iPhone And iPad Monopolized By Apple's App Store?

Seven people have brought a case against Apple accusing it of holding a monopoly on the apps in its store, a case which Apple asked a federal judge to dismiss on Wednesday. They filed the suit in 2011, claiming that if a user does not want to purchase an application from the App Store, they have no place else where they can acquire it. Apple also requires software developers to pay 30 percent of what they make off each app, which forces programmers to increase prices and excludes competitors.

Apple argued that it does not set a price for each app, and charging to distribute an app on a unique platform does not mean Apple is a monopoly.

"There's nothing illegal about creating a system that is closed in a sense," Dan Wall, Apple's attoney, told Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Rogers did not give a timetable on when she would rule on the case, Bloomberg reports, but she is responsible for another antitrust class action lawsuit involving Apple — the company faces accusations that it maintains a music-downloading monopoly. Another antitrust lawsuit is also going on in New York, brought against Apple by the U.S. government, which accuses Apple of fixing prices on digital books to undermine Amazon's influence in the eBook industry.

Yet another ongoing class action lawsuit accuses Apple of conspiring with AT&T, offering iPhones to customers for signing a two-year contract but then restricting voice and data service in the aftermarket. In the UK, Apple agreed to cut the prices that customers in the UK must pay to download music after a formal European Commission complaint in 2008.

Antitrust laws are essentially designed to prevent monopolies — markets in which one supplier benefits from a lack of competition, giving it far too much power to charge what it pleases for services or products. (Coincidentally, this is the whole point of the Hasbro game Monopoly.)

Apple, with its proprietary software and hardware, undeniably holds a unique position in the technology sector. Users are more or less subject to the company's whims unless they jailbreak their phones, but at what point does it become a monopoly? After all, Android smartphones are readily available and have their own robust Google Play store, so it's easy to argue that in the big picture, Apple has plenty of competition. On a smaller scale, however, things get murky.

Are these antitrust lawsuits justified? Does Apple hold a monopoly? Tell us what you think in the comments!

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