It is one of the most important trials in recent years. One that could pose a radical change for Apple in the way it manages its App Store and that would set a colossal precedent for the entire software distribution segment.
The statements, defenses and allegations of Apple and Epic have already concluded, and in the absence of the sentence -which could take months to arrive-, what this judicial process has left us are some data that we did not know about an Apple now unmasked and that has had to reveal some secrets that tell us about his immense power and influence in the world of technology.
Vulnerabilities and preferential deals
Some of them are detailed in Slate, where they talk, for example, of how Apple handled (or rather, silenced) a serious vulnerability in its iPhone. In September 2015, cybersecurity experts discovered that certain malicious code was present in 2,500 applications downloaded 203 million times by 128 million users.
Apple appreciated the idea of notifying users of the problem by email, but instead published a simple article on their blog in which they vaguely described how the hack worked and included a list of the 25 most popular apps affected. That article ended up being withdrawn, and it was not until the trial that we learned the extent of that security problem.
In the trial it was also clear how some companies have favorable treatment with Apple. It happened with Netflix, which was a juicy cake since the users of iPhones and iPads who install their application pay the subscription, but 30% of that payment ends up in the hands of Apple. Netflix considered stopping subscriptions via the App Store, prompting Apple to grant Netflix certain privileges.
Who is that guy?
The trial also highlighted the apparent indifference that Epic caused Tim Cook years ago. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney is by no means a stranger to the industry, but in 2015 he wrote an email to Tim Cook trying to get him to consider allowing other app stores to distribute iOS software (which is essentially the same for which has now sued her in court).
Cook forwarded the message to Phil Schiller asking ” Isn’t this the guy who was at one of our rehearsals? ” He probably was, because Epic (though not Sweeney directly) made an appearance at WWDC to talk about the Metal API years ago..
Epic complained that the App Store operates with a 78% profit margin and that this was a clear demonstration of the power Apple has with its store. Several emails that were published in the lawsuit sent between Apple executives showed as early as 2010 that the App Store was even more profitable than they had anticipated. Apple disagreed with the figure, but could not show a calculation and claimed that they calculated costs and benefits differently.
Even the judge in the case, Yvonne González Rogers, pressured Tim Cook when he testified, saying that the benefits that Apple makes from video game developers “appear to be disproportionate. “Tim Cook himself was shy about this and other questions, repeatedly stating that he had no specific details.
For example, Cook could not explain why it is estimated that Google pays Apple $ 10 billion a year to be the default search engine for iPhones.
Judge González Rogers also asked Cook why he was reducing the commission from 30% to 15% on certain types of purchases after Epic’s decision to sue the company. The hint was clear: Apple only lowered its commission when it was threatened by potential litigation.
The Apple CEO indicated that Google had done the same, to which the judge replied “I understand that perhaps that was the problem when Google changed its prices, but Apple’s measure was not motivated by competition. The message was clear, and it seemed to reflect that the judge was not at all convinced by Cook’s arguments.
An App Store without competition
Another interesting argument was the one that was presented when talking about the proposal to open this software distribution market on iOS. For Cook, giving up that control of apps on the iPhone would turn its iOS ecosystem into a “toxic mess.“
In Epic they simply indicated that the idea would be to do something similar to what happens with Macs, where users can install applications beyond those that exist in the Mac Store. For Apple the defense was clear : Macs are not safe.
It is somewhat surprising considering that for years Apple has bragged about the security of its ecosystem, including macOS, but this statement raised a reality that is now exposed to Apple computer users.
The truth is that the trial has left revealing data, and now everything is in the hands of Judge González Rogers, who apparently had a lot to think about. However, she noted, she was still concerned about that 30% commission from the App Store. “That number has been around since the inception of the App Store. If there was real competition, that number would have moved. And it hasn’t .”