Apple is preparing to compete unfairly with enterprise device management company Jamf, an advocacy group claimed Monday, and has asked regulators to take a stand.
“Apple’s tight control over which companies can play in its sandbox means it can very easily choose to break or drop Jamf if it could bring in a new revenue stream,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of Campaign for Accountability (CfA ), in a statement. “It was Jamf’s ideas and ingenuity that built the device management market that Apple appears to be taking over, but it could all be for naught if Apple decides to flip the switch.”
CfA is described by Influence Watch as “an apparently impartial left-wing advocacy group formed to expose alleged misconduct and corruption in the government and private sectors.” It founded the Google Transparency Project in 2016, which was funded in part by Oracle.
This was when Oracle fought Google in an ultimately failed legal battle over Android. The initiative was renamed the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) in March 2020 and has since challenged a wider range of “Big Tech” companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Instagram and YouTube.
The CfA’s TTP said Jamf’s 2021 annual financial report acknowledged the potential threat posed by Apple’s decision to launch its own device management service, Apple Business Essentials.
“While this platform is still in its early stages, Apple Business Essentials is aimed at SMBs with 500 or fewer employees, and we believe its feature set will provide limited direct competition with our complete Apple Enterprise Management solutions,” the Jamf SEC said. -application. “In the future, however, Apple could use this platform or create other offerings to compete more directly with the scale and breadth of the product offerings we offer.”
Such risk descriptions are common in financial files. Worst case scenarios are routinely put forward by all companies so that investors know exactly what they are getting into when buying stock in a biz.
Nevertheless, the TTP report states that the reality of the risk of competition from Apple is reflected in the Jamf share price falling more than 30 percent in the days following Apple’s announcement of Apple Business Essentials on Nov. 10, 2021.
The register asked Jamf for comment, but we haven’t heard back. We also invited Apple to comment. But the perpetually mouth-tight machine maker didn’t respond.
Not like this hasn’t happened before
The TTP report says Jamf CEO Dean Hager has publicly downplayed the prospect of competition from Apple. But Jamf’s SEC filing offers one possible explanation: fear of retaliation.
“Our future relationship with Apple is important to Jamf’s success,” the filing said. “Failing to maintain our current relationship and contracts with Apple could significantly impact our ability to compete and grow our business.”
This is a common concern for anyone challenging one of the most successful companies in the world. Remember, until May 2016, Apple’s App Store Review guidelines warned that public broadcasting of app rejection disputes could hurt negotiations: “If you run to the press and pollute us, it never helps.”
And Epic Games, in its antitrust dispute [PDF] to Apple, saying that after suspending Epic’s Apple developer account, Apple “threatened to terminate all Epic and Epic Apple Developer Program accounts and revoke Epic’s access to tools needed to improve hardware and software performance of Unreal Engine on Mac and iOS hardware.”
The TTP report notes that some financial analysts have downplayed the possibility that Apple will harm Jamf’s business. But the group also points to complaints from IT administrators about changes to Apple’s operating system that make Jamf’s software more difficult to use. According to the CfA, this is an indicator that the cooperation between the two companies is failing. In particular, the watchdog group raised concerns about Apple’s plan to introduce automatic software updates in upcoming operating system releases, potentially making Jamf’s push-update capability obsolete.
“Apple has a long history of undermining app competitors by incorporating their features into its products,” the TTP report said.
Developers refer to this as “Sherlocking” in the Apple ecosystem, referring to a third-party search app called Watson that Apple was accused of impersonating in its Sherlock 3 search product in 2002.
Impersonation is a problem for any software developer, but can become a matter of unfair competition in the context of platform contracts that companies like Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft impose on participating developers. Platform owners may prefer to create conditions that give them a competitive advantage.
That’s the crux of the CfA’s concern about Jamf, which arises amid the appeal of Epic’s largely botched antitrust claim, at a time when Apple is reportedly facing heightened antitrust scrutiny that could lead to a government lawsuit.
“The dramatic drop in Jamf’s stock price suggests that the market thinks Apple is preparing to take over Jamf’s property,” the advocacy group said. “Investors are likely aware of Apple’s history of app bankruptcy by rolling out similar features. Given that record, regulators should pay close attention to Apple’s future moves with Jamf — which could spark new antitrust concerns.” ®