The issue of whether Apple is a monopoly has been haunting the company for years. And Apple CEO Tim Cook's recent comments on the matter likely won't do much to allay any fears.
Speaking to the Nikkei this week, Cook was asked about his opinions on monopolies and whether Apple's services, like the company's App Store, operate as monopolies.
Interestingly, Cook didn't discuss any Apple programs by name (but did say he doesn't think Apple is a monopoly). He also suggested that a monopoly isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"A monopoly by itself isn't bad if it's not abused," Cook said. "The question for those companies is, do they abuse it? And that is for regulators to decide, not for me to decide."
Cook's contention that a monopoly might not be such a bad thing is something that critics might soon jump on.
Apple's App Store has been the subject of inquiries in countries around the world over whether it's a monopoly. Critics say that the App Store is fully controlled by Apple and only accessible on the company's platforms. Most important, in order to generate revenue off Apple's App Store, developers, some of which are Apple competitors, need to share the revenue with the tech giant.
Developers have also cautioned that Apple has too much control over the app approval process, can easily remove apps it deems unworthy, and more.
Of course, Apple has argued that it isn't operating as a monopoly. The company points out that Android users have their own marketplaces, including the Google Play store. Apple also said that developers can generate revenue on their apps outside of Apple's platform, as Netflix does when it allows users to sign up for its streaming service online. Apple's platforms in those cases are little more than conduits to the services people want to access.
But Cook's statement that monopolies aren't all bad is notable. His argument seems to be based in the belief that if a company holds a dominant position but doesn't necessarily use it to do harm to others, it's not a bad thing.
That thinking is based in some reality. The fact is, some companies are big and powerful in certain areas because they have better products or solutions. That doesn't necessarily stop other companies from profiting off their dominant businesses. It also doesn't limit the possibility in some cases for other companies to join the space.
Indeed, trying to prove a monopoly is malicious and abusing its position of power and serving as a true detriment to competitors and customers isn't simple. And as Cook's point clearly shows, there's at least some precedent for believing that not all monopolies are bad, even if there's a sense among some people that they are.
Needless to say, Apple's monopoly problems aren't going away anytime soon. And Cook's comments might not help address that.