Lawmakers demand Apple be investigated for Antitrust violations after shutting Beeper Mini

Lawmakers demand Apple be investigated for Antitrust violations after shutting Beeper Mini
Apple's decided a little over a week ago to put the kibosh on the Beeper Mini app that was allowing Android users to use iMessage and become a "blue bubble" on iOS. Let's be real though, it isn't just the color of the bubble that's at stake here. With access to iMessage, Android users don't have to chat with their iPhone totin' pals, family, and fellow workers over the antiquated SMS platform.

When an Android user messages an iPhone user, the images and video shared are of poor quality, there is no end-to-end encryption, no read receipts, no typing indicators, and of course, the text bubbles are green. Apple already announced that sometime next year, it will support RCS and most of these great features will work on cross-platform chats between iOS and Android users. The latter group will have to have an RCS-enabled app like Google Messages installed.

For now, though, Apple is willing to protect iMessage, a feature it cites as a selling point for the iPhone. That alone explains why Apple had been so unwilling to add RCS support. And while it might be part of the reason why Apple shut down Beeper Mini, some lawmakers are not happy with Apple for taking this action. In addition to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who quickly knocked Apple and called the company anticompetitive, a group of bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter complaining about Apple's actions.

CBS New Senior Business and Tech Correspondent Jo Ling Kent graciously shared the letter, dated December 17th, via a Tweet (via TechCrunch). The missive was signed by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT),  Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) and comes out of the gate calling Apple's treatment of Beeper Mini anticompetitive.

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After explaining that to keep markets in the U.S. free and open, the Antitrust Division must be able to "police abuses of market power." The letter then explains what happened and notes that "Apple executives have previously admitted the company leverages iMessage to lock users into Apple's ecosystem of devices and services. Beeper Mini threatened to reduce this leverage creating [a] more competitive mobile applications market, which in turn a more competitive mobile device market."

The letter also cites a report from the Department of Commerce called "Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem." The report calls Apple a "gatekeeper" with a "mobile app ecosystem" The end of the letter mentions that the four lawmakers who affixed their signatures to the latter are concerned that Apple's recent actions to disable Beeper Mini harm competition while hurting consumers "and will discourage future innovation and invention in interoperable messaging services."

The lawmakers are referring the matter to the Antitrust Division to investigate whether Apple violated antitrust law.

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