And So It Begins...

This is a little off-topic to photography at the moment, but I'll try to bring it back round by the end of the article.

As I've predicted, Apple has now fired back at the EU (European Union). The actual Apple statement is brief and to the point:

Two weeks ago, Apple unveiled hundreds of new features that we are excited to bring to our users around the world. We are highly motivated to make these technologies accessible to all users. However, due to the regulatory uncertainties brought about by the Digital Markets Act (DMA), we do not believe that we will be able to roll out three of these features — iPhone Mirroring, SharePlay Screen Sharing enhancements, and Apple Intelligence — to our EU users this year.

Specifically, we are concerned that the interoperability requirements of the DMA could force us to compromise the integrity of our products in ways that risk user privacy and data security. We are committed to collaborating with the European Commission in an attempt to find a solution that would enable us to deliver these features to our EU customers without compromising their safety. [source John Gruber,]

As I've pointed out before, the EU has a number of regulations that now directly relate to modern technology, and there's an under-the-surface political motivation behind those to keep American tech companies from dominating in Europe at the expense of European tech companies. (Note that the EU's "penalty" is based upon 10% of world-wide revenue, not European revenue for the offender, which is telling.) The above-surface motivation is to "protect European citizens." I'm personally not aware of any European citizens group contending that they're being directly harmed by Apple, for instance (Google is another story ;~). 

Much of the discussion about regulating tech has to do with so-called "gate-keeping." For instance, you can only install applications on iPhones that come from Apple's App Store. The problem I (and Apple) have with what the EU is trying to do is that they're in essence trying to set themselves up as the world's gatekeeper. And in doing so, invalidating the whole reason for companies to build integrated products with ecosystems in the first place. 

That last statement needs a bit of explanation, as I'm a fan of extensive ecosystems. However, if you can only profit from the core product in an ecosystem, those products are going to be much higher in cost to users and less likely to take root. Moreover, as we discovered over and over in tech's history—particularly with the computer/OS/application/peripheral construct—you also will run into no one taking responsibility for interoperability problems. The core product maker will point to the add-on provider, the add-provider will point to the core product maker, and the user problem will remain unsolved. 

I believe consumers vote with their wallet. The fact that the Apple ecosystem has such a substantive uptake in the market is due to people voting with their wallet. Apple controlling their ecosystem is one of the ways in which they've been able to build better and better products that do things other companies struggle with. (Aside: I do wonder, however, why Apple hasn't said "sure, side load from somewhere else, but we won't guarantee it works, doesn't leak your privacy data, or even takes advantage of our recent technology additions. Those side-loaded products won't take advantage of our core, integrated features.")

Now let's bring this over to photography for a moment. Several US states—including California, which tends to set precedent due to its size—have been creating right to repair laws. As I've reported, NikonUSA now has set up a self repair site. It's still unclear exactly what that will entail, as at the moment we have one lens repair manual and the parts section has no parts you can buy, just a warning. Okay, it does have a number of lubricants necessary for lens servicing, but you might want to look at the prices of those ;~). 

It's clear that, at least at the moment, Nikon has decided to try to comply with these new US regulations, but those regulations are still on the lax side, for the most part. However, where are Canon and Sony on this issue? Don't know. Are they waiting to be sued first?

The real gatekeepers of the world tend to be governmental in nature, either by law or by regulation. The problem with that is we're going from a more open global market to a more tightly regulated regional market in ways that are now impacting companies pretty directly. That's because the laws and regulations are getting tougher to protect perceived regional interests. It's most visible at the moment with the EU's fights with the American tech companies, but it's starting to spread to much wider regional regulation of products that are used globally. One has to wonder just how much the right to repair notion will cost NikonUSA, for instance, to provide their own user repairs. Up until now NikonUSA has used a prix fixe method for repairs that come to them; if the volume goes down because people are self-repairing, one wonders if they can continue the inherent prix fixe benefits or have to increase costs for repairs that NikonUSA performs. Fixed overhead is a real cost that has to be passed on somehow. 

Another sample: I've long been an advocate of real-time communication with cameras. That requires going through a country-by-country certification process (for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, and for any other radio frequency interference the electronics might cause). One reason why the Japanese camera companies have avoided adding cellular to their cameras is that it's not just a country-by-country certification process that's necessary, but a cellular vendor-by-vendor process, as well. It's very time consuming and costly, and Tokyo has (wrongly) decided that it's not worth it. 

There's no clear, easy answer to what's going on in terms of regulations at the moment. Regulations, in theory, perform useful functions for us, and is one of the ways that rampant capitalistic profit-taking, among other things, is held in check. 

However, Apple's statement about their just-announced features not making it to Europe indicates that there's increasing friction over how much regulation they'll accept and why. This is not going to end well.

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