In recent weeks, it’s become clearer than ever that Apple’s monopoly over the iOS market needs to end, for the sake of competition and society at large. This has been demonstrated by several revelations about the way Apple treats developers, and the way the company views its users.
(We should stress that Apple itself
rejects the idea that it holds a monopoly. But the evidence says something different.)
First, Apple’s lawyers in the Epic case have made clear the arrogance with which the company views competition law.
The original ruling – which Apple has
successfully appealed, at least in part – forced it to allow in-app purchases to be made via alternative payment systems, which is exactly what Epic and Spotify have been asking for. But Apple’s lawyers point out that this will not prevent the company from charging a commission on such transactions, so it will all come down to the technical details.
“We would have to come up with another system to invoice developers, which I think would be a mess,”
said Apple CEO Tim Cook. What a shame!
“Our commission” is what Cook called it this spring when he was on the witness stand. As if Apple is forever entitled to a tenth of whatever money is made by developers selling apps to iOS users. There are more than a billion iOS users, and it’s essentially impossible for a new service to prosper without accessing that market. But Apple will have its way.
Meanwhile, according to reports in
The Information, the US Department of Justice has stepped up its investigation into Apple. In particular, the DoJ’s lawyers are said to be interested in Roblox, a gaming platform which is extremely popular among children, and which contains thousands of different games from various developers.
Developers can make money by selling items to players for virtual coins. If you think this setup sounds similar to Xbox Cloud Gaming or Google Stadia, it’s no wonder.
What is strange, or perhaps suspicious, is that in the midst of the ongoing lawsuit between Apple and Epic, Roblox suddenly stopped calling its games just “games”. Instead, they are
now called “experiences”. The US agency reportedly asked how “games” and “experiences” differ, and why Roblox made the language change.
Perhaps Apple gave Roblox a not-so-subtle hint that it needed to stop talking about games. There was always the danger that Apple would need to live up to its talk of treating all developers equally and put a stop to Roblox’s activities as well.
I think the real reason Apple has no problem with Roblox but doesn’t want Microsoft and Google’s streaming services on the App Store (no matter how far Microsoft
bends over backwards) is that the company is worried about losing revenue from gamers. If you can play big console games on the iPhone for a manageable monthly fee, there isn’t the same incentive to waste money on pale copies of mobile games. Roblox is simply not a dangerous competitor – indeed, it brings in good money for Apple.
On top of this, Apple has also taken issue with
South Korea’s new law preventing app stores from forcing developers to use their own payment system. The company argues, in fact, that it already complies with the law.
Apple never thinks it’s in the wrong. It will continue to stubbornly fight back by any means necessary to keep its golden goose.
As I see it, there is only one way left to safeguard free competition, prevent Apple from charging usurious rents for the privilege of selling software to iPhone users, and ensure that innovative apps and services such as game streaming can reach the world’s one-billion-plus iPhone users without being subject to Apple’s whims. The App Store monopoly must be ended, and it must be possible to install software on the iPhone from other sources, just like on the Mac.
Different Think is a weekly column, published every Tuesday, in which Macworld writers expose their less mainstream opinions to public scrutiny. This article originally appeared on
Macworld Sweden. Translation (using
DeepL) by David Price.