Open App Markets Act (H.R. 5017, S. 2710)

I wear my “liberal” persona almost as proudly as I do my kilt (and far more often). But does anyone else think this one is government overreach? I just received an email from team@fightforthefuture.org expecting me to PAY them to support this. Here was my response:

On Apr 4, 2022, at 7:41 AM, Evan, Fight for the Future <team@fightforthefuture.org> wrote:

The truth is that this could be Congress’s only meaningful shot at addressing Big Tech monopolies, and we can’t let them waste it. It’s time for us to take back control of our digital lives.

PLEASE don’t try to force Apple to turn the iPhone into another nest of malware. I LOVE having a safe, unified interface on my mobile phone, If I wanted infected CRAP I’d buy an Android. In the US, we believe in CHOICE. No one is FORCED to buy an iOS device for personal use. It’s fine for government to legislate fairness, but this is as much of an overreach as would be telling Apple that a Mac cannot have an Apple as a menu icon at the upper left corner of the macOS screen because it’s “stealthy advertising” or some such nonsense.

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It’s also out of character for me, but in my view, this is a clear “Let the market decide” situation and should not be regulated by the government.

Also, I had lunch at McDonald’s yesterday and not only do they not have Whopper hamburgers, they also refused to show me the menu of Burger King or give me directions to the nearest one. That’s clearly monopolistic. :slight_smile:

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Why looking at the complaints about “Big Tech monopolies” and Google, Facebook, Apple, Instagram, and TikTok are mentioned in the same breath that my initial reaction is “which of these is not like the others”.

I will be joyously awaiting the day when a popular app from an “alternative” app store exfiltrates the personal data of a member of Congress.

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Or a front for credit card and ID theft and a haven for ransom ware. Privacy controls would be defanged as well. And for smaller developers, Apple has a very comprehensive testing and verification system that benefits developers and consumers. They have tools and analytics to help developers build, test and market apps.

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FYI, links to both bills, so that you can form your own opinions:

H.R. 5017
S. 2710

(The bills’ summaries are close to identical.)

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This is seriously messed up… o body is forced to buy from Apple and devs are not entitled to use Apples store, services, and tools that Apple developed and owns without compensating Apple for it.

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Thanks for posting the links. I’ve already formed my opinion, which is that no one has to purchase an iOS device, and that I’m appreciative of Apple’s efforts to use its control over the iOS ecosystem to protect it from pollution by malicious software. Apple is not a monopoly, although it’s success in this marketplace has enhanced its ability to remain so. I don’t believe that individual or groups of users should have the rights to force Apple to change the techniques it uses to enhance the performance of its own software or the software sold on its platform(s) by third parties, who have the option not to offer their software on Apple’s platform.

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If Apple were to lock down macOS in the same way so users could only install software through the Mac App Store, I’d bet everyone here and many developers would be complaining loudly about what a control freak Apple is. And I could make the same arguments some here are making about iOS: if Apple allowed sideloading of Mac apps, the Mac platform would turn into a cesspool of malware; developers should have to compensate Apple for using its tools; Macs would be a privacy nightmare; no one is forced to use a Mac—get a different computer. We already know these nightmare scenarios wouldn’t come to pass.

Other than the development history of the two platforms, what’s fundamentally different about them that justifies the difference in how Apple approaches them? I think that’s the question that needs to be answered.

Personally, I’m a bit suspicious about the motivation of Congress here. Is this really that big of an issue that Congress needed to address it? I mean, I get that many developers probably chafe at Apple’s restrictions, but I’d think most users are fine with the status quo.

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I’d welcome Apple being forced to allow people to install whatever they want onto their device. It increases choice and will have no impact on anyone who’d prefer to continue getting their applications through Apple’s store.

I’d go even further and force Apple to allow OS downgrades indefinitely. Government also needs to step in to force them to switch back to making upgradeable laptop and desktop computers.

No-one is forced to buy an iOS device, but they are certainly locked in unless they expend a lot of time and money to switch to another platform. So it is disingenuous to claim someone can just switch if they don’t like Apple’s anti-competitive business practices.

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The problem, as I see it, is that as soon as Apple (hypothetically) opens their devices up to let people install from other sources, there are any number of developers who will jump ship and only offer their apps through those other sources. Maybe because they can get a bigger cut of prices, maybe because they’ll be able to do things Apple doesn’t allow—there are any number of reasons, I’m sure.

But those other sources will be less restricted, and the net effect, I think, will be a decrease of choice for people who want to stay secure.

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Do you apply this same perspective to other consumer devices in your home? Should Sony be required to make the latest Playstation work with older games? Should the government legally require LG to upgrade your TV to 4K?

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There are two types of issues at play here. One is the overall role of government in the regulation of commerce. I’d humbly suggest that we shouldn’t designate the government (and particularly Congress) as being the arbiters of tech design.

The other is whether Apple’s conceit that its PARTICULR design choices cause irreparable harm to consumers/users. Apple has NEVER been secretive regarding its claimed motives for iOS being a walled garden and expecting consumers to pay a premium for that. If it could be shown that there is no merit to that argument, and that Apple’s restrictions are somehow intentionally fraudulent, perhaps the bill would have merit. I would argue that the very prevalence of malware on Android devices vs. iOS devices makes Apple’s argument for the company. In my view, even the fact that technically naive people choose Apple iOS devices just because they’re “cool” doesn’t obligate Apple to change its ways, because choice IS still available, and Apple make no secret whatsoever that its devices ARE more expensive.

I disagree respectfully with BOTH of Gordon Meyer’s assertions. Apple under Jony Ive adopted a “you can never be too rich or too thin” approach to design, and that was successful with some consumers, not with others. The marketplace, not the government, forced the company to rethink that. If Apple marketed thin, non-upgradable devices as consumer-upgradable, that would of course BE fraudulent, but it does not. As for some right to permit indefinite “downgrades” of OS versions, that probably DOES have merit, but that should NOT extend to “I should be able to revert my Mac to “Finder 1.1(g)” or “System 7”, AND Apple should be forced to SUPPORT such legacy systems with security and bug-fix upgrades indefinitely,” but I do agree that removing availability from its catalog of system software that once ran as default on any given Apple device is unwise, so long as the user seeking to obtain the obsolete software from Apple agrees that the USER is responsible for any compromise of usability or security that results from the user’s choice to do so. Even that can be debated, however. It’s likely that the economic cost to the company of such a policy would be small, but what if users demanded that HARDWARE (repair parts) for the oldest systems the company ever produced remained available indefinitely. I think that’s a bridge too far (and acknowledge that no one here is making THAT assertion.

The argument that “it’s just so expensive to get out of the Apple ecosystem” is akin to “gee, I never knew that it would be SO expensive to drive an Audi.” (I was just told that if I wanted to put a bumper hitch on my Audi Q5 SUV to carry my bicycles, Audi would charge me $2600 to do so, because installing the hitch they make requires removing the bumper and re-attaching it, which dramatically increases the labor costs, and removing the bumper requires them to re-callibrate a nest of collision-avoidance sensors). Of course they didn’t tell me that up front, and they don’t MAKE a hitch upgrade JUST for bike racks (the one they offer comes with all the electrical and electronic hardware to trigger trailer taillights, brake lights, and trailer brake activation circuitry. I don’t think the argument "they’re obligated to make hardware that would allow me to attach brand X, Y, or Z bike or ski rack to the back of my vehicle has any merit whatsoever, and I would continue to make that argument even IF I fell from the stepladder I need to use to attach my bikes to the rooftop of my car and broke my hip.

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I would be ok if Apple provided a switch in prefs that would allow 3rd party app stores and old versions of iPadOS…but less ok with the old versions due to security concerns. That said…most of the walled garden approach they have is designed for consistency of UI and maintaining security. Such a switch…if it were to exist should be an either/or switch…you get Apples store and payment options or you get the 3rd party one…but you can’t have both…and if you select 3rd party and then reverse the switch to Apple 3rd party apps and payment systems get deleted. There are several big problems with this law and similar. First…it is Apple’s ecosystem and they should get to getermine how the company does its business…not the government…since they are not a monopoly. Second…devs should not be able to use Apples store services without paying for it. Third…Apple is correct in not wanting to be responsible for security issues caused by 3rd party stores or payment systems…and the device…if switched back and forth…should report said switches to Apple so that the user can’t blame Apple for issues caused by the 3rd parties…that’s just fair.

Now one can argue that Apple charges too much…but it’s their company and absent monopoly issues the law of supply and demand and customer willingness to pay should determine their prices…the government or devs wanting a free ride don’t get to set Apple prices for Apple products and services.

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I know we’re not necessarily discussing right-to-repair here, but there is a danger in trying to regulate an industry that the unintended consequences are worse. See the recent updated automobile right-to-repair telematics referendum approved by Massachusetts voters a couple of years ago.

So, in Massachusetts you can buy a Subaru or Kia with the same MSRP as everywhere else without the ability to remote start the car, get information about repairs that may be required, etc. - and the law isn’t even active yet. The equivalent in this case (Apple must provide desktops and laptops that can be upgraded, Apple must allow users to install any version of iOS that can run on the system, Apple must allow users to install any app that they want from any source they wish) could make Apple systems worse for the probably vast majority of consumers (upgradeable but slower RAM rather than memory on the SoC, slower mass storage modules, worse keyboards and perhaps displays on laptops, applications only available from proprietary app stores with worse consumer payment policies, etc.) while satisfying the desires of a very small number of users (though some repair shops and some developers will be happier.)

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At least some of the performance of the M1 chips is due to having the memory built in, and hence non-upgradable. Should people be prevented from getting the performance gain that goes with the lack of upgradeability?

Further, what should be upgradeable? The processor? There was an era when some PPC machines allowed you to swap the processor. Should Apple only be allowed to sell M1 machines that could someday have an M2 swapped in? If Apple were to release a computer today, for how many future generations of M# chips would they be required to allow upgrades? (For that matter, if Apple had been required to sell Intel machines that allowed CPU upgrades, would they have been prevented from switching to the M1 since that would have made the Intel machines non-upgradeable?)

Should SSD storage be upgradeable? What level of external drive performance would be necessary to conclude that having a Thunderbolt port constitutes having upgradeable storage?

The performance of Apple Silicon seems to be a pretty strong reminder that there are times when there are gains associated with reduced upgradeablity. And I’d much rather have those tradeoffs decided by the market than by decree.

Dave

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Macs have always been a very small part of the computer market place and thus have not been as much of a target for malware. The better example is Windows, which does have a serious issue with security and has for a long time.

The better question for each individual is what are you missing because of the lockdown? Is there an app you can’t use? Something you can’t do? How is it affecting you directly?

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Apple devices overwhelmingly tend to cost a very significantly whole lot more than equivalent Android or Windows stuff. Any one who switches away from Apple will be saving a very, very significant amount of money on hardware, but there is a good chance they might not be happy about this decision until it’s too late.

You can get a usable, new Android phone for $50-$60, and there are a ton of those available in the US:

By far, PCs tend to cost a lot less than equivalent Macs, usually a whole lot less.

Yep…yes, you are locked in with Apple devices…unless you switch…but users have a choice and the ability to switch…and for the vast majority of Apple users I’m thinking the ease of use, walled garden, and better security are the reason they’re willing to both have the walled garden and pay more for the privilege.

People have a choice…and while I can understand the devs complaints that Apple take part of their money…but Apple is providing a service for that fee and they are entitled to both charge for that service and make a profit on it. One can gave an endless debate about whether Apple’s percentage is fair or not…but unless we get to see Apple’s books we really don’t know how much it costs them to develop and maintain the store…like many other corporations the cost of a service is more than just the cost of the server itself…there’s bandwidth, people to manage the server, people to write the software for the store, office space for them, their fair share of the cost of that office space and the building and overhead and etc, etc. Devs are free to take their products to another platform should they so desire…and if Apple is forced to allow third party payment systems they’re well within their rights to still charge devs for having their apps in the store…and they are well within their rights to disallow 3rd party stores they have no control over since it is Apple…not the 3rd party store…that will get the blame from users who get hacked because of the 3rd party store.

No-one is forced to buy an iOS device, but they are certainly locked in unless they expend a lot of time and money to switch to another platform. So it is disingenuous to claim someone can just switch if they don’t like Apple’s anti-competitive business practices.

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Not necessarily…a Mac or iOS user will most probably save a big chunk of cash by switching to Google or Android stuff when it’s time to upgrade their hardware. And most hardware manufacturers, including Apple, have monthly payment plans. Since so many software developers have been successfully switching consumers and businesses to subscriptions rather than regular software upgrades, it’s become much easier to make transitions.

Maybe. It depends on requirements.

While you can get really cheap PCs and phones, those models aren’t very powerful or well equipped. Depending on what you actually use the device for, you may end up with a really bad user experience.

You can, of course, get PCs and Android phones with a lot more power, but those tend to have prices comparable to Apple equipment.

Sure, you can get a Chromebook for a really really low price, but it won’t be able to do what a MacBook (or a Dell/HP Windows laptop, for that matter) can do. Whether nor not it is a good deal for you depends entirely on what you want to do with it.

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