Was Standard Oil The First Apple "Elastic Demand"-Type Monopoly?

Tyler Durden's picture

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Oh regional Indian's picture

Too big?


Welcome to the Micro-Corporation. 



jimijon's picture

Irrelevant to Apple. Apple is in absolutely no way a monopoly. It is a complete and vertically integrated well run organization with a brilliant leader.

The battlefield of a trillion connected devices will truly drive innovation, learning and advancement beyond what we have seen.

The power of the network increases dramatically with the power of each node. And with Apple creating the mass marketed easy to use truly smart phone (MMETUTSM) the power of this network is growing dramatically. 

Once we lose the whole "save me from terror" mentality will the renaissance commence.

In the meantime Google is the Standard Oil buying up all it tech.



Bob's picture

Much techno development to come, if we don't drive ourselves into a new dark age, that is. 

As a thought provoking aside, I saw a tech piece last night which said that a single iPod has more computing capacity than the entire North American Defense Command had in 1969. 

Phineas Gage's picture

And yet that same iPod can't run standard, broadly-supported applications.  Therein lies the flaw with Apple's model (and I own one): the drive to maintain a closed environment.  How does one reconcile maximizing innovation with a closed environment?

Apple should contact the guy that tried this in the 80s/90s and failed.  His name is Steve Jobs.

dark pools of soros's picture

did you mean iPad??   or do you want to run Word on your iPod???

Phineas Gage's picture

Both.  Word?  I think you missed my point.  I'm talking about closed environments, different protocols, etc., in mature markets and technologies.  This may benefit Apple in the short run but has proven unsustainable precisely because it slows innovation.


Rich_Lather's picture

Does Apple own Foxconn? I guess not. So much for verticle integration.

I must laugh at TD's comparisons of Jobs and Rockefeller. They certainly have the same entreprenureal spirit, but, to say Jobs has a monopoly control on hand-held gadgets is like saying Mattel has a monopoly control on dolls.

Frankly, I think they are peaking.

Also, affronting religious entrepreneurs will win you no favors, ie: "filth without good works was meaningless"


e_goldstein's picture

closed environments is how apple has always stayed a little less craptastic than windows.

written from my macbook :-\

Milestones's picture

Just to add to the 1969 comparison, in that year a TR-32 Telephone system with over a 110 telephones had 32 Mg power total. We have wrist watches with a thousand times that capacity today. The systems were all analog. Disasters!!      Milestones

nhsadika's picture

The author is looking at a company that takes a rogue-design approach - making people successful with their products.  It is not a monopoly, it is success. 

I see no link to Standard Oil.

The author could have linked Standard Oil with Google and produced a more successful connection,.


beanieville's picture

I agree, Apple isn't a good comparison to Standard Oil.

For one, if you give everyone an ipad, they don't really need it anymore.  Most folks probably won't use the ipad that much even if they have one.  And you can just about give them a Hewlett Packard tablet and they'll just be as happy. 

You give people a taste of oil, they'll come back for more.

A better example would be Google, whose internet search is ubiquitous and people come back for more.



A Nanny Moose's picture

The battlefield of a trillion connected devices will truly drive innovation, learning and advancement beyond what we have seen.

Either that or Skynet...**cough** stuxnet **cough**....willl fire zeee missiles! So far those connected devices are helping contribute to a nutrient deficient "food" supply, financial innovation absed on zero wealth, forged signatures, and pictures of every house in America from the street level.

Innovation will only work so long as it can out pace the speed of govt. There is always the "Kill Switch." <puts on tin foil hat> Perhaps government is the engine behind it in the first place? Cosidering the Do Do Bird nest that first hatch the interconnected world, one wonders.

MrPalladium's picture

"The battlefield of a trillion connected devices will truly drive innovation, learning and advancement beyond what we have seen."

Progress and innovation are prisoners of demography. The wildly disgenic trends in intelligence, in the U.S. and world wide, mean that an ever larger percentage of the intelligent are required to administer and organize the large populations of dummies, leaving fewer good minds free to work on "innovation, learning and advancement."

The European and North East Asian populations are eating their seed corn as the marginal return on additional investments in complexity diminish.

Gotta love it! Apple will save humanity! I call it "faith based" investing. Note to self - short AAPL at open Mon.!! 

doolittlegeorge's picture

market too big for Apple to monopolize anyways.  i've said sell...but it ain't because they havn't led the way for all the others who say it can't be done.  it's just the way markets work--especially in consumer electronics.  even Tiger Woods has been dragged back into the pack...

RobotTrader's picture

This one appears to be rolling over....

RobotTrader's picture

And despite the big liquidation in crude oil and other commodity futures on Friday, XOM was relatively undisturbed.

Azannoth's picture

I think the market largely ignores the recent selloff in PMs unless it continues for longer

CrockettAlmanac.com's picture
The Truth About the "Robber Barons"


Because of Standard Oil's superior efficiency (and lower prices), the company's share of the refined petroleum market rose from 4 percent in 1870 to 25 percent in 1874 and to about 85 percent in 1880.[27]

As Standard Oil garnered more and more business, it became even more efficient through "economies of scale" — the tendency of per-unit costs to decline as the volume of output increases. This is typical of industries in which there is a large initial "fixed cost" — such as the expense involved in building an oil refinery. Once the refinery is built, the costs of maintaining the refinery are more or less fixed, so as more and more customers are added, the cost per customer declines. As a result, the company cut its cost of refining a gallon of oil from 3 cents in 1869 to less than half a cent by 1885. Significantly, Rockefeller passed these savings along to the consumer, as the price of refined oil plummeted from more than 30 cents per gallon in 1869 to 10 cents in 1874 and 8 cents in 1885.[28]

Because he could refine kerosene far more cheaply than anyone else could, which was reflected in his low prices, the railroads offered Rockefeller special low prices, or volume discounts. This is a common, ordinary business practice — offering volume discounts to one's largest customers in order to keep them — but Rockefeller's less efficient competitors complained bitterly. Nothing was stopping them from cutting their costs and prices and winning similar railroad rebates other than their own inabilities or laziness, but they apparently decided that it was easier to complain about Rockefeller's "unfair advantage" instead.

Cornelius Vanderbilt publicly offered railroad rebates to any oil refiner who could give him the same volume of business that Rockefeller did, but since no one was as efficient as Rockefeller, no one could take him up on his offer.[29]

All of Rockefeller's savings benefited the consumer, as his low prices made kerosene readily available to Americans. Indeed, in the 1870s kerosene replaced whale oil as the primary source of fuel for light in America. It might seem trivial today, but this revolutionized the American way of life; as Burton Folsom writes, "Working and reading became after-dark activities new to most Americans in the 1870s."[30] In addition, by stimulating the demand for kerosene and other products, Rockefeller also created thousands upon thousands of new jobs in the oil and related industries.

Rockefeller was extremely generous with his employees, usually paying them significantly more than the competition did. Consequently, he was rarely slowed down by strikes or labor disputes. He also believed in rewarding his most innovative managers with bonuses and paid time off if they came up with good ideas for productivity improvements, a simple lesson that many modern corporations seem never to have learned.



ThreeTrees's picture

How dare you post reason and basic economic principles in a thread clearly reserved for populist anger!

spekulatn's picture

Plus 1.

The Indian fella with a web address farts in your general direction.... but so what.

trav7777's picture

The robber barons did build vast public works edifices too, immense philanthropies.

Those who provided energy and steel and cars and lightbulbs in the 1900s profited.  Now, it is usurers and bullshit peddlers.

Look at who sits atop our pyramid now...investment bankers and those who make toxic financial products.  Scammers, grifters, not the creative industrialists of yesteryear.

deagle44's picture

I wouldn't consider Apple vertically integrated.  They farm out the manufacturing process to Foxconn.

New_Meat's picture

I've been thinking about vertically integrated today--is it in the intellectual integration vs. the busienss integration?

AAPL has this chain (well they don't own it, but it is platform-specific) that is quite well locked-in.

- Ned

toddcfairchild's picture

What the fuck are you guys smoking? How is apple a monopoly? They are a minority player in computers. Others have been making tablet pcs for years (that's all an ipad is). Obviously there are 100s of cell phones from tens of manufacturers competig with the iPhone. They are probably the dominant player only in mp3 players but there are certainly other manufacturers and that device is rapdily becoming obsolete as so many cell phones now integrate this feature.

Seriously this is the stupidest idea I've ever read on ZH. You guys are losing it. Get your shit together!

CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

How is apple a monopoly?


It's the vertical integration thing that makes some folks think "monopoly." I once helped conduct jury analysis for a company that was suing a major US auto manufacturer because the auto maker put its own radios in their cars. The plaintiff -- a radio manufacturer -- argued that this constituted restraint of trade.

Vertical intergartaion paid off for JD Rockefeller but it hasn't worked as well for Apple. Apple maintained propriety control over its hardware and software but the IBM compatible computer standard welcomed the input of OEMs. Therefore a greater variety of hardware and software became available at a lower cost for PCs when compared to Apple products.

Apple may make a better computer than the PC but the varied experience and wider distributive network under which the PC matured has won out in the marketplace.

toddcfairchild's picture

Well two things. One how is apple vertically integrated? They farm out manufacturing to china! Second vertical integration != monopoly. It's a rdiculous interpretation of "monopoly." I know thr worthless lawyers can argue anything in "sue everbody" USA but for those of us still connected to reality vertical integration is not monopoly. There isn't any reason a car company shouldn't be able to make as many of their own parts as they want - if there were something wrong with that then any company that makes their own products entirely from scratch without using some intermediate products along the way would be a "monopoly"

I don't think the premise of this article is even remotely close to the standard I have come to expect from zh. This is pure blabbering non sense!

nhsadika's picture

As a designer, I can say that Apple is taking advantage of craftsmanship and design and virtually no other tech company in the world is setup to do that.  Those other companies (including Google) are run by technologists (if you have no idea of the difference you don't understand design, even if you are in a tech company). In most tech companies, designerly people are only hired for marketing brochures once the geek-squad has made what they can  make, designers are not at the top and do not to conceive and strategize on what people need and drive the organization based on this.  You don't have people from Parsons or Art Center College of Design running major corporations. 

Verification of what I am saying is easy, read what Sculley has to say:   http://www.cultofmac.com/john-sculley-on-steve-jobs-the-full-interview-transcript/63295


Of course, there are masses of MBA students trying to figure out the secret sauce - "vertical integration", "user experience" - but you're not going to get "Appleness" from an MBA program, you need designers and craftspeople who have technical prowess.

Replacing Steve Jobs is not easy because he is a powerful man.  However, the design instincts are available.  However, getting that to the very top strategically is a rare event.  Here is a piece I wrote to a set of designers.

My take is what some of us always knew.  Apple’s success is proof of the need for passionate control, because the truth is there are people who care about what is built in and of itself (like craft), and people who care only so much as it makes good business sense at the moment (and will compromise at any step because they don’t really have intuition or pride in the work). 


 Apple is the rare company who has someone who cares like that at the very top, if you think about it…it’s kind of funny someone who has strong leadership skill with some design sensibility, and a passionate sense of craft is the rare event that leads to the world’s #1 tech company and #3 company in the world by market cap after Exxon Mobil and PetroChina.   I know that Bill Buxton has said that the designers at Apple who were there in their troubled will-we-make-it-years, were the same exact people who have now turned it into what it is.   So that tells you it is leadership that creates the structure that allows design talent to succeed.  It also tells you that the entire tech industry still doesn't realize the secret sauce (ie the Jobs method) is giving designers adequate authority.  For many tech companies adequate authority means totally strategic authority (if we were talking about building wind-farms, or investment banking that authority would be far less, certainly not strategic). 

However, at some pointon some project many designers - including consultants - realize that some great vision they have will not come to pass because of the corporate structure, because they lack passionate control







Oh regional Indian's picture

A whiff of Kool Aid in the air.


mmmmmmhhhhhhh...... irresistible.... 



ToNYC's picture

Noboby needs what Apple produces to get to work. Apple designs fancy toys more like Fisher-Price than S.O. kerosene to replace Whale Oil.

ThisIsBob's picture

Its a frigging toy company.  JQC!  Next product could be an i-Barf.

 (By the way, ask any boy scout with a radio merit badge about wrapping your hand around a bare metal amntenna.)

Careless Whisper's picture

unfortunately, the author left out this quote from mister rockefeller's memoires:

“We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended
our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years.”

“It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years.
But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

CrashisOptimistic's picture

In the year 2010, sports fans, China bought 17 million cars.  Unlike the US, when a new car is bought in China, that is brand spanking new oil consumption (because an older car doesn't roll off the back end to the junk yard).

They plan to buy 23 million next year.  And 27 million in 2012.

The avg car in the US drives about 12,000 miles a year.  Cutting that a full 20% for China, to 10,000 miles, and give them 30 mpg (far better than US mileage) and we get

17 million X (10,000 / 30) = 5.6 billion gallons a year

and divided by 42 gallons per barrel and 365 days a year we get

370,000 NEW barrels of oil consumption per DAY, just from this year's China cars.  

2011's 23 million cars will add 500K more barrels and 2012 another 700K barrels.

This is 1.5 million barrels of oil PER DAY consumption increase JUST FROM CHINA's CARS in the next two years, and oil production is not growing at that rate at all.  It's falling.

This excludes India, and other places, where 10% of the people have a car and the other 90% want one.

This will never work.  War is coming.  Get out of the crushing habit of calling Oil Reserves "Suppy" and oil demand "consumption".  Oil reserves are not supply.  Oil production is supply.  And oil consumption will very soon fall substantially under oil demand.

There is no law of the universe that says you can burn all the oil you want to.



trav7777's picture

Hey, man...good recitation.  You'll find as I have that nobody is listening and/or nobody wants to listen.  Happy joy joy is de rigeur.

Eventually you will lose patience and just become abrasive.  You're 100% correct in what you say.  We need to triple oil production in order for China and India to consume per capita what we do.

Can't/won't happen

Oh regional Indian's picture

Trav, I see your point. In fact, someone did an awesome analysis about Peak Oil where they made the point that even small but sustained changes in the supply or demand side ripple through the Oil industry for years, because bringing anything on-line or taking it off-line is a huge, expensive endeavor.


That said, I think it is innovators (like me) who will usher in the post carbon (as fuel) world, currently facing stiff opposition by the PTB.



DollarMenu's picture

"However, it should be remembered that the ultimate result of Grandfather's consolidation of the oil business was a cheaper, better, and more reliable supply of petroleum that helped the United States make the transition from a decentralized, agrarian nation to a highly centralized industrial democracy."

Was this when America sold itself out?

Just like Walmart, the lure of the cheap has it's ultimate price -

not always paid in coin of the realm.

CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

Was this when America sold itself out?


No. America was bought out when government regulators were put in place and were immediately purchased by the very interests which they supposedly regulated. Thus, government regulation became a method of creating barriers to the marketplace for new and innovative players and a system of protection for established interests. That was one major step on the road to "Too Big to Fail." If Standard Oil had failed in the days before "trust busting," Standard Oil would have paid the price, not taxpayers.

Comrade de Chaos's picture

So the grandfather was a shrewd businessman, what else is new? Contrary to the apple, the Standard did control the supply of crude and the substitutes for it are not as close in price and purpose as substitutes for Apple products.   

Mercury's picture

Oil is much more necessary to function and get by in modern life than an Iphone is. There wasn't really a substitute for oil in 1911 and there still isn't really. You don't need an Iphone/pad/pod to do anything critical that can't be done well enough by a substitue.  Besides, as Reggie Middleton is always pointing out, Apple is only one mousetrap away from being yesterday's shiny new thing.

Apple doesn't have a monopoly on anything and even if they do - who cares?  Oil is/was a whole 'nuther story.

wintermute's picture

The world's first major corporation was the East India Company which (as a ratio of world GBP) surpassed even Standard Oil.

Rockefeller would have known of its monopoly success, so did the US founding fathers - even the Stars and Stripes is modelled on their flag. Its influence both in Asia and and America has never truly faded.


Silversinner's picture

First wold company was Dutch and called V.O.C

first company to trade shares.

trav7777's picture

Dutch East India Company.  One of the most successful corporations ever.  Paid an 18% dividend for something like a century.  Revolutionized trade, commerce, finance, everything.

So much larger in trade volume than the British East India that the comparison isn't even worth making.

Oh regional Indian's picture

No wonder Queen Beatrice is the Head of the Bilderbergers (while the other queen is a rubber stamp and and anachronism to boot).

Go back far enough in true history and today's picture suddenly falls into crystal clear focus.



Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

The most important of these principles was that filth without good works was meaningless.

Please tell me where this is a tenet of Baptist teachings?

Joe44oz's picture

I think its a typo.

Should be: "...faith without works is dead." from the bible.

James 2:20

mark mchugh's picture

I must have read that sentence 10 times - thanks for clarifying.

spekulatn's picture

Microsoft more than Apple. 

Google's getting close. Good thing they practice not being evil or Uncle Sam would be giving them the same wedgie they gave Bill G.

lolmaster's picture

thank god we have people like Barney Frank and Tyler Durden to protect us from iphones!

pagan's picture

"Grandfather had started at $5 a week as a clerk in a dry goods store in Cleveland, Ohio, and went on to found and run the Standard Oil Company,  which for all practical purposes was the oil industry in the United States"

Sounds like a faerie tale to my ears. This needs a lot of capital. So who was his financial backer? Rothschild?



New_Meat's picture

I think his two unckles Knuckles had something to do with that.  Your sense of history might need some tuning. - Ned