Acclaimed tech columnist Mossberg says the DOJ's claim of an Apple monopoly is 'laughable'

  • The DOJ has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, but some analysts think it's a weak case.

  • Iconic tech journalist Walt Mossberg called the DOJ's claim of an Apple monopoly "laughable."

  • He wrote that the suit punishes Apple "for not having a business model like that of its competitors."

The DOJ this week filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, claiming the company abused its monopoly power to throttle competition among smartphone manufacturers.

While insiders and analysts across the tech industry have speculated the US might end up settling — as they did in a similar antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s — not everyone is convinced the suit is a slam dunk for the DOJ.

"Calling Apple a 'monopoly' in phones is laughable," iconic tech journalist Walt Mossberg wrote in a series of posts on Threads. "Every independent analyst estimates iPhone market share at a little over 50% in the US and a little under 25% globally. That's not a monopoly."

Mossberg, who covered tech for nearly 30 years, most notably for The Wall Street Journal and is known for his deep sourcing within Apple, wrote that the company is a smartphone manufacturer for "people who want more of a digital appliance than a platform for tinkering," which has been its differentiating factor from businesses like Microsoft since the 1980s.

He noted that the DOJ's claims that Apple engages in anticompetitive behavior by making features on Apple phones work best when interacting with other products in the Apple ecosystem shouldn't require the government's intervention because even "Gmail only works fully and properly in a special Gmail app."

Mossberg noted that, in the suit, the DOJ had to narrowly define the market in which it alleges Apple holds a monopoly — "'performance' phones, meaning expensive phones," he wrote — to back up its claims.

"And it claims the iPhone has 70% of that market in the US. That's like calling the best-selling expensive wine a monopoly when it actually has a modest overall market share," Mossberg wrote. "The DOJ acts as if there's a right for competitors to use iMessage tech, which is proprietary to Apple. But since when must companies do such a thing?"

Mossberg added that, while he isn't a lawyer, and it's possible that Apple may eventually be proven to have broken the law on some specific matters, "the crux of the lawsuit seems to be about Apple's philosophy of building products and services, and punishing the company for not having a business model like that of its competitors."

Mossberg, who noted in his thread "for the conspiracy theorists" that he is retired and was not paid for his posts, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

While his analysis of the happenings in the tech world is widely trusted by those in the know in the industry, Mossberg isn't alone in his critique of the case.

"In the end, this is clearly a political case. The DOJ set out in 2019 (!) in the before times to 'go after Big Tech,'" Steven Sinofsky, a software engineer and the former president of the Windows Division at Microsoft, wrote in his newsletter "Hardcore Software."

He added: "The DOJ set out to bring cases against 'Big Tech' so that's what we got. Here we are with the case against Apple. It is weak and poorly framed and looks to me a lot like they could not figure out what to do with an obvious duopoly where the market is being incredibly well-served by two very different approaches, a lot of happy customers, and few loud and vocal companies complaining who already lost in court once."

Sinofsky declined to add additional commentary about the case when reached by BI.

Representatives for Apple and the DOJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment from BI.

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