Antitrust Law Aims at Apple

Tue Mar. 21, 2006 7:13 PM EST

A new bill was approved today in France that could force Apple to share previously protected technology in order to open the market. Currently, Apple products are only compatible with one another, meaning that if a user buys a song on Apple's music service iTunes, it can only be played on an Apple iPod. Since its inception, Apple has been able to thwart competition and dominate the online music market partially because of this technology. The iPod accounts for two out of every three portable music devices on the market, a fact obvious to anyone who takes public transportation amongst swarms of white-earphone wearers.

If this French law is adopted, it could effectively weaken Apple's global dominance. Even if the law doesn't pass, it should cause a commotion among users, all of whom would rather have the ability to share their music with more playing devices. Undoubtedly, the media will latch on to the story, opening Apple up to scrutiny for being user unfriendly.

In the long run, Apple may have no choice but to share the secrets of their format. By choosing to keep their designs compatible only with other Mac products, users likely will perceive Apple as a bully, a similar image problem facing computer conglomerate Microsoft. Because Apple's entire brand is aimed at a youth-dominated audience, it is too image-conscious to become alienated from its users. But unless Apple can brush this growing commotion under the rug, Apple's digital player dominance likely will be harmed.