Home > Computers and Internet > The US Department of Justice Predicted the iPad

The US Department of Justice Predicted the iPad

I have found the Department of Justice’s fact finding document for the Microsoft abusive monopoly practices to be very interesting. One thing which I find unique to Microsoft in regards to becoming a monopoly is that Windows is an ingredient in a product. In every other anti-trust dispute I can think of, someone was using their monopoly in one product push around their partners. In one sense Windows is a product; but more accurately it’s an ingredient/part in a product. Microsoft doesn’t sell computers, and without hardware Windows is worthless; it has no value. The OS is a platform and a different OS should be able to run on the same hardware, as long as that OS is designed on the hardware’s API’s. So I can see how easily it would have been for Microsoft employees to perform (what we now consider) monopolistic practices, because they weren’t like monopolistic practices in the past. They were trying to encourage the use of their ingredient in a product which was becoming more and more important.

Because Microsoft was able to make Windows as predominate as it was the DOJ said that the only way for a computing platform overcome to high bar of entry that Windows created would be to create “information appliances”. The quote from the DOJ

“23. It is possible that, within the next few years, those consumers who otherwise would use an Intel-compatible PC system solely for storing addresses and schedules, for sending and receiving E-mail, for browsing the Web, and for playing video games might be able to choose a complementary set of information appliances over an Intel-compatible PC system without incurring substantial costs. To the extent this substitution occurs, though, it will be the result of innovation by the producers of information appliances, and it will occur even if Intel- compatible PC operating systems are priced at the same level that they would be in a competitive market. More importantly, while some consumers may decide to make do with one or more information appliances in place of an Intel-compatible PC system, the number of these consumers will, for the foreseeable future, remain small in comparison to the number of consumers deciding that they still need an Intel-compatible PC system. One reason for this is the fact that no single type of information appliance, nor even all types in the aggregate, provides all of the features that most consumers have come to rely on in their PC systems and in the applications that run on them. Thus, most of those who buy information appliances will do so in addition to, rather than instead of, buying an Intel-compatible PC system. Not surprisingly, then, sales of PC systems are not expected to suffer on account of the growing consumer interest in information appliances. It follows that, for the foreseeable future, a firm controlling the licensing of all Intel-compatible PC operating systems could set prices substantially above competitive levels without losing an unacceptable amount of business to information appliances.”

Wow, simply wow. An information appliance is exactly what the iPad is (and what any iOS and Android device more or less are). Back in 1999 the DOJ said that there weren’t any information appliances in the foreseeable future, and as a result Microsoft was in a monopolistic position. But here we are in 2011, and there are information appliances. Apple went out of it’s way to not call the iPad a computer, and even made sure that the keyboard dock for it, wouldn’t dock with the iPad being horizontal because they don’t want people thinking of the iPad as a computer. Because if it’s a computer, it falls short of the many things that a computer does; whereas as a information appliance it excels.

So bravo to the DOJ for seeing that a lot of the consumer computing world was headed toward the direction of information appliances, and that the only reason why we weren’t there was because the hardware wasn’t yet at the point for them to be feasible.

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