Apple flosses its might in Epic trial

Technology Top Story

Epic claimed moral high ground and said it’s fighting the world’s most valuable company on behalf of all developers, much in the same way Apple did against IBM in 1984.

Bengaluru: The first day of the much anticipated Apple vs Epic Games trial kicked off on Monday, May 3, with Epic Games accusing Apple of “monopolizing the marketplace for applications on iOS devices”.

In their opening statement, Epic Games lawyer Katherine Forrest, alleged that Apple has “trapped” users and developers alike in an anti-competitive “walled-garden” marketplace, with its extreme control over the App Store. “Users are locked in by costs and developers by ‘onerous’ contractual obligations with Apple,” she added.

Fortnite’s parody of Apple’s infamous 1984 commercial. Courtesy: CNET

She quoted Apple’s erstwhile CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs’ 2008 comments to a colleague that the App Store licensing agreement is designed to “avoid competitors.” 

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO, also took the stand and denied allegations made by Apple that the lawsuit is a publicity stunt to boost Fortnite’s flagging sales, and said that Fortnite generated $5.1 billion in revenue in 2020. 

He also acknowledged that Epic Games violated App Store policies deliberately to bypass Apple’s fees. “The world should see that Apple exercises total control over availability of all software on iOS,” he said.

Apple’s lawyer, Karen Dunn, rejected Epic’s claims and said Epic is threatening to upend a business model that has enriched millions of developers while benefiting consumers by offering access to “quality content”.

“Epic is here, demanding that this court force Apple to let into its App Store untested and untrusted apps, and app stores, which is something Apple has never done,” she said. “Apple’s unwavering commitment to safety, security, reliability and quality does not allow that, and the antitrust laws do not require it.”

Apple’s lawyers also tried to show that the 30 percent commission that Apple charges for content on the App Store is standard across the industry.
Epic Spent Over $11 Million to Offer Free Games for its Game Store, court documents revealed

Epic hit back at Apple saying Apple’s policy of blocking user’s access to other marketplaces on iOS devices gave them an unfair and monopolistic advantage.

The trial is part of a wider backlash big tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook have been facing from regulators across the world. The outcome of the trial could have long-term industry-wide implications.

Why is Epic suing Apple and Google? 

Developers who want to publish Apps and Games for iOS and Android devices have to do so through Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store respectively. A certain share of whatever revenue  a publisher earns from those software, is taken by Apple (30 percent) and Google (previously 25 percent, currently 15 percent).

This has irked developers for a while, since it takes away a significant portion of their revenue, while making it impossible for users to install software through other means. Apple doesn’t allow third- party apps (apps from developers not authorised by Apple) to be installed on its devices, while Android has been making it increasingly difficult to do so for the average user.

Yet, small-scale developers have accepted the “Apple and Google tax” in return for the easy publishing and marketing tools that they receive. While big publishers such as Facebook and Spotify and even Epic Games have had deals with Apple and Google where they paid lesser cuts from their revenue.

When Fortnite Mobile launched, Epic games initially didn’t publish it on the Play store and chose to ask users to directly install it from their website instead. For iOS devices, on the other hand, it had no choice but to publish it on the App Store, and give away 30 percent of all it’s revenue.

In August, Epic games intentionally broke Apple’s App store guidelines, and offered users to directly buy in-app purchases from Epic, hence bypassing Apple entirely. In retaliation, Apple booted Fortnite from the App Store, and terminated Epic’s developer account.

Later that month, Epic sued Apple and Google, accusing them both of monopoly, and filed an injunction asking that Fortnite be reinstated into the Apple App Store.

Free Fortnite

While Apple and Epic were preparing for their showdown, frustrated Fornite players bombarded the court conference call screaming for its return to iPads and iPhones. 

The incident happened when the court official didn’t manage to mute everyone in the public call line, intended for anyone to dial in and listen to the proceedings, resulting in a chaos lasting for over 20 minutes. 

More than 200 participants dialed into the line and many were screaming “free Fortnite” or “bring back Fortnite on mobile please judge,” according to reports.

Listen to the full courtroom proceedings here.