Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was asking Apple to open its phones to other app stores as early as 2015, according to new emails released in connection with the companies’ antitrust lawsuit. Under the subject line “iOS as an open platform,” Sweeney emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook directly to justify permission to allow other app stores to distribute software on iOS.
“The App Store has done a lot of good for the industry,” Sweeney wrote to Cook, “but it doesn’t seem tenable for Apple to be the sole arbiter of expression and commerce on a platform. ‘applications approaching one billion users.’
In particular, Sweeney asked to “separate keeping the iOS App Store from checking for compliance and distributing apps,” essentially suggesting that Apple could maintain its security features across the platform without routing all downloads via the central app store.
That’s a powerful distinction for the current trial, in which Apple argues that App Store exclusivity is necessary to maintain existing security and privacy features on iOS. These are part of the compliance process referenced by Sweeney in the email, and other ecosystems have successfully implemented them across multiple app stores. More recently, Google introduced a similar system on Android under the name Play Protect, protecting against malicious downloads, even from sideloaded software.
Cook responded by forwarding the message to Phil Schiller with a question, “Is that the guy who was at one of our rehearsals?” “
Chances are he was: A few weeks earlier, Epic Games had made an appearance at Apple’s WWDC event, touting the company’s work using Apple’s Metal API, though Sweeney didn’t. did not appear on stage.
Other emails show Sweeney continuing to push Apple behind the scenes, asking Epic co-founder Mark Rein to push for a meeting with Greg Joswiak in January 2018. “So the App Store [were] just the first way for consumers to install software, not the only way, then Apple could curate better software as a whole, without acting like a free expression censor, ”Sweeney said.
Rein was finally able to set up an audition for the idea through Apple’s Tim Kirby and expressed his enthusiasm. “He was definitely receptive to the idea,” Rein wrote, “which doesn’t mean it’ll go anywhere, but it does mean he’ll line up people who will listen and don’t shoot him down like Phil. Schiller would … so maybe there’s a tiniest little crack on the very outer surface of the many feet of ice covering the frozen lake that is the Apple Store. “
Six years later, the ice has not yet melted.