Random Image Display on Page Reload

4 Internal Apple Emails That Helped the DOJ Build Its Case

Mar 22, 2024 6:00 AM

4 Internal Apple Emails That Helped the DOJ Build Its Case

The Department of Justice alleges in its antitrust lawsuit that internal Apple emails show the company intentionally locks in users, forcing them to spend more money.

Apple logo on the facade of a building with an obscured red light and blurry abstract white shapes in the foreground

Photograph: Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple uses the dominance of the iPhone to illegally suppress competition in ways that harm consumers, the US Department of Justice alleged in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Apple has denied it acts illegally, with spokesperson Fred Sainz saying that the suit “threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets.” But key parts of the suit use the words of Apple’s own executives against the company. The DOJ lawsuit quotes internal emails to argue that Apple knowingly restricts users and developers in unfair ways. Here is how four of the messages appear to show executives discussing how to maintain tight control of Apple's ecosystem.

“Not Fun to Watch”

The DOJ’s complaint opens by quoting an email exchange from 2010 between Apple cofounder and then CEO Steve Jobs and an unnamed “top Apple executive.” It describes the executive emailing Jobs about a new ad for Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, in which a woman first uses an iPhone to buy and read books using Amazon’s iOS Kindle app but later reads those books on an Android phone.

The suit portrays this ad as triggering concern inside Apple. It says the executive wrote to Jobs about it, saying that one “message that can’t be missed is that it is easy to switch from iPhone to Android. Not fun to watch.” The suit doesn’t quote Jobs' response at length, but says he wrote that Apple would “force” developers to use its payment system to lock in both developers and users on its platform.

The DOJ alleges that the episode demonstrates an early instance of Apple using a playbook it has turned to repeatedly when facing competition, intentionally locking users and developers into Apple’s ecosystem. The lawsuit claims that practice has made switching to Apple alternatives more expensive than it’s worth, deterring competition.

“iPhone Families”

The way Apple restricts the iMessage messaging service is a major feature of the DOJ’s antitrust allegations. It cites emails, including to current CEO Tim Cook, as evidence that the company knew it was harming users and making it more difficult to switch away from an iPhone.

One 2013 message quoted, from Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, is claimed to have warned that allowing Apple Messages to work across platforms “would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”

In March 2016, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing—apparently Phil Schiller—is said to have looped in CEO Tim Cook on a similar discussion, forwarding an email that said “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us.”

Frustration from some users about Apple’s control of iMessage and confinement of messages from people outside Apple’s ecosystem inside green bubbles has grown since. Last November Apple signaled it was ready to make some concessions, saying it would add compatibility with the RCS messaging standard to iMessage. Apple has also long argued that iMessage’s security features are a bar to interoperability, another point of contention with the DOJ.

“Prevent … Switching”

The Apple Watch didn’t turn into a blockbuster like the iPhone, but the DOJ suit quotes an executive’s email to allege that the company used the device to exert leverage on its smartphone customers. In 2019, the suit alleges, Apple’s vice president of product marketing for Apple Watch wrote that the device “may help prevent iPhone customers from switching.”

The DOJ claims that unspecified surveys have reached similar conclusions, finding that the devices linked to their iPhones deter them from switching to Android.

“We believe this lawsuit is wrong on the facts and the law, and we will vigorously defend against it,” Apple said in an emailed statement Thursday. Something it will have to defend against, though, are the words of its own executives.

Tom Simonite is a senior editor who edits WIRED’s business coverage. He previously covered artificial intelligence and once trained an artificial neural network to generate seascapes. Simonite was previously San Francisco bureau chief at MIT Technology Review, and wrote and edited technology coverage at New Scientist magazine in London. He… Read more
Senior Editor

More from WIRED

The Apple Antitrust Case and the ‘Stigma’ of the Green Bubble

The US government's Apple lawsuit leans on the social cost of not owning an iPhone, an unusual argument for antitrust.

Lauren Goode

The US Claims Apple Has a Stranglehold on the Future

The Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against Apple says the company’s grip on iPhone users and developers is blocking future innovation in tech.

Makena Kelly

The US Sues Apple in an iPhone Antitrust Blockbuster

The Department of Justice lawsuit is the most aggressive legal challenge yet to Apple’s dominant ecosystem.

Vittoria Elliott

The EU Targets Apple, Meta, and Alphabet for Investigations Under New Tech Law

The probes are the first to take place under Europe’s landmark Digital Markets Act—and add to Apple’s mounting antitrust woes.

Morgan Meaker

Apple Fined $2 Billion as Europe Sides With Spotify

Music streaming service Spotify has long complained that Apple’s App Store rules put unfair restrictions on its business. Today the European Commission agreed, fining Apple $2 billion.

Morgan Meaker

Apple’s MM1 AI Model Shows a Sleeping Giant Is Waking Up

A research paper quietly released by Apple describes an AI model called MM1 that can answer questions and analyze images. It’s the biggest sign yet that Apple is developing generative AI capabilities.

Will Knight

Europe Is Breaking Open the Empires of Big Tech

Tech giants have to comply with a new EU law that is set to change the internet. It aims to force open the biggest platforms to encourage competition and give users more choice in their digital lives.

Morgan Meaker

Apple Could Be the First Target of Europe’s Tough New Tech Law

An architect of the EU’s tough new Digital Markets Acts says Apple would be a logical first candidate for investigation under the law, which aims to “break open” tech platforms.

Morgan Meaker

Credit belongs to : www.wired.com

Check Also

The world’s coral reefs are facing another mass bleaching event — maybe the biggest ever

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared another mass coral bleaching event — …