Immediately following Apple’s decision to remove Fortnite from the App Store after developer Epic Games added the ability to go around Apple’s in-house payment system, Epic Games announced it had filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging the company “imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints” that prevent developers from reaching customers.
The absurd “1984” stuff reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s critique:
“1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for dictatorship in general - but merely for government. Even governmental paternalism seemed ‘1984ish’ and the catch phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control.”
On Android there is a legal way around the play store by telling users to just download and install an APK. Apple you can not do that as far as I know.
If the question is should Apple be allowed to have a walled garden on their device I think you get into a weird area. If the answer is no that means no one should be allowed to do that which gets incredibly weird when you then think of something like a console. If this actually goes all the way through and sets a precedent does this mean someone could argue that Sony needs to provide an alternative method for installing software?
Ironically, they just had an anti-trust Congressional hearing the other week and this exact walled garden issue was brought up against Tim Cook. I wondered the same thing you’re asking and think it could make a compelling defense, but instead, Cook’s defense seemed to lean more on the (paraphrasing) “there’s plenty of competition on the developer side, so if they don’t like the App Store’s policies they can just develop their apps for Android, Windows, Xbox, or Playstation”. And of course, the congresspeople being the avid gamers they are, didn’t really see the flawed logic there…
The following was accurate circa 2005, but the moral of the story is relevant here:
Wal-Mart frequently paid their employees above minimum wage. They would then go to governments and ask that the minimum wage be raised. Then, with the minimum wage being raised, they would raise their prices correspondingly without paying their employees more (because they were already above minimum wage) and pocket the difference.
Epic’s not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They want a piece back of Google and Apple’s rent-seeking.
The only thing I can think that they are hoping to happen is a repeat of the US v Microsoft cases where the courts will rule that Apple and Google driving users to use the default apps and app store that come with your phone is a monopoly and I think they’re kind of right?
The court ruled that Microsoft at the time should have been broken up into two companies one for the OS and one for application development. At the time this was a big issue because basically all other web browsers were bullied out and Microsoft written programs for Windows had a definite edge over any competition.
The same could definitely be said for what we are seeing with Apple and Google. Like it or not a smartphone is basically a requirement to live in the US these days. Apple should not be allowed to make the hardware, make the OS, and then also force you to use their apps and their store where they get a 30% cut of all sales.
The argument could be made that you could instead buy an Android phone but Android is a Google Product and Google goes to great lengths to make sure you do not sideload apps and stick to their store the same way Microsoft did with IE and their office products.
Either way I think it’s time that the mobile market changed because right now it’s two major companies being able to effectively kill other companies that they do not like. If Apple and Google decided tomorrow that Uber had to go there is literally nothing Uber could do to prevent themselves from effectively being killed by these companies as long as they sighted reasons that showed Uber had done something which called for the removal. Which isn’t exactly a hard thing to do when you’re the one writing the rules.
I could see Epic getting a lot of support from other tech companies who have been at the whim of Apple and Google.
I think comparing the current mobile market to the PC market is probably more accurate than the console space - as you noted, a smartphone has basically become a utility at this point - it’s a primary internet and computing access point for millions of people in a way that a dedicated game console is not. So when looked at through this lens, the requirement to use their stores and take a 30% cut is essentially more analogous to MS deciding that all programs must be submitted through the Windows store, and that they get a 30% cut on all of them - people would fucking revolt if that happened.
So I agree - the mobile market is due for a shakeup, as the Google/Apple duopoly isn’t really beneficial to anyone except Google and Apple.
Epic is now trying to get European courts involved.
The filings are largely similar, but there are some variations in Epic’s requests based on the differences between the way the two marketplaces operate.
In the case of Apple, Epic wants an order preventing the company from restricting the download of the Epic Games Store to any Apple device in the UK, and an order requiring Apple to lift the requirement that all software must been downloaded and all payments handled through the App Store.
Meanwhile, Epic is asking the Tribunal to order Google to stop imposing the pre-installation of Google Play on all Android devices in the UK and demanding that phone manufacturers prioritise this store over others.