Was Steve Jobs really always the charismatic, smart and friendly Apple boss? New emails now reveal that it wasn’t just the nice jobs. The CEO probably also took uncompromising action against his competitors and developers.
At a historic congressional hearing in late July 2020, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon had to face the US Congress and face accusations of market dominance and unfair competition.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg surprisingly admitted that he had seen Instagram 2012 as a major competitor and had bought the image network also because of this. The US Congress based its accusations on corresponding documents.
Now it seems that Apple is also getting into a bit of trouble. The Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law of the US Congress Judiciary Committee has published e-mails showing how uncompromisingly Steve Jobs has taken action against his competitors and developers.
Steve Jobs: No mercy for the competition
According to the US news site Business Insider, Steve Jobs wrote an email in February 2011 about bookselling: “I think it’s all pretty simple. iBooks will be the only bookstore for iOS devices”.
It goes on to say, “We have to keep our heads high. You can read books bought elsewhere, but you can’t buy, rent or subscribe to books on iOS without paying us, which we acknowledge is prohibitively expensive for many.”
So Jobs instructs its employees to force developers of subscription-based book apps to use Apple’s own platform. The Apple boss didn’t want to give competitors a chance to expand in the Apple Store and make a profit on their own.
How fairly does Apple manage its App Store?
So the main question is how fairly Apple manages its App Store. Does the company give other developers a fair chance to sell their apps? Or does the tech giant use its market power to keep competitors small and force them to bow down to Apple?
The company ultimately sets all the rules for its App Store itself. And that also applies to the services for which developers have to pay the company how much.
According to business insiders, regulators and market experts fear that Apple could also use its market power to charge exorbitant prices. Developers would then have no chance at all to sell their applications in the App Store.
Steve Jobs even beats Amazon
However, Jobs did not only concentrate on being a strong man in the face of small and independent app developers. The former Apple boss even stood up to Amazon.
A similar email story from 2010 shows how Jobs and his marketing vice president Phil Schiller discussed Amazon’s Kindle e-book app. At the time, Apple was not charging Amazon a commission when customers bought digital books on iPhones and iPads.
But Amazon had responded with an ad in which customers bought Kindle e-books on an iPhone and then read them on an Android smartphone.
Schiller then wrote in a message to Jobs: “The primary message is that Kindle apps exist on many different mobile devices. But the secondary message, which should not be overlooked here, is that it is easy to switch from iPhone to Android. It’s really no fun to watch.”
Later, Schiller even suggested to his boss to force Amazon to pay a commission – namely when customers bought books on iPhones and iPads. They should then use Apple’s payment system.
If Amazon would not bow to the demand, Schiller said, Apple could consider banning the Kindle app from the App Store. Jobs replied, “It’s time they decided to use our payment mechanism or get out.”
No acceptance for criticism of Apple
And the former Apple boss did not only take uncompromising action against outside developers and companies. He apparently also did not accept that employees are critical of Apple.
When the company introduced new rules in summer 2010, according to which programmers had to write apps for the iPhone and iPad in Apple’s own programming language, developer Joe Hewitt voiced criticism.
He classified Apple’s programming language as “mediocre” – even in front of the press. Instead of seeking a dialogue with Hewitt, Jobs wrote in an e-mail instead: “I propose that we eliminate Joe from the program.”