Apple/Google duopoly faces antitrust investigation in Japan


Apple is facing yet another antitrust investigation, though this one seems odd: It’s an examination of the Apple/Google duopoly in the mobile operating system market.

Today’s report from Japan is very light on details …

Japan Times cites an unsourced Nikkei report.

The government will start investigating how Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google deal with Japanese smartphone makers, which could lead to the tightening of antitrust regulations, the Nikkei newspaper reported Sunday, without saying where it got the information.

A government panel, which consists of officials, bureaucrats and external experts, will kick off the discussion this month as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software stands at more than 90% of the Japanese smartphone market, the paper said. The probe will include input from executives from domestic smartphone handset-makers as well as manufacturers of smart speakers and personal computers.

The panel will evaluate business dealings in Japan and whether they are conducted in a fair manner compared with cases overseas. The government may step up antitrust regulations if the panel finds any issues from the probe, the paper said.

It’s an odd one because it’s unclear what either company could do about the fact, or what remedies could possibly be applied.

There were once a great many competing mobile operating systems, including Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS, Palm OS, Symbian, webOS, Tizen, and more. Most of these fell by the wayside as both Apple and Google established ecosystems and device choices that held greater consumer appeal. It is this, rather than anything that might be deemed anti-competitive, which has led to the current Apple/Google duopoly.

All the same, it is possible that Japanese authorities could end up heading in the same direction as competition bodies in other countries, and focus their attention on issues like Apple’s control of the App Store.

The latest threat to the App Store is the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, formerly the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, in the US. It follows a 450-page antitrust report, which concluded that Apple was among the tech companies to engage in “deeply disturbing” anticompetitive behavior.

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