Tim Cook says Apple is not a monopoly as the government takes harder look at big tech

Key Points
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company's nondominant position in the global smartphone market proves it is not a monopoly.
  • Apple faces a potential probe by the Department of Justice, Reuters reported Monday.
  • The probe is part of a sweeping agreement between the nation's top antitrust regulators to divide oversight of some of the largest tech firms, according to reports from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 03, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

As Apple reportedly faces the potential for a Justice Department investigation into anti-competitive behavior, CEO Tim Cook says the company's inferior position in the global smartphone market could be its saving grace.

"I think we should be scrutinized. But if you look at our — any kind of measure about is Apple a monopoly or not, I don't think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple's a monopoly," Cook said in an interview Monday with CBS News. "Our share is much more modest. We don't have a dominant position in any market."

Apple lagged Samsung and Huawei in terms of worldwide market share for smartphones as of the first quarter of 2019, according to the International Data Corporation. While the iPhone appears to be ubiquitous in the U.S., other brands are more prevalent internationally.

Given Apple's relatively small market share in that space, Cook said, "we are not a monopoly."

Five experts break down how to invest in FANG and tech stocks as regulation fears loom
How to invest in FANG stocks as regulation fears loom

But the antitrust argument against Apple does not hinge on its iPhone sales. Advocates of breaking up Big Tech including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts argue that companies like Apple should not be able to run marketplaces and sell their own products on them.

App developers like Spotify have complained Apple uses its App Store to unfairly limit rivals to its own services. And recently, the Supreme Court ruled against Apple, saying consumers could bring a lawsuit that argues the company inflates the price of iPhone software by taking a 30% commission on app sales.

Cook told CBS he "strongly" disagrees with Warren's push to break up parts of Apple's business.

"I think some people would argue, if you are selling a good, then you can't have a product that competes with that good," Cook said. But that argument "takes you down the path that, Walmart shouldn't be stocking alternative or house brand. … And so this is decades of U.S. law here."

The renewed scrutiny of Apple is part of a larger focus on Big Tech among the U.S.' top antitrust authorities. Shares of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet tumbled Monday following reports that the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission were dividing responsibilities for probing those companies over antitrust concerns.

According to the reports from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the DOJ will take oversight of Apple and Alphabet, while the FTC will focus on Amazon and Facebook. The FTC is already mulling consequences for Facebook related to its investigation into whether it violated a 2011 consent decree over handling user data. Facebook told investors it believes the fine could be as high as $5 billion.

Watch the full interview on CBS News.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.

Watch: Big tech antitrust investigations will likely take years, WSJ reporter says

Big tech antitrust investigations will likely take years, WSJ reporter says
Big tech antitrust investigations will likely take years, WSJ reporter says