re an evil monopoly that needs to be taken down?
I have to assume there’s some killer feature that these people can’t live without. Apple phones cost upwards of $800, and I got my Android for ~$50. If people are paying $750 more than they need to for a phone, then there must be something Apple devices give them that Android doesn’t. I despise Windows, but I use it anyway because it’s really the only viable OS for covering mainstream PC gaming. I imagine there’s some equivalent set of features compelling Apple users to buy phones that cost the same as a pair of gaming consoles.
What I’m seeing is that the opinions branch off fractally, and I’m having trouble getting a sense of where everyone is at, and why. So let me end this ramble with a few questions:
- If you’re an Apple hater: What’s the source of your animosity? Are you upset about the Apple Store, or about something else?
- For people cheering for Epic: Are you really outraged by walled garden of the Apple Store and the resulting 30% cut they take? Or do you just hate Apple in general and you’re glad to see them getting sued for any reason?
- If you’re an Apple user: Love them or hate them? If you love them, what do you dig about the platform? If you hate them, then I assume you’re using them for the same reason I use Windows instead of Linux. What’s the key feature that’s preventing you from leaving?
- One very strange thing in all of this is that I have yet to see a single person express any affinity for Fortnite itself. I realize that this site skews towards story-driven games and away from PvP, but come on. This is one of the most popular games on the planet right now. Any fans out there? What’s your take on this? Have you been impacted by the loss of the Fortnite mobile app?
Also, do try to keep it friendly in the comments. I notice some people were a little worked up on the topic yesterday. Please try to keep your hate aimed at the companies that annoy you and away from the people that disagree with you. Like I said above, we’re probably using very different mental models and thus have very different ideas about what is reasonable or fair when dealing with things in the digital world.
 Look, I have no idea how utilities work, okay?
 Are these laws any good? I don’t know.
 Having said that, I’m willing to bet that doing so is a massive pain in the ass.
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