- This week, we saw a tech fight for the ages, as Epic baited Apple and Google to remove its ‘Fortnite’ app from their stores.
- They did, and Epic responded with lawsuits and a parody video that attacked Apple’s stringent App Store policies.
- With Facebook also entering the fight, Apple appears to be running out of friends. The next few weeks will test just how tough its walled garden is.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
This was the week that tech went to war with itself – and it may be the beginning of a protracted, wide-ranging conflict.
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, fired the first shot on Thursday when it deliberately violated Apple’s App Store rules. On its face, the dispute is about the 30% app store fees that Apple (and Google) charge developers.
But the heated, at times surreal, spectacle that followed — including lawsuits, slick video propaganda, hashtag sneak attacks and pile-ons — points to a more complex web of conflicts, alliances and agendas.
For years, Apple has capitalized on its ad-free business model to bludgeon Facebook and Google for their mishandling of user data. Now Facebook finally has an opening to press its advantage against Apple. Meanwhile Spotify, which has long argued that Apple’s in-house streaming music service is inherently anti-competitive, has no choice but to now jump into the fray alongside Epic.
It’s no coincidence that all of this is happening against the backdrop of the Big Tech antitrust crackdown in the US and Europe. Antitrust however, is just one facet of a deeper destabilization shaking up the tech market.
As we’ve seen with TikTok and Microsoft’s arranged-marriage talks, and President Trump’s comments about taking a cut of proceeds, the tech market’s traditional rules of engagement no longer seem to apply. Anything is possible, and that’s a threat to established structures like app stores, walled gardens and revenue sharing pacts.
There’s a lot at stake, and all sorts of competing interests that are likely to emerge. Here’s a look at where things stand in the early stages of what could turn into a tech industry upheaval.
Epic set the trap
It all started on Thursday when ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games announced it would introduce its own in-app payment system, circumventing Apple and Google’s 30% fee.
A few hours later, Apple pulled the app for its store, citing a violation of its policies. The problem for Apple: Epic knew this was coming.
Just a few minutes after the app was pulled, Epic filed a lawsuit accusing Apple of anticompetitive behavior. It also launched a hilarious Easter egg-filled protest video which skewered Apple’s famous 1984 advert and called on players to #FreeFortnite.
It was a trap, and Apple walked right into it. Google soon followed – and so did a second lawsuit – although sadly Epic denied us the Google equivalent of Apple’s 1984 parody.
But the timing here was very deliberate. Just two weeks earlier, Apple CEO Tim Cook was summoned to Capitol Hill to defend against accusations that Apple was behaving in ways that stifle competitors. During that historic antitrust hearing, much of the attention on Apple focused on the App Store.
With a co-ordinated series of moves, Epic was this week able to demonstrate just how much power Apple and Google hold, and how the 30% cut these companies take on in-app purchases .
Facebook jumps into the fray
It was also meant as a rallying cry, and soon other voices came to its defence. Spotify, never one to miss an opportunity to swing at Apple, took its shot by calling out Cupertino ‘s “unfair practices.” As did Tinder.
But things got more interesting on Friday when Facebook entered the arena.
Apple, it said, had refused to reduce the 30% fee on a new paid feature, which Facebook argues could help small business owners during the pandemic.
This wasn’t the first time Facebook had aired grievances against Apple’s App Store policies. Just a week ago, the social network finally launched its gaming app on iOS with a major caveat: users could only stream games, they couldn’t play them.
Like Epic, Facebook had been squabbling with Apple for a while. And like Epic, it now has another thing to point at to make the case that Apple is harming competitors.
Facebook attacking Apple in this way was a big deal. You should remember it was only two years ago that Apple was slamming Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The problem for Apple, and possibly Google too, is that both are under huge antitrust scrutiny. And as Epic tries to rally the industry, Apple could also be running out of friends.
Google keeps similar rules over app purchases, of course, but it’s akso been more lenient. For example, Google also refused to waive that 30% fee on Facebook’s app this week, but will allow Facebook to process payments through Facebook Pay. Apple said it won’t.
It’s also because of Apple that the 30% tax became the industry norm – another reason why it’s attracting so much fire.
And with an industry of developers now turning against it and antitrust scrutiny hanging overhead, the next few weeks will show us just strong the walls around Apple’s garden are. One thing is for certain: this war is far from over.
View original article here Source