Musk criticizes Apple

Musk criticizes Apple

elon musk tim cook

As regular readers of this newsletter know, I’m no Elon Musk fan. But when the man is right, he’s right. That’s the case when it comes to the Tesla CEO’s observation this week that “if Apple competes against the whole world, Apple will have the whole world against it. This is not a winning scenario.”

Musk’s comment came in response to a tweet by Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey who objected to a decision by Apple’s CEO to remove the fledgling social network Damus from the company’s app store on the grounds it let users send Bitcoin-based “tips” to each other. Dorsey replied to Musk: “indeed.”

The episode is notable because it appears to be the first tweet in months for Dorsey, who has been silent on the platform after suggesting that Musk—who bought Twitter last year—was mismanaging the social network. But it’s also significant because the two men are influential billionaires who join numerous other entrepreneurs frustrated with Apple’s high-handed control over the app environment.

Apple’s decision to evict Damus from its app store over tipping is tied to the company’s policy that app makers must hand over 30% of whatever money they receive as payment for digital content. That policy is why Amazon Prime doesn’t let users buy videos directly in the app but asks them instead to go to its website.

In the case of Damus, as Dorsey wrote on Twitter, Apple’s justification for booting the app seems flimsy. Sending a Bitcoin tip to another user—Damus uses the low-cost Lightning network—is not really the same as purchasing content. But Apple is demanding its tax all the same.

It’s hard not to view the iPhone move as just the latest example of its recent anti-crypto stance. That stance is convenient for Apple at a time when the company is muscling into payments, challenging the likes of PayPal, and working with Goldman Sachs to get a piece of the credit card business. Given that Bitcoin’s Lightning network offers a cheap and efficient alternative to move money around, it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple has decided to try and smother any such services in the crib.

This is the price we pay for using Apple. Like many of you, I rely on the company’s tightly controlled ecosystem—iMessage, iCloud, and so on—and appreciate its convenience and security. These are the so-called golden handcuffs we agree to put on in embracing Apple. But as Musk implied, it feels like the handcuffs are getting tighter every year, and the company risks trading its history of innovation to become just another monopolist.

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