Apple and Epic conclude week one of their successful trial. Here’s what happened and what’s next – fr

Apple and Epic conclude week one of their successful trial. Here’s what happened and what’s next – fr

Is an iPhone just another gaming device or a tightly controlled ecosystem? And is it really as safe as you think?

Apple, the maker of the iPhone, and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, concluded the first week of testimony on Friday, with the inventor of the iPhone trying to fend off the video game developer’s accusations that its App Store constitutes a monopoly and that it has engaged in anti-competitive behavior.

At the heart of the trial is Apple’s payment system, which must be used for any in-app purchase and gives Apple a 30% reduction in those transactions. In August of last year, Epic attempted to bypass the system, which resulted in Fortnite being removed from the App Store, followed by a lawsuit and, now, the ongoing lawsuit.

What is a game?

At the booth, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney repeatedly sought to define Fortnite as more than just a game, using the word “metaverse” on several occasions to denote a virtual world where people, across their avatars online, attend concerts, watch movies and go to parties. Other game-focused virtual worlds, such as Minecraft and Roblox, both still available on Apple’s App Store, have also been mentioned several times.

Epic is trying to substantiate its argument that people are doing a lot more in Fortnite than just playing games, and that 30% of Apple’s accepting transactions within Fortnite’s iOS app are anti-competitive since alternative systems don’t. are not allowed.

Presenting Fortnite as more than a game is an attempt to broaden the scope of the matter and show how onerous Apple’s restrictions are, according to Ari Lightman, professor of digital media at Carnegie Mellon University.

“If you download the app from [App Store] and then you do in-app purchases, a certain percentage goes to Apple, part of their deal, “he said.” But if you want other extra things, if you want digital experiences, virtual experiences that are not related to the game but concern the brand, does Apple still have a part? Should they have some of it? And Epic argues: no. ”

As Epic tries to expand its reach, Apple – which has more than a billion devices worldwide – is trying to reduce its. The iPhone and iPad are just two of the many devices that Fortnite can be played on, the company claims, among others, including the Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and even smartphones using its main competitor. Apple, Google’s Android system.

Apple claims that many of these platforms are much more restrictive than its own – Sony, for example, rarely allows gamers to play on other devices and does not allow outside payment systems. Game consoles also charge 30% commission.

Epic countered that argument by saying that consoles are fundamentally different from iPhones because they are used for a specific purpose – gaming only – and called Microsoft Xbox executive Lori Wright to the booth to help make this point.

“We certainly don’t view the iPhone as a competing device” in the same way that a Playstation does, Wright said in response to questions from Epic’s attorney.

It’s all about the market

The struggle to define games and gaming devices is a proxy for a much bigger battle.

The case of Epic is based on the definition of Apple as a market in its own right. It tries to show that the company has complete control over its own ecosystem, where app makers must obey its rules if they are to gain access to the hundreds of millions of users and Apple devices.

And Apple, of course, has to convince U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that there are plenty of competitors that users can choose from if they don’t like how it works.

“While the courts are reluctant to define single-brand markets, it seems appropriate to do so here,” said Mark Lemley, director of the law, science and technology program at Stanford University. “If you have an iPhone, you can only buy apps through the Apple App Store… People won’t switch phone ecosystems based on the availability of a single app. “

Epic also faces the challenge of proving Apple’s payment requirements to be anti-competitive. Apple countered that the commissions are necessary to help pay for its frequently touted privacy and security features.

Epic sought to throw cold water on this argument in the second half of the week, by interviewing two Apple executives in depth – App Store VP Matt Fischer and Review Director Trystan Kosmynka apps – on the business process for adding apps to business devices. Epic’s attorneys have shown several pages of internal Apple emails that revealed fraudulent, malicious and copious apps that had passed the review process.

While both executives acknowledged that the app approval process was not foolproof, they stood up for Apple’s current system and practices.

Fischer said the company believes it is “justified that we earn our commission” on digital transactions.

“I think the number of errors is only a small fraction of the effectiveness of the overall review process,” Kosmynka added.

What happens next

So far, testimonies have come from Sweeney and several other executives at Epic Games, two executives from Apple and one representative each from Microsoft and computer systems maker Nvidia, as well as the creator of a yoga app called Down Dog, which testified on Apple’s App Store policies. and restrictions.

Court proceedings will resume on Monday, with Epic continuing to build its case before Apple takes over later in the week. Several senior Apple executives are expected to testify, including CEO Tim Cook and senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi.

The trial is set to run until May 24, so it could be weeks before a verdict is delivered – and appeals will likely follow.

Tim Cook and other Apple executives to testify against Epic in Fortnite lawsuit

Whatever the outcome, the case is bound to mark a big change on several fronts, including the larger ecosystem of tens of billions of dollars of apps and technology regulation in general.

“I think Apple has more to lose here because it has a very lucrative business model at stake,” said Lemley, of Stanford, while noting that Epic – valued at nearly $ 29 billion – has also a lot of money on the table. The company has an ongoing lawsuit against Google over its Android app store and could open up to a battle with console makers over their own restrictions.

“More generally, the public will benefit from an Epic victory, both because it would mean that Apple would have a much harder time excluding the apps it competes with and because it will reduce the cost of entry for them. new applications, ”Lemley added.

Lightman, from Carnegie Mellon, echoed that Apple had more at stake.

“Apple is going to be… in a place where their brand has been a little tarnished,” he said. “Win or lose, Apple is going to be seen as a company that extorts exorbitant rents from the people they work with. ”


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