So many questions. So little time. Yes, Apple is a monopoly but that only matters to a handful of critics looking for headlines that grab eyeballs instead of publishing reality. Where is Apple’s monopoly?
App Store Games
The New York Times has a lengthy expose-like article on Apple’s App Store and how it works. Or, how it worked. Apple made some changes that help to diminish the criticism of being a monopoly by being the only place you can buy apps for iPhone and iPad.
NYT runs a wonderfully obvious animated expose-like article on App Store search results. Here’s how it works.
If you opened the App Store on an iPhone in May 2018 and typed “podcast” in the search box, you would have seen something like this.
Apple’s own Apple Podcasts app showed up near the top. Commercial podcast apps were ranked lower. Much lower. Much much lower.
Monopoly abuse, right? Maybe.
After Apple’s Podcasts app came Apple’s Compass app, Find My Friends app, Apple TV app, Apple Watch app, Apple Files app, and, well; you get the idea. Apple promoted its own apps– all of them free– above other podcast apps.
Monopoly abuse, right? Uh, no. Apple has the right to promote its own wares, and since those apps are free, what’s the harm? Other than having to scroll through a dozen apps to get to one relevant to the keyword search for podcasts.
As Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia.
Think about this. Who is doing the complaining? What does Apple gain by pushing its own free apps– sometimes unrelated to keyword searches– over third party commercial apps?
After all, Apple gets zero revenue from the free apps it dispenses on the App Store but does make money on apps with a price tag.
What’s going on?
For more than a year, the top results of many common searches in the iPhone App Store were packed with the company’s own apps. That was the case even when the Apple apps were less relevant and less popular than ones from its competitors. The executives said the company had since adjusted the algorithm so that fewer of its own apps appeared at the top of search results.
Only Apple knows how those search results were created, but it’s obvious Apple benefits– but not– in most cases– monetarily. If anything, Apple’s results took money away from the company.
It’s those damned algorithms, right?
Those algorithms can help decide which apps are installed, which articles are read and which products are bought. But Apple and other tech giants like Facebook and Google will not explain in detail how such algorithms work
Data can be a bitch.
Those Apple apps held on for years while top rivals remained stuck below, sometimes hundreds of spots down the list, the data shows.
That tells me the algorithms were crummy. I’m surprised nobody tried to fix them a few years ago. After all, if third party apps topped the search results they would sell more, and Apple would make more money.
Other than the Apple Music vs. Spotify issue, this is much ado about not much. A monopoly is not illegal. Monopoly abuse is. Apple seemed intent on pushing free apps rather than commercial apps. That isn’t illegal, either, but it is stupid.