We got it through the expert witnesses Epic vs Apple, and as a reward, Phil Schiller – currently an Apple Fellow, whatever that is, and previously the senior vice president of global marketing – took the stand as a twinkling App Store St. Nick. To hear him tell, Apple is a great developer partner, selflessly improving dev tools and responding to their needs. Sometimes the testimonial feels like a lengthy ad for iOS.
The purpose of the testimonial is to paint the App Store as a part of the iPhone that cannot be removed or replaced with a competing alternative. To that end, we’ve heard in depth about the improvements made to the iPhone that benefit the developers in the App Store. The chips. The Retina display. The accelerometer. The wireless upgrades. It’s practically an Apple event on the booth.
Below the full list, Schiller identified Metal, one of the developer tools Apple created. (Metal is a play on “close to the metal,” or writing code close to the guts of the computer.) Apple’s counsel says the lawyer version of “roll tape!” and we’re treated to a 20 second clip of Tim Sweeney on stage at WWDC, praising Metal as a great tool for developers like Epic Games to create the next generation of enhancements. Solid combustion!
The overall impression I get from the list of improvements is essentially that Fortnite absolutely couldn’t have launched on the first generation of iPhones – the hardware and chips couldn’t handle the game. That’s true! Also: Fortnite didn’t exist yet, so that’s a pretty good reason it couldn’t be on those early iPhones. But there is another reason for time travel Fortnite couldn’t have launched on the first iPhones in 2007: the App Store didn’t exist either. This particular fact makes some inconvenience to Apple’s argument that the iPhone and the App Store are inseparable.
Schiller’s testimonial spends some quality time in 2007 explaining the origins of the App Store. When the iPhone launched, the only apps on it were Apple’s; all other apps were web apps. In response, there was a wave of “jailbreaking” – essentially hacking the iPhone so that you could put your own apps on it. This was the birth of the App Store: Apple realized that people would put their own apps on the iPhone, no matter what it did. If it wanted to have control over the process, it would have to create an official route.
Security would be a concern right from the jump, Schiller said. After all, the point of the phone was that you could do it carry it around – where location data was collected. So iOS was built from the ground up with this in mind, Schiller says. (This testimony is a rebuttal to Epic’s argument that macOS allows side-loading, and it is therefore anti-competitive that iOS doesn’t.) To end jailbreaking, Apple did an unusual thing: instead of the world displaying a finished product, it announced it was work on something. That something was the App Store.
The Steve Jobs line that Epic has touted – “We don’t plan on making any money from the App Store” – comes from these early days. At the time of this announcement, Apple wasn’t sure if the money would bring in, Schiller testified. He also suggests the rule wasn’t a promise Apple would make not to make money. The App Store was a “huge” risk, Schiller said. “We’re taking our hot new product and putting something on it that we’ve never done before, and we don’t have any apps yet! So we have no idea how this is going to happen. What is less compelling is Schiller’s attempt to redefine what it means to ‘lock customers into our ecosystem,’ a phrase taken from an email from Jobs earlier in the process. was entered as evidence.
See, “locked up” has an accepted meaning, and it’s not very friendly: prisoners are locked up, for example. to make services more attractive, so that customers no longer want to leave. Later in the email, Jobs talks about making the ecosystem even more “tacky”, which is less threatening, but glue traps are sticky. Flystrips too. When was the last time being attached to something was positive for you?
Anyway, Schiller is a marketer. He was Apple’s marketing man before actual decades! Always close, honey. And so when it sometimes seemed like he was presenting Apple as a selfless world improver, he responded to developers’ requests for in-app payments – which was only just getting started – by building capacity in the store for that, well, that’s his job. Still, presenting one of the most relentlessly efficient ATMs in technology as a helpful little developer friend is like painting a whale shark orange and calling it a goldfish feeding other goldfish.
Despite Schiller’s friendly demeanor, some of his testimony is quite long. For example, he says he doesn’t see mobile as a duopoly. He cites Samsung, Microsoft, Google and Amazon as competitors. The Amazon Fire phone was discontinued in 2015, as was the Windows Phone. Maybe they are chasing his dreams, but they are certainly not chasing the market.
But Schiller usually does what he has to do for Apple – as I suppose he has done for thirty years. He is cheerful, pleasant to listen to and sometimes very convincing. The question in this case, however, is whether marketing to a judge is as easy as marketing to Apple customers.