Apple says it spent unspecified “billions” on its updated Apple Maps app.
Cupertino’s revelation about the Apple Maps expenditures came amid answers to questions from the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which is currently carrying out antitrust probes into Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Regulators asked Apple about its ownership of the App Store. This regards antitrust concerns about Apple’s ownership and creation of its own apps. In short, regulators wanted to know how Apple Maps competes with Google Maps. (Apple also answered questions about its web browser, Safari.)
Questions about Apple’s ownership of the App Store have been increasingly prominent as of late. In September, leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested access to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s archive of emails. Last month, U.S. lawmakers asked Spotify to submit information related to whether Apple engages in anticompetitive behavior.
Senator and president candidate Elizabeth Warren also voiced concerns on this topic. In 2016, she accused Apple of abusing its control of the App Store to hinder competition. Last September, Warren tweeted that Apple has “too much power,” affixing the hashtag #BreakUpBigTech.
Meanwhile, Europe has similar probes investigating Apple’s position as owner of the App Store. The European Commission’s competition boss recently commented on this topic, possibly regarding Apple. “Some of these platforms, they have the role both as player and referee, and how can that be fair?” Margrethe Vestager said. “You would never accept a football match where the one team was also being the referee.”
What other tech giants said
Other tech giants face scrutiny alongside Apple. Google, for instance, answered questions about whether it favors YouTube videos over video sites owned by competitors. Google says “the vast majority” of clicks do not go to Google-owned websites and that YouTube is not given greater weight than rival services.
Facebook, meanwhile, admitted cutting off certain third-party apps that replicated its core functions. These include tools like Twitter’s now-closed Vine, which Facebook said was similar to one of its products.
Amazon said it uses aggregated data from merchants on its third-party marketplace for “business purposes.” However, it said it did not use that information to launch, source or price its own products. It said it does ask third-party sellers to lower their prices when those merchants sell for less elsewhere.
Spending billions of dollars on Apple Maps
The ultimate results of these antitrust probes remain to be seen. As far as I can tell, Apple has less to worry about than some rivals. While it’s a $1 trillion tech giant, Apple isn’t actually the leader in any of its product categories outside the Apple Watch. Spotify is bigger than Apple Music, Android has more users than iOS, Windows computers outnumber macOS machines, and so on.
Still, it’s likely that these investigations will result in more details being shared like the “billions” Apple has spent revamping Apple Maps. I’m not surprised that these efforts have cost so much. In its effort to improve Maps, Apple gathered data using special mapping vehicles. It also applied for permission to use drones to improve Apple Maps. That’s before you start factoring in the cost of redesigning the app, covering a mapping team’s salary, etc.
What do you think the outcome of these antitrust investigations will be — or should be? Let us know in the comments below.