Here’s a lawsuit that’s going nowhere:
Californian Thomas Slattery sued Apple Computer on Monday because songs he buys at its iTunes Music Store can be played only on an iPod digital music player. This means Apple, with 2 percent of the personal computer market vs. Microsoft’s 95 percent, is being accused of violating antitrust law because some guy wants to use iTunes, and none of its many competitors, but not the iPod, which has 87 percent of the market but also many competitors.
No one is forced to use iTunes, which does not have the cheapest, and probably not even the most, songs. The idea that Apple is violating the law by creating an astonishingly popular product is, on the face of it, absurd.
One may as well favor the Big Mac over other burgers and sue McDonald’s because its franchises are the only places one can be bought.
And yet this is not the only such lawsuit against Apple. A unit of Virgin made a similar complaint in August because Apple wouldn’t allow it to sell music in Apple’s unique format.
Odd. When Apple wouldn’t share its Macintosh operating system and its accompanying technologies, competitors and computer users weren’t suing over it. Competitors were competing, and users were voting with their wallets.
A closed system is Apple’s choice, and Apple’s risk. Just as Macintosh was.
There’s always a chance, however, that a judge somewhere will agree there’s an antitrust problem in the iTunes/iPod symbiosis.
Perhaps a 2 percent chance.