THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY IS A GILDED AGE, IN WHICH MONOPOLISTS GROW FABULOUSLY RICH WHILE THE MIDDLE CLASS SUFFERS: The War of Amazon, Apple and Other Near-Monopolies.
Four companies — Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple — are all jockeying to control as much of our technology experience as possible. A legal expert that I interviewed a few years back called it “the war of the APIs,” but it goes well beyond that. Each company is trying to leverage the dominance it has in one area to push into as many other areas as possible, while simultaneously trying to undercut the other firms that are already there.
So when Apple announced that its mobile devices would finally permit ad-blocking apps, that was a win for consumers — and also a blow for Google, which makes its money off of those ads. Google, of course, has already challenged Apple where it makes its money, on pricey mobile devices. And now Amazon would like to force both of those behemoths to support its streaming video service — or steer consumers toward devices, like Roku, which already do.
This is exactly the sort of activity — leveraging a quasi-monopoly to gain dominance in another market — that caused the Justice Department to go after Microsoft in the 1990s. And indeed, one already hears rumblings about applying net neutrality rules to content providers (providers who, ironically, supported net neutrality as a way to keep cable companies off their turf). If Comcast can’t give preferential treatment to XFinity over Netflix, then why should Apple TV be allowed to favor iTunes content over Amazon Video?
A smart Republican would run a populist campaign against the out-of-touch oligarchs of Silicon Valley. A decade ago that would have been absurd. Now, not so much. And Democrats would be hamstrung because these are their funders.