Circuit Break Podcast #429: The Magic Touch Is Money

Podcast Title: The Magic Touch Is Money

Release Date: 2024-05-03

Episode: #429

This week we delve into the major (Isn’t there always one?) lawsuit against Apple for monopolizing the smartphone market. We explore the implications of Apple’s business practices on innovation, consumer choice, and market competition. The discussion also covers the ethical concerns around Apple’s ecosystem exclusivity and how it affects users’ perceptions of non-Apple products.

Podcast Audio:

Podcast Notes:

  • Overview of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Apple for monopolizing smartphone markets, focusing on exclusionary practices that hinder competition.
  • Examination of how Apple’s ecosystem locks in users, making it difficult to switch to competitor products like Android.
  • Discussion on the ethical considerations of business practices that degrade competitor’s product functionality.
  • Reflections on personal and societal impacts of technology choices, including the social implications of being labeled by the type of device one uses.

Relevant Links:

Community Questions:

  • How do Apple’s business practices affect your choice of technology and perception of non-Apple products?
  • Do you think Apple’s ecosystem exclusivity is just good business, or does it cross ethical boundaries?
  • Have you experienced or noticed any social implications based on the type of mobile device you or others use?

I have many thoughts and counterarguments about the topics you discussed on the podcast, but I don’t want to mention any of them because I think it’s all a distraction and misses the forest for the trees.

The big picture is the smartphone, regardless of vendor, is the hub of the personal communications infrastructure for most Americans in 2024. And because of that, for better or worse, it’s challenging to be an active member of society without a smartphone. A certain amount of device and network interoperability is required for this object to serve as the communications hub. That should be of concern to the government and regulated in the same vein as The Communications Act of 1934 and onwards.

If we continue to allow the conversation to be about punishing Apple, we’ll get legislature that makes sense for 2024 but little sense for 2034 and no sense for 2044. And as someone who has been around the block a few times, 20 years passes much quicker than you think. (And for the engineers who poke fun at all the stupid regulations that make your design harder for reasons that make no sense in modern hardware, those laws were put in place for short-term reasons that punished a given actor at the time. That’s where they come from.)

The challenge we face is that as appealing as the concept of ‘interoperability’ may be, it’s not a specification. As an engineer, I grapple with the question of how to design for ‘interoperability’. How do I know when my design in ‘interoperable’ enough? Do I need to ensure compatibility with every conceivable device? Is mere connection enough, what level of service should I aim to provide? If I have more devices than I can handle, how do I prioritize? These are complex questions that require careful consideration and a comprehensive solution.

Like the Communications Act of 1934, we probably need some commission to oversee “interoperability” and treat all smartphones like the critical pieces of communications infrastructure they’ve become. The FCC is not perfect by any stretch, but I think without it, things would’ve been much worse.

1 Like

I 100% agree! You can easily take Apple’s side in this and say that other companies are not using this protocol or whatever. However, I will say some of the design choices (especially in the text messaging app that Stephen brought up) are petty.

I would say its almost absolutely needed, especially with how much public transit is now utilizing apps and getting rid of cash transactions (for better or for worse…).

Oh you know we would love to hear them anyways :smiley:

Unfortunately, reactive legislation seems to be the only thing that works. Take for example of standardizing on USB type-c in the EU. What is interesting about that one is that Type-C standardization was already in progress as a market driving force. There was only a couple outliers like old product designs (which now have to be forced to update and old unsold devices are now e-waste and cant be sold) and Apple.

This is a cool product idea.

Basically power tool battery that has interchangeable adapters so it can work with any color of tool.

Having interoperability on tool batteries would be nice :stuck_out_tongue: