According to AppleInsider*, Apple has purchased a mobile ad company, Quattro Wireless, for $275M and named Quattro’s CEO as the VP of Mobile Advertising. Apple is now in the hardware business (Macs, iPods, iPhones, etc), the software business (OSX, Safari, QuickTime, etc), the transmission business (iTunes, App Store, MobileMe, etc), and the content business (Quattro Wireless). At first glance this doesn’t look so bad, as Apple doesn’t have a traditional (i.e. industrial) monopoly in any one of these areas.
However, having substantial influence in each of these areas – from medium to message – starts to look a lot like an informational monopoly. After describing the four horizontal layers of the WWW — transmission > hardware > software > content — Tim Burners-Lee describes his concern with “vertical integration“:
I am more concerned about companies trying to take a vertical slice through the layers than creating a monopoly in any one layer. A monopoly is more straight forward; people can see it and feel it, and consumers and regulators can “just say no.” But vertical integration — for example, between the medium and content — affects the quality of information and can be more insidious.
Apple certainly isn’t alone, Google immediately comes to mind . . . and Microsoft, but to a lesser extent since they’re more of a traditional monopoly.
* h/t Michael Oman-Reagan.