Is Apple’s App Store a Monopoly? Workers at These Tech Companies Think So
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that consumers and app developers can sue Apple’s App Store for “alleged monopolization.” The company hasn’t faced any App Store antitrust lawsuits yet, but given the findings in a new survey released this week, many in the tech seem to believe Apple’s App Store is a problem.
In a survey conducted between May 14 and May 20, Blind, a social network where people can anonymously discuss their workplace, asked a simple question: Is Apple’s App Store a monopoly? More than 10,000 people, including hundreds from Apple, Spotify, and others, chimed in.
Overall, 44.1% of respondents said they think Apple’s App Store is a monopoly, versus 40.7% who think it does not. (Additionally, 15.2% of overall respondents said they did not know.)
The survey relates to last week’s Supreme Court’s ruling, which paves the way for Apple to face lawsuits over its App Store policies, largely centers on the company banning third-party application marketplaces from iOS.
The central issue is that if app developers want their software on iOS, and if users want to download that software, they can both only get access through the App Store. To sustain this service, Apple takes a chunk of the revenue that apps generate, without providing users or app developers an alternative marketplace. This model has become a major concern for developers and consumers alike.
Not surprisingly, 74.9% of people who Blind verified as Apple employees said that the App Store is not a monopoly. But in a potentially concerning note to Apple CEO Tim Cook, 15.1% of Apple respondents said they think it is.
But the companies that have traded shots with Apple recently tend to have more employees who take issue with the iPhone maker. For instance, nearly 85% of employees at Qualcomm, a company that Apple recently ended a two-year patent dispute with, voted against the App Store.
Meanwhile at Spotify, Apple’s chief music-streaming rival and an outspoken critic of Apple’s App Store policies, 82.8% of employees say it’s an unfair market. That’s hardly surprising considering that earlier this year, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple in the European Union, alleging that the App Store is designed to “purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience.”
But over at Lyft, which offers a ride-hailing service that doesn’t compete with Apple, only 18.6% of employees have an unfavorable view of the App Store.
Fortune contacted Apple, Spotify, and Qualcomm about the survey, but none of the companies responded to the requests for comment.
The survey’s finding also highlight how impactful Blind could be in highlighting issues facing big tech.
A fast-growing workplace social network that lets users share their opinions, concerns, and career highlights anonymously, the service has been used to leak pending layoffs that haven’t yet been made public, compensation for different jobs, and even squabbles between management and employees.
But there’s another side to Blind. While the service hosts many useful posts, its anonymous nature lends it to also feature off-color conversations. Commenters can (and sometimes do) use their anonymity to say whatever they want, whenever they want. So while respondents to the App Store monopoly survey may have answered honestly, whether they’d publicly admit to their views is a different story.
Regardless of their reliability, Blind’s findings provide at least a small bit of insight into tech industry attitudes towards the App Store, both on Apple’s campus and at competitors’ offices. They also show that Apple isn’t off the hook in this case—at least not with a jury of its peers.