This time it’s Apple who’s heading to court

Generally, news about yet another anti-trust suit bores me. Intended to protect consumer interests against monopolistic suppliers, it seems to me that anti-trust court cases rarely have that effect and are more often than not just a chance to beat up an established supplier when another vendor’s product fails to gain the market share that they think it should.

In a world of marketing and hype, the best products don’t always become popular. Betamax was better than VHS but VHS is still in many of our homes today. MiniDisc was better than DCC, but ultimately they both lost out to recordable CD (and then DVD).

Just over a year ago, I set out my views on why I think the EU’s sanctions against Microsoft were wrong. Sure, Microsoft is playing along and stretching things out as long as they can, but the EU seems to be getting tough and the US DoJ is starting to wake up again too.

The trouble is that, by the time a technology case gets to court, the damage is already done. In the same post about why Microsoft shouldn’t have to unbundle Windows Media Player, I pointed out that Apple were acting monopolistically with the way they force iPod owners to use iTunes. Now, after years of acting in this manner, Apple are finally being sued. In last Friday’s Windows IT Pro magazine network WinInfo Daily Update, Paul Thurrott reports that:

“This week, a federal judge in California cleared the way for the first-ever antitrust suit against Apple because of the iPod… noting that the complaint alleges Apple has an 80 percent share of the market for legal digital music files and more than 90 percent of the market for portable hard-drive digital music players. Like Microsoft, Apple is being sued under the Sherman Antitrust Act.”

I have to agree with Paul’s summary of the situation:

“If Apple opens up the iPod to Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio (WMA) format – including songs purchased from competing online music services – all will be well.”

That would certainly make me happy.

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