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  • Why Aren’t There Any Lawsuits About This?

    October 11th, 2007

    We all know that Apple receives its share of legal actions to defend itself against. Some are related to possible use of a patent without permission, or treating customers badly. There’s even a long-standing lawsuit from some Mac dealers who felt their businesses suffered big time because Apple favored its own retail outlets.

    More recently, people are upset because Apple dared to reduce the iPhone’s price by $200 after less than three months, and that it’s tied to AT&T. So they are involved in a class-action lawsuit that, if the past is a guide, will gain nothing more than a coupon for the consumers and a big payday for the lawyers. And that assumes the action will even succeed, which is doubtful. I mean, after all, wireless carriers and phone makers have been tying you in knots with contracts for years, so what makes the iPhone’s situation any different?

    The answer is, of course, that it’s Apple Inc., and they seem to function by a different set of rules and regulations, or at least that’s what some people seem to think.

    If you try to look at this situation in a reasonably fair fashion, you will find a strange disconnect between the complaints against Apple and how they might be applied to other big players in the tech business.

    Take the integration of the iPod and iTunes. Now, as you know, this is a matter that has been under investigation by individual European nations and even the European Union, which no doubt is now celebrating its huge victories over Microsoft.

    Now wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use iTunes without an iPod, and have it sync content with other music players out there, such as the Microsoft Zune.

    What about allowing the iPod to mate in a relatively seamless fashion with the Zune Marketplace.

    Wait a minute? Isn’t it also true that Microsoft doesn’t support any third party players in the Zune space? Even players that support Microsoft’s own PlaysForSure DRM scheme can’t get onboard. Forget about the iPod. So why aren’t more people complaining? Why haven’t we heard about class action lawsuits to open up Napster and Zune and other music stores so they work with the iPod?

    Worse, why is there no Mac version of the latest Windows Media Player technology or any of its other music products. If you use a Mac and want to use a Zune, or any other music player that supports one of Microsoft’s technologies, you have to buy a copy of Windows, and use Apple’s Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion.

    Sure they just want to sell product, but Microsoft is clearly discriminating against Mac users, who comprise millions and millions of the members of the personal computer universe.

    This being the case, since the U.S. Department of Justice clearly isn’t interested, why isn’t the European Union demanding that Microsoft do something about it? They nailed the company on other antitrust issues, so why not Mac compatibility?

    For that matter, if Microsoft is promising compatibility with the Windows version of Office when it delivers Mac Office 2008, shouldn’t they also be compelled to offer full support for Visual Basic for Applications? Is it fair for Mac users to be left behind? After all, there are cross-platform environments that use documents that contain macros absolutely required to perform certain tasks. Whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document, what do they expect Mac users to do, other than stick with older versions of Office?

    Now consider all those folks who seem adept at suing Apple for the vertical integration of their products, exclusion of third parties and other grave offenses. Without commenting on the worth of those legal actions, why isn’t Microsoft getting the very same treatment for the things it does that exclude Apple?

    Sure, you can tell me that there’s no way you’ll ever allow a Zune in your home, or even a music player from Creative or one of the other makers of products that support Microsoft’s DRM. So bet it. That’s for you to decide, and I won’t argue with matters of preference.

    For the same reasons, let’s remember that the iPod works on Windows, and there is a version of iTunes on that platform that is, for all intents and purposes, a near-duplicate of the Mac edition. Apple has invaded Microsoft’s turf with iTunes, QuickTime and now even the Safari Web browser.

    But Microsoft has dropped development of Windows Media Player for the Mac, and has simply licensed older WMV codecs for use in the Flip4Mac products, which include a free player utility that integrates with QuickTime. A lot of multimedia content remains unsupported, and it’s an open question how much more technology Microsoft will pass on.

    Forget about Internet Explorer, which is being battered and bruised big time even on the Windows platform. Certainly, if Microsoft wanted to enforce some more of its own standards, the opportunity has passed. Mac users only use the old version of Internet Explorer fitfully these days, since it doesn’t work very well, except on a handful of sites that won’t render in other browsers.

    Basically, fair is fair. The people who complain about Apple ought to make similar complaints to Microsoft, but is anyone listening?

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