The Techlash Is Coming for Apple
After watching Amazon, Facebook, and Google get hammered by critics — and encouraging it when convenient — Apple gets its turn under the bright lights
Apple’s life is getting complicated in a hurry. With a combination of masterful marketing and luck, the $2.22 trillion company managed to avoid the backlash that has targeted Amazon, Facebook, and Google in recent years. But its good fortune and public relations magic appear to be running out, and a reckoning seems imminent.
Apple’s problems were on full display Wednesday, as representatives from Spotify, Tile, and Match Group — all of whom rely on Apple to reach customers — castigated it before the Senate. Apple, they said, is abusing its market power, harming their products, and, most importantly, hurting their customers. They attacked Apple with a fury the company hadn’t seen in recent memory, at least in public.
“Apple’s idea of competing is patently unfair,” Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru told the Senate, delivering her remarks just one day after Apple introduced AirTag, a Tile copycat. Apple, she said, prevented Tile from using a technology called ultra-wideband that would help its users find their lost items. Then, Apple used that same technology for its Tile competitor. The senators in attendance seemed receptive as Spotify and Match delivered similar barbs. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who led the hearing, invoked the Justice Department at one point.
Apple is getting its turn in the bright lights as the “techlash” evolves. Once a reaction to the tech giants’ power over online speech, the backlash has turned into a serious antitrust movement looking well beyond the questions that originally animated it. With Donald Trump out of office, the speech wars have cooled down a bit, and the wonkier questions of competition policy remain. This is where things get hairy for Apple.
Critics have always struggled somewhat to detail the clear harm that Facebook, Google, and Amazon did to the end user. Facebook and Google dominate digital ad markets, but their products are free, and it takes some explaining to show how they’re hurting small businesses and, hence, the consumer. People love Amazon’s low prices, and it takes a…