Apple sounds off on Spotify’s antitrust claims in surprisingly tone-deaf screed

Spotify’s battle on Apple simply reached a fevered pitch. After a PR blitz that attacked Apple’s App Retailer ‘tax’ and ‘unfair benefit’ within the music streaming market, Apple has responded with a prolonged assertion merely titled, ”Addressing Spotify’s claims.”

In contrast to Steve Jobs’s well-known “Ideas on Music,” which was written in response to Apple’s FairPlay digital rights administration system, this assertion isn’t signed by Tim Cook dinner or Eddie Cue or every other Apple govt. Regardless of the usage of the editorial “we” all through, it very a lot reads like a legal-approved PR assertion, rigorously choosing aside every of Spotify’s claims with a collection of bullet factors.

Apple makes loads of good and legitimate factors, even when they’re sandwiched between unnecessarily bombastic language. The primary few paragraphs are dedicated to Apple’s love of music, the iTunes Retailer revolution, and the billions of {dollars} it’s paid to builders. It units Apple up as a benevolent drive for good within the digital house and evens consists of this sentence, “We wish extra app companies to thrive—together with those that compete with some facet of our enterprise, as a result of they drive us to be higher.”

Jason Cross/IDG

Apple Music lives rent-free within the App Retailer.

Nevertheless, that’s the final time the assertion even alludes to Apple Music, Apple’s competing streaming service that was launched years after Spotify began promoting its personal streaming service within the App Retailer. The truth is, the phrases “Apple” and “Music” by no means seem facet by facet in the entire piece. And with out addressing that Spotify is a direct competitor to Apple Music on each Apple machine, it’s arduous to take the argument severely.

Shallow ideas

When Steve Jobs wrote “Ideas on Music,” it was clear it was coming from him. It was written in plain language and had a heartfelt tone. He each defined Apple’s use of DRM in easy phrases and laid out an answer going ahead. He mentioned the iPod and Apple’s aggressive benefit with the iPod, but in addition laid out how Apple was prepared to bend on its phrases. Apple’s assertion does no such factor.

Somewhat, it assaults Spotify for daring to query App Retailer insurance policies and performs dumb when Spotify calls out how Apple locks third-party apps from utilizing sure key options of its product: “We discovered Spotify’s claims about Apple Watch particularly shocking. When Spotify submitted their Apple Watch app in September 2018, we reviewed and accredited it with the identical course of and velocity with which we might every other app. The truth is, the Spotify Watch app is at the moment the No. 1 app within the Watch Music class.”

spotify apple watch Spotify

Spotify’s Apple Watch app is principally a glorified distant in your iPhone.

Which may be true, however Apple fails to say that third-party apps can’t use Siri to search out music or stream over LTE. The primary purpose why the Spotify Apple Watch app is principally a glorified distant management is as a result of solely Apple Music is ready to use Siri to discover a tune, and iPhone-less streaming is extraordinarily restricted for third-party apps. Even when Spotify had been so as to add assist for offline streaming, songs and playlists have to be synced and saved on an Apple Watch to be performed, which is a ache. And it stays to be seen if Apple will enable every other music apps to stream over LTE.

Apple additionally says it has “reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 assist on a number of events,” which is an fascinating assertion. Presumably Apple is referring to iOS 12’s “Play Media” command, which lets third-party apps faucet into Shortcuts to supply restricted controls for third-party music and video apps. However whereas Spotify may technically add assist for taking part in, skipping, and pausing tracks, general streaming performance is extraordinarily restricted with regards to Siri except you’re utilizing Apple Music. And HomePod is out of the query.

After which there’s the primary challenge at stake: cost. Apple’s claims that “Spotify needs all the advantages of a free app with out being free” smacks of dishonesty. Why? As a result of that’s precisely what Apple is getting with Apple Music. And Apple seemingly isn’t self-aware sufficient to see it.

A strategic response

Apple may spell out all of the explanation why it thinks Spotify’s argument is specious, however it fails to offer any precise options to the issue, which is able to solely be exasperated when Apple launches its personal video streaming service later this month. It dings Spotify for failing to say that the 30 p.c income share drops to 15 p.c after the primary 12 months of an annual subscription, however doesn’t provide any concessions on its phrases.

There’s positively a center floor right here that Apple fails to even try to achieve. Apple talks about Spotify’s hundreds of thousands of free prospects and fortunately factors out that it’s at the moment concerned in a courtroom case over artist royalties, however it by no means provides an precise resolution. Apple doesn’t cost a price to apps that promote “bodily items,” so Uber and DoorDash aren’t dinged like Spotify is. So, Apple may cap charges for recurring subscriptions, decrease the speed additional for multi-year subscribers, or just remove the price altogether with out making the App Retailer any extra unlevel than it’s now.

spotify free tier Spotify

Spotify’s free tier may drive most of its premnium subsciptions, but Apple isn’t doing Spotify any favors.

Plus, it’s hard not to read Apple’s statement and wonder about the future. Yes, I know it’s directly responding to Spotify’s accusations made earlier this week, but it’s no secret that Apple will be launching its own video service later this month. And there’s no doubt that Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and everyone else will have the same argument.

In fact, Netflix has already removed the ability to sign up for the service through iTunes. Instead, users are directed to the Netflix website to avoid having to pay Apple’s cut. Netflix is big enough where it can afford to do that. Spotify isn’t.

Neither is Hulu, the company that Spotify just teamed up with to offer a bundled $10-a-month service that offers access to both premium services. That’s a threat to Apple’s planned launch, and the Spotify statement seems to be a way to publicly get out in front of the issue before the anti-trust arrows start flying. So I can’t help but wonder if Apple would be playing a different tune if it didn’t have a video service waiting to launch.

Apple may want us to believe that it’s being unfairly targeting by Spotify and that the App Store is largely responsible for Spotify’s success, but the fact remains that Apple gets paid whenever someone subscribes to Apple Music or Spotify on their iPhone. And if Apple is going to fight to keep things that way, the very least it could do is recognize it. You know, like Steve Jobs would have done.

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