It sounds like almost a not-so-subtle dig at Microsoft, that the US House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee asked this former top tech dog to offer its perspective – as a former antitrust violator! – into the current investigation into Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
But like many things the “new, pivoted” Microsoft has been up to under CEO Satya Nadella, this is not really about any born-again tech altruism (and neither is its cozying up to open source, btw.) Instead, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith spoke before the subcommittee to – ironically for an investigation that’s all about protecting competition – attempt to throw a competitor under the bus from a privileged position of one not being investigated (this time.)
Namely, reports are saying that Smith – who’s been around Microsoft ever since the infamous patent troll SCO case that viciously targeted open source software, which both Microsoft and Smith now earnestly “embrace” for profit – went after Apple’s App Store this time.
True – the App Store is an easy target, given its long history of questionable to say the least practices and treatment of developers and their work. But two wrongs won’t ever make a right. Microsoft is in a vulnerable position these days as once the undisputed leader of the pack, reduced now to the role of an underdog to the present-day behemoths like Google, Amazon, and Apple.
In other words, Smith, a veteran in undermining competition, may not be the best voice to present what could otherwise be a solid case against the said giants.
Nevertheless, Smith reportedly went into some detail about what’s wrong with Apple’s store (again, any competent tech blogger could have told the subcommittee the same, only with much more credibility): “Arbitrary App Store approval processes, the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from app purchases and subscriptions, and requirements that developers use Apple’s in-app purchase system.”
Smith appears to be a man of long-term missions, so this is not the only time he’s beaten this particular drum, telling Politico in June that regulators should start paying close attention to app stores and payment requirements.
Great message per se – but we need to be hearing it from somebody with less skin in the game and less glass in that house from which they’re now attempting to throw stones.