Snatching a temporary victory from the jaws of defeat

A couple of days ago I expressed some strong reservations regarding Apple's anti-trust strategy and how it was fuelling the competition law infringement fire instead of taking some evasive measures. Well, this week's WWDC is showing less competition law recklessness on the part of the company.

First, regarding Hey, there was an attempt to extend an olive branch to Basecamp and a decision was made to approve the new version of the app 'provisionally'. This to me indicates the problem has not gone away fully but that Apple is instead trying to get the sting out of Basecamp's media campaign. It is working, for now. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple ended up bending some of its rules just to shut up Basecamp. That, in itself, is *very* problematic from an abuse of dominant position perspective since the market dominant needs to treat all players *equally*. More on that at a later date.

Second, it seems Apple will no longer withhold the approval of bug fixes versions when there is an ongoing rules dispute *and* that the rules can themselves be challenged. As for the former, the previous policy was simply asinine but I'm yet to get my head around the latter. I think the play here is simply to make an appearance of change instead of an actual significant departure. The fact it was included at the bottom of a fairly long press release about new developer technologies is a good indication of the amount of visibility they were aiming for.  We shall see.

Third, in a blink and you'll miss it slide on the keynote, Apple is finally allowing users to define their own mail and browser applications. I don't see it as important as in the past (Windows browsers anyone?) but precisely because of those past enforcement histories it is a totemic issue. Again, there was not really a great deal of value Apple was currently accruing from determining only Mail and Safari could be set as default options. It will be more interesting however to see if there is an infringement angle by determining WebKit is the only browser engine allowed on iOS, but that remains under lock and key and an hill where I would expect Apple to die on. Just like Microsoft, all those years ago. Oh, the irony...

Bottom line, nothing on this post changes the substance of the questions about Apple, the app store or the usage of Apple's own payment mechanisms (or the 70/30 split). And these will be the real battlegrounds where abuse of dominant position will be fought.

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