Shortly after Spotify revealed it was submitting an antitrust criticism towards Apple in Europe, the Cupertino firm responded with a point-by-point rebuttal.
However a have a look at Apple’s fastidiously crafted counterarguments reveals that it diligently ignored one in every of Spotify’s key areas of concern: Apple Music.
The story thus far
By the use of a quick recap, Spotify’s frustration with Apple’s enterprise practices goes again years. The music-streaming firm’s complaints have traditionally centered round the way in which Apple controls its platform (iOS) and the App Retailer — by means of which Apple began charging 30 % fee (or “tax,” as Spotify calls it) on all in-app purchases in 2011. Because of this, Spotify stopped promoting premium subscriptions by means of Apple’s billing system. However in 2014, Spotify gave in to Apple’s “fixed stress” and commenced promoting subscriptions by means of iOS at a fee inflated to offset Apple’s charges. In 2016, Apple lowered its fee on all apps to 15 % after the primary yr of a subscription, although that exact same yr Spotify as soon as once more eliminated its premium possibility from the iOS app.
In his criticism this week, Spotify cofounder and CEO Daniel Ek fired a bunch of further accusations towards Apple, pointing to such grievances as blocked app updates and curtailed integrations with Siri and Apple Watch. Weighing Apple’s official responses to those grievances, you just about find yourself in a he mentioned, she mentioned state of affairs. However one factor that suggestions the steadiness in Spotify’s favor is Apple’s refusal to handle the elephant within the room.
Apple launched Apple Music as a Spotify competitor again in 2015. Since that point, Apple Music has made some headway towards its rival, garnering a world market share of round 20 %, although it nonetheless lags far behind Spotify’s greater than 35 %. However reputation apart, Spotify argues that Apple offers itself an unfair benefit on iOS by charging third-party providers equivalent to Spotify a fee whereas Apple Music clearly pays nothing. That is the primary cause Apple’s 1,000-word rebuttal doesn’t rise up — it makes subsequent to no reference to Apple Music’s clear benefit over Spotify on a platform Apple controls.
Apple really does make a slight reference to the state of affairs, however solely not directly:
We would like 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.
However that’s so far as Apple goes by way of addressing what might be the strongest argument in Spotify’s criticism. Certainly, the European Fee doubtless gained’t take Spotify’s criticism far on minor grievances equivalent to Apple taking part in hardball over app updates. However it is going to virtually actually examine the clear conflicts of curiosity concerned in Apple successfully forcing rivals to cost extra for his or her providers.
Sound of silence
Apple additionally ignores one other key a part of Spotify’s criticism, which targets the way in which the corporate prevents third-party builders from speaking to iOS customers how they’ll improve to a premium account by means of different channels. Anybody who downloads the Spotify app on Apple’s platform will see choices to “join free” or “log in,” however there isn’t a possibility to enroll in a premium subscription and even to start a free trial.
The closest Spotify’s iOS app involves mentioning a subscription is that this little tidbit from the App Retailer notes, which omits any details about how a person might go about getting a premium subscription.
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That is one other space that might undermine Apple’s place from a European regulatory standpoint, which is probably going why it wasn’t addressed within the rebuttal.
To be clear, Spotify isn’t any harmless — it has engaged in lots of questionable practices concerning its royalty construction. And as Apple gleefully factors out, simply this week Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora determined to attraction a call by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that will improve payouts to artists by 44 %. Apple, for what its price, selected to not attraction.
Nonetheless, in ignoring one in every of Spotify’s core antitrust complaints in its in any other case detailed rebuttal, Apple appears to concede a key level to its Swedish rival.