Horacio Gutierrez made his name in U.S. corporate law two decades ago defending Microsoft Corp. against charges of anticompetitive behavior in the first major antitrust case of the internet age. As the tech industry is once again dominated by talk of monopolies, Gutierrez, now Spotify Technology SA’s chief legal officer, has switched sides. For the past five years, he’s led Spotify’s campaign against Apple Inc., one of a series of antitrust actions with the potential to make an even greater impact than the Microsoft litigation.
While the shift in public opinion about the tech industry in recent years has been stunning by any measure, the change in the perception of Apple may be the most improbable. When Gutierrez started accusing the company of anticompetitive behavior in 2016, many public officials had already begun to look with suspicion at Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, with their business models based on amassing personal data and their troubling impacts on U.S. politics. Apple was far less controversial. Lawmakers associated the company with Steve Jobs, one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs; with the explosion of convenient smartphone apps; and with the comforting buzz of the phones in their pockets. “You had to overcome a certain amount of deference regulators had,” Gutierrez says. “So many people I was talking to were using Apple products and admired the company.”
Gutierrez has been instrumental in chipping away at that admiration. His criticism of Apple starts with its mobile App Store, a business it invented and still dominates. App developers such as Spotify and Epic Games Inc. claim Apple has abused its power by requiring them to pay a 30% fee for transactions within its App Store and within apps themselves— and by prohibiting them from offering customers other ways to pay.
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