Total of 324 posts

Herein you’ll find articles on a very wide variety of topics about technology in the consumer space (mostly) and items of personal interest to me. I have also participated in and created several podcasts most notably Pragmatic and Causality and all of my podcasts can be found at The Engineered Network.


On the 21st of March, 2024 the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) brought an Anti-Trust lawsuit against Apple, with their complaint shown here with some excerpts as follows:

Unless Apple’s anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct is stopped, it will likely extend and entrench its iPhone monopoly to other markets and parts of the economy…

This case is about freeing smartphone markets from Apple’s anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct and restoring competition to lower smartphone prices for consumers, reducing fees for developers, and preserving innovation for the future.

By maintaining its monopoly over smartphones, Apple is able to harm consumers in a wide variety of additional ways

Whilst there are a great many statements that are factually incorrect and misleading in the DoJ submission, the important issue of question for me initially is simply: by the definition of a Monopoly under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in the USA, does Apple qualify as a Monopoly at all over smartphones in any dimension?

The summary of what the Act interprets as a Monopoly can be found here but this is the key sentence:

An unlawful monopoly exists when one firm has market power for a product or service, and it has obtained or maintained that market power, not through competition on the merits, but because the firm has suppressed competition by engaging in anticompetitive conduct.

The wording is clumsy, so let’s work this through. If a “Product” is meant literally in the singular sense, a single widget, made identically, from a single supplier under the same name, certified as such by that manufacturer then every widget is a monopoly within itself. If we interpret a “Product” as meaning a “Product Class” or a “Product Type” or perhaps a “Product Category” then if we had widgets of similar functionality and similar design, but supplied by multiple companies that leads to choice for consumers, that is the outcome that we want. If Company A that makes Widget A, finds a way to limit the production of competing products of the same product type, but from other manufacturers, then that could represent a restraint of trade and shows monopolistic behaviour.

Therefore we can only reasonably interpret “Product” in this context as a “Product Type” and the DoJs use of the phrase “iPhone Monopoly” is a non-sequitur and what they meant to say (as they did later in their document) is “Smartphone Monopoly”.

Similarly “Service” can be more correctly interpreted as a “Service Type” and in the context of Smartphones this could include Text or Multi-media Messaging Services, EMail etc.

Next question is does Apple have a Monopoly over Smartphones as the DoJ assert? Globally Canalys showed Apple in Q1 of 2023 behind Samsung and the longer term analysis here suggests that Samsung alone beat Apple in Smartphone sales in 6 out of the 8 quarters in 2022 and 2023.

However since the DoJ is USA focussed Canalys also reported that in the United States in Q3 of 2023 Apples market share had dropped year over year from 57% to 55% by shipments.1

If Apple’s marketshare is actually about 20% of global smartphones and just over 50% in the US, then can Apple reasonably be expected to have Market Power over the others? Certainly not in the smartphone hardware, but what about the software? In the context of smartphone operating systems, iOS only runs on iPhones (Apple’s only Smartphone). However reflecting on the attempted Anti-Trust Lawsuit against Microsoft with 9 out of 10 computers coming with Microsoft Windows pre-installed at that point in history, Microsoft had a monopoly over the operating system, not the computers themselves.

The better question then is what operating system in the smartphone context is similar to that of the personal computer context of the 90s and 00s. This analysis suggests that Android is maintaining 75-80% marketshare globally, and 40% and growing in the US, with iOS only getting over 20% globally three times in 8 quarters, and about 50% and dropping in the US.

So What?

The problem with this Anti-Trust case is that the wording used and referencing the Act as it stands, will simply lose. Apple is not a monopoly in that sense and if the DoJ were actually interested in smartphone monopolies (globally) they should have gone after Android, although the ownership of Android is rather complicated by Googles design.

What the DoJ Meant To Say

It’s unavailing at this point in time to chide the DoJ for such a poorly understood or written submission against Apple. If I were to extrapolate what they meant to say though, it would be something like this:

All smartphones and personal computers shall be open to install and run applications (apps) at the discretion of the owner and user of the hardware in question.

The fascinating point is that Apple have a split philosophy that’s been talked about for years: on the Mac you can install anything from anyone (though recently SIP, Gatekeeper etc have added more warnings to users about risks of so doing), whereas on iOS devices you can not. Apple cite a litany of reasons to justify their restrictiveness on iOS but it really doesn’t matter what those reasons are anymore for one reason alone: ubiquity has led to reliance.

The Platform Lifecycle

The word “Platform” is intentionally generic since you could argue that the platform for Railroads a hundred years ago was an engine pulling carriages on an agreed width of rails to move people and goods around the country. In this context the Mobile Phone was a platform for voice calling other people and was an extension of the Telephone system. The Smartphone was a platform for transferring information between people and the internet.

Of course you can iterate down that technology stack and identify that the Internet is a platform, as is the landline phone network, as is the mobile phone network.

Each of these platforms have approximately followed the stages of their lifecycle below:

  1. Invention
  2. Early adoption
  3. Competition
  4. Ubiquity
  5. Reliance
  6. Regulation

In the case of railroads in many countries, once technology was invented it was adopted by one company to fund construction of the first rail lines as they identified money could be made. Then more companies built more lines and in some cases governments built some infrastructure as well, with the companies then competing on price. Once rail lines were widespread they had become ubiquitous with practically every town touched by a rail line and station. With this came more commerce and more people began to depend on them for food deliveries, mail, and to get around and the majority of the population came to rely on them.

At this point there were problems in some countries including the United States where one company owned a rail bridge and restricted its competitors from using it. The reliance and pressure from end users forced more regulation into place to prevent monopolistic behaviour from continuing.

In the smartphone market it’s been a similar journey so far, with smartphones now crossing beyond ubiquity into reliance. Why do I say that? Have we become reliant/dependent upon the smartphone? With some online services a smartphone is required for multi-factor authentication to log in. In some businesses contracts require specific messaging apps, based on smartphone platforms only, to stay in touch as part of the job. In some countries, governments are moving away from physical identification to digital identification, held on your smartphone.

Credit and Debit physical cards are becoming less common with the advent of more convenient technologies leveraging PayWave and PayPass such as Google Pay and Apple Pay. Some online banks don’t issue physical cards by default anymore. Finally there are many people that own a smartphone that don’t own a computer, whether that’s a desktop or a laptop computer, simply because smartphones are smaller and cheaper.

With many forms, applications and such today, it’s only possible to fill these in via a web-form which requires a computer or a smartphone, hence the smartphone has indirectly become the required tool for this purpose. Given that they’re being relied upon now, we start down the road of regulation.

It was inevitable.

Was Anti-Trust the Right Approach?

No. Apple does NOT have a monopoly or market power in the smartphone platform space. The better approach would be to follow in the European Union’s footsteps with the Digital Markets Act. Regulation is required but it must equally apply to all entrants in the Market - NOT JUST APPLE.

The interesting question though is that if you’re the inventor of a technology and you can set the design direction from day one, would you do that in the knowledge that in the future, if your technology becomes a ubiquitous platform that is relied upon by the majority of the population, you will be forced to do things against your original design direction by regulation?

Since the smartphone was created about 25 years ago (debates over who invented the first one notwithstanding) then that’s up to two and a half decades of mostly, do-what-you-want until you face regulation.

Maybe that head-start is enough…depending on your point of view of course.

Whether or not the AntiTrust case against Apple goes anywhere useful, it will be followed by more legislation. The DMA will be enforced even more harshly until Apple and other technology companies get the message. The user owns their own device, not Apple, and the user should be free to choose how they want to use it.

  1. Updated 16/4/24 to split out US Market Share and Global Market Share to focus on DoJ’s direct remit. The conclusion doesn’t change. ↩︎

47 At A Test Match Finally

Growing up in Rockhampton, a 7 hour drive from the state capital of Brisbane, it meant that you missed out on a lot of great things that never made it to regional Queensland. That could be concerts, plays, musicals, or sports matches and more.

My favourite game to play and watch for as long as I can remember was cricket. As a teenager I’d take the plastic case cricket ball up to the nets and practice bowling for hours on end with my friends and in some cases even by myself. As limited overs cricket was taking off in a big way in the late 80s and early 90s, I’d watch the One Day Internationals (ODIs) on the TV in the dining room with the headphones on (never allowed on the “big” TV because my mother hated cricket).

I started taking more of an interest in Test Cricket watching several games on TV in different cities around Australia and started developing a love for the original format of the game. Five days in the field, three, two-hour sessions each day was a lot of play time. The strategy was very different and it was, for me at least, much more interesting to watch. For the players it truly was a “Test” of their skill and endurance and lives up to its name.

In January of 1990 a rare thing happened in my home town - Sri Lanka’s test side were playing at the Rockhampton Cricket Ground (next to Callaghan Park horse-track) and my mother relented to my incessant nagging and stumped up the money for tickets for me to go with my grandfather to watch the Queensland XI vs Sri Lanka. It was a 2-day game and I didn’t have the attention span I do now, but the biggest thrill was meeting the Australian Wicket Keeper, Ian Healy. On the Queensland side we had other Australian Test Match players including Craig McDermott, Stuart Law, Greg Richtie and Michael Kasprowicz. I was lucky to get Ian Healy and Stuart Law’s autographs…I still have them today.

Fresh from that experience I defied my mothers wishes (somewhat) and was up at the crack of sparrows watching as much of the Australian tour of the West Indies as I could manage, in 1991. Watching the Aussies play against the mighty West Indies in Jamaica, Gyana, Port of Spain, Barbados and Antigua was eye-opening. The wickets, the grand stands and the atmosphere was totally different from what I’d seen in Australia. I couldn’t watch every day though, since I had school.

A lot of things happened: started at Uni, went to Canada, I got my degree, went to Canada again, came back to Australia and ended up in Brisbane, got married and had four kids. (I know, that’s a lot…) When in Brisbane there were many opportunities to see international matches but I didn’t feel like it was an experience to had by myself, so I decided to go with my brother in law, who was English, to watch England vs Sri Lanka in December of 2002 since my wife (like my mother) hated cricket. It was at the Gabba and it was fine, but there was something about watching your own country play that was missing.

And so it wasn’t until my third-born, Benjamin, who started making a name as an opening Fast Bowler for the local junior cricket club and my oldest, Madeline, started coming to watch Ben bowl that things started to shift.

During my family-focus-hiatus from cricket, I’d missed an important evolution of the game of Cricket, with the English and Wales Cricket Board in 2003 formalising a new format of the game called Twenty-20 or just T20. Test Matches ran for five days, ODIs for one Day (50 overs per side) and T20s for about 2.5 hours (20 overs per side). I was skeptical at first but when I took Ben to his first cricket match at the Gabba in January 2018 I was shocked at how many people were there. It was called the BBL or Big Bash League and the Brisbane team were called the Heat.

T20 was fun, but brief and in subsequent years (not much during COVID) we went with my Brothers in Law, my daughter and this season my oldest son also came along with the Brisbane Heat winning the season for only the second time in the 13 years BBL had been running.

Despite this, it wasn’t the Australian team and it wasn’t a test match…but that was about to change. In an unusual split Test match season in Australia, Pakistan played three matches against Australia and the West Indies were scheduled for two, with the final Test Match of the 23/24 season at the Gabba and it was a Day/Night Test Match - only the third ever Day/Night Test to be played at the Gabba and the 22nd Day/Night Test Match played since 2015.

We bought Twilight tickets for the first day since it was a work and school day and arrived 30mins into the second session. The atmosphere was very different to the BBL with the fielders on the boundary “playing” with the crowd and some of them taking breaks between deliveries to sign autographs on the boundary line.

Nathan Lyon Nathan Lyon motioning the crowd: I Can’t Hear You!

Australian Opening Batsman Usman Khawaja Usman Khawaja talking to the crowd

Nathan Lyon doing Autographs between deliveries Nathan Lyon signing Autographs between deliveries

Day 2 we had seats out of the sun but it was quite hot and Day 3 was even worse, with our seats in the sun for nearly 2 hours, the hottest day this summer in Brisbane. Then at about 7pm I started feeling off, running a temperature and my progressive cough that I’d been trying to ignore during the afternoon got a lot worse.

We made it home safely but I felt horrible and whilst it wasn’t COVID I was unable to go to the final day we had tickets for and nor could my daughter as we were both sick. My oldest son then offered to take Ben on the fourth and likely final day and unfortunately for Australia we were bowled out, only 9 runs from the total we were chasing. The West Indies team were debuting so many new players in this team including an up and coming Fast Bowler Shamar Joseph. He’s 24 years old, used to work as a security guard and in the second innings took 7 Australian wickets despite an injured toe. We’ll be seeing more from this man in coming years I have no doubt.

Ben however stayed for the presentations after the game and not only did he finally get autographs for his signing bat, including that of Shamar Joseph, he had a few minutes chatting with Glen McGrath

We’d grabbed some merch, watched some amazing cricket and finally, finally at 47 years old, I’d finally made it to a test match and watched my country play against the West Indies right in front of my eyes. When I watched the test match series of Australia Touring the West Indies on TV some 33 years ago, I never thought I would see them play in person, but now I have. It was AWESOME.

Madeline, Me and Benjamin

Is This The Show Podcast

A group of internet friends that have known each other for years and podcasted together on different shows over the years, got together and created a new podcast entitled Is This The Show?.

It’s not meant to be a super-serious show and yes we’ll talk about things we like including anything from technology, podcasting itself, Apple, open-source, social media or just anything of interest. We’re aiming to record fortnightly and we’re tackling this very differently from previous shows where we each rotate edits and posts.

Due to our shifting life schedules, we have a core group of five people that will be on the episodes, but normally only three per episode. To date thus far we’ve released two episodes:

Episode 1: Socially Tolerated Episode 2: Your Closet’s Bigger Than Mine

You’ll hear myself, Scott Willsey, Clay Daly, Ronnie Lutes and Vic Hudson depending on who’s about that fortnight. ITTS is not part of TEN, it’s a casual side project I’m a part of.

Hope you enjoy it.

Leaving LibSyn

I joined LibSyn for Pragmatic back in 2014 when I left FiatLux/Constellation to take the show Indie. Between 2015 and 2017 I left LibSyn and tried BluBrry, then hosted my own files on a server, before returning to LibSyn again.

I originally left due to cost concerns. LibSyn required that you have subscription for every unique podcast however with 6 separate podcasts at that point, many of which I wasn’t producing content for regularly, just maintaining them and following LibSyn’s rules was costing a fortune.

At the time I was still taking sponsorships and advertising and frankly, LibSyn’s statistics were the best and met my needs at the time. When I returned however I restored Causality and Pragmatic, and cheekily added audio files from all other shows as direct download files incrementally to Pragmatic…risking LibSyn’s wrath were I to be caught out. They didn’t call me on it in the end.

Ultimately though I wasn’t using any of their RSS Feed functionality after a failed flirtation with the “Causality App” they were hyping at the time. I was using LibSyn essentially for statistics and file storage - nothing more.

Three things happened over the space of 2 years that made me decide to finally pull the pin on LibSyn, and likely any podcast host in future:

  1. The new User Interface (LibSyn Five) no longer included a File for Download Only option - everything had to be linked to an episode.
  2. A fluffy reason: LibSyn’s attitude about having been the longest-running podcast host was wearing really thin. Some of their senior leaders were proving they weren’t nice people either, and really rubbed me up the wrong way. (I’ll let you Google that yourself)
  3. Statistics could now be openly and professionally tracked using the OP3 project. Causality Stats

I’m not normally one to include “fluffy-feely-reasons” but the trend I’ve seen in LibSyn’s behaviour on “The Feed” podcast led me to stop listening back in 2021, and their attitude of having been the longest-standing podcast host meaning they understood the landscape the best, was less and less true with every passing week. It was frankly becoming embarrassing to even mention their analysis of pretty much anything.

The LibSyn product (interface) was being redesigned in v5 to compete with others in the marketplace insofar as it was more aimed at newbies/non-tech users (which is fine) and that wasn’t for me. Increasingly this is the case for all podcast hosts - the more technical of podcasters need not apply. That’s not a judgement, but it is a trend.

Finally if I could choose to spend about $10USD/m on hosting/statistics then I’d rather support an open project and file storage of my own choosing/control than to continue to support LibSyn.

Having spoken with my friends in the PC2.0 space, I shifted my Media to an S3-compatible storage bucket, backed by CloudFlare’s CDN and tested to confirm download speeds were as fast as LibSyn. Those tests ended a few weeks ago and now I’ve left LibSyn - this time for good.