It appears that the Age of Monopolies is coming, if not already here. What we are witnessing is the greater and greater number of monopolies and near-monopolies is newfound areas of technology. From search engines to mobile devices, it appears that the monopolies are here to stay, and that at best they will become duopolies. In the United States, we can even observe the formation of near-monopolies. Comcast has established itself as a ubiquitous cable TV and ISP. While not a monopoly nation-wide, the poor infrastructure makes it possible to grab a monopoly in individual areas such as small towns and communities.
Why are the monopolies perhaps here to stay? Why is “using advantage in one area to unfairly gain advantage in another” going to stick around, and perhaps become a common and even accepted practice? We can extrapolate that from the observation that historically, the policy of divide et impera is less and less effective, perhaps counter-productive in the long run. What the anti-trust laws are doing is implementing divide et impera against corporations.
When we think of anti-trust laws, among computer professionals it is common to think of Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet Explorer into Windows; for it is the most commonly known court case fighting against “trusts”. Rarely do people consider Oracle doing the same thing, Sun doing the same thing prior to the acquisition, and Apple doing the same thing. However, Oracle has expanded into hardware and servers market, into operating system and programming languages market, and even purchased its competitor MySQL — all through purchasing Sun. All this resulted in European examination of the appropriateness of the acquisition.
Apple has also easily expanded its business into general purpose* mobile devices arena. It could not do so without prior success with its mobile media player, computer, brand and marketing. Could a small company from Croatia today establish itself as a leading provider of modern mobile devices? Certainly not. It does not have the exposure, the mystery nor the success of Apple.
To prevent all this, we have anti-trust and other laws. While the author of these lines does not have any insight into specifics of these laws, their intention is probably clear: prevent establishment of too powerful companies. In Croatian market, a chain of grocery stores has established or purchased many food production companies. Meaning, it can control the prices more effectively than its competitors, as it can blackmail its other suppliers. In fact, this even gives this chain a considerable political power: in case a law is brought that does not benefit it, it can raise prices, claim it’s government’s fault and cause public outrage. Both things have happened: both suppliers and the government has been pressured.
The point is, these laws are ineffective. Could this be a result of their nature as a divide et impera mechanism, or is the reasoning much less metaphysical and in fact a lot simpler — corruption among politicians? Could it be some third reason? It could be anything.
It is just worrying if it is really caused by people’s acquired hatred for divide et impera, and that we are all blind not to see it.
* General purpose mobile devices — Let’s face it: no matter that it’s claimed otherwise, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are general purpose mobile devices. They are not constrained to just making phone calls, playing music and browsing the web. They could, theoretically, do anything. Hence “there’s an app for that”.