The randomness of US technologist views of the EU Digital Markets Act

Steven Sinofsky, the Microsoft executive behind Office 2007 and Windows 7/8 (and Clippy 😂) has a long, detailed post about the EU’s Digital Markets Act, Building Under Regulation. While I’m sure there are some interesting specifics in there for historians of computing, it is sadly lacking in engagement with any of the policy and legal analysis behind the DMA, or indeed the EU’s much wider approach to risk. (This is the second such article I’ve read in the last few days.)

Much of Sinofsky’s post is a long, citation-free rant about the EU vs US approach to regulation and innovation, attacking the “precautionary principle” (and those stereotypical EU bureaucrats in their “amazing government building[s]”). It DOES cite libertarian climate-change denier Matt Ridley, a UK hereditary legislator (!) whose main “innovation” was to oversee the UK’s first bank run in 140 years at the bank he chaired. 

Even in narrower competition terms, it is almost touchingly naive, e.g. “at each step, if you do not want the [iPhone] brand promise, an Android is a phone-trade in away.” The presumption throughout that Android and iOS are in the same antitrust market is questionable, but this idea they are almost completely substitutable is nuts.

There is no reference to the multiple government reports since 2019 on problems with the traditional antitrust approach to digital markets, and the questions they pose to statements such as: “Because Apple is not a monopoly in any traditionally measured way and because there is an extremely healthy and larger share competitor, there is no action warranted against Apple specifically”.

Ultimately, the article’s Microsoft technology specifics are very of-their-time, saying little about how computing, information security and operating system development have (and could have) changed in the last 25 years 🥱

And yes, the security of app stores is incredibly important (as the DMA acknowledges) and needs cross-industry approaches (alongside search and other related services) to address fully. But leaving “competition for the market” to fix these problems has created trillion-dollar companies on the accompanying profits, alongside “toxic innovation” in these product ecosystems; and leaves two-thirds of mobile phone users vulnerable to damaging intrusions as collateral damage for not affording a “luxury” smartphone.

Technology policy and regulation continues to need more input from technology experts. But please techies (I’m one myself): learn a little about policy and regulation as well?