Start of this week Epic vs Apple Apple described Epic’s lawsuit as an “attack” on the entire iOS philosophy. One of the defining features of the iPhone and iPad is a composite ecosystem (or, from a different perspective, a walled garden). A loss to Apple could require allowing side-loaded apps and alternative app stores, possibly including Epic’s own Epic Games Store. Apple says this would hurt the privacy and security that iOS is known for, causing Apple to spend more money to fix new problems.
Epic spent the fourth day of the trial offering its counter-story: the iOS App Store isn’t actually very good. Epic’s attorneys summoned two Apple executives to the stands, criticizing everything from the update review process to Apple allegedly leaking Marshmellos. Fortnite concert playlist. They urged Apple to justify its claims about privacy and security by rigorously investigating threats and breaches – which Apple largely failed to do.
After a brief investigation by Thomas Ko, the head of Epic’s online business strategy, Epic called Matt Fischer, vice president of the App Store and Apple’s first employee witness. Epic’s attorney bombarded Fischer with anecdotes from frustrated developers: calling the iOS in-app payment system a “ joke, ” the refund policy “ awful, ” the review process “ random and unpredictable, ” and the entire store “ plagued by obsolete , low-quality apps. “
Apple’s App Store has some obvious problems. As my colleague Sean Hollister wrote last month, you can find ridiculous stories about iOS apps that seem to scam users, yet have incredibly high rating stories – and don’t get deleted even months after a formal complaint. Eric Friedman, an Apple employee who will testify, says the app review team is “ more like the pretty lady who greets you with a lei at the Hawaiian airport than the drug-sniffing dog ” or “ brings a plastic butter knife ” to a gunfight . “
But Epic’s interrogation today didn’t reflect the kind of drama that that implies. The attorneys spent much of their time trying to catch Apple executives on discrepancies, and although they quoted disgruntled developers like the ones mentioned above, they rarely elaborated on the substance of their complaints. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers became audibly annoyed that Epic repeatedly produced documents to establish a ‘state of mind’ about the App Store rather than hard facts, as the files would be uploaded for public viewing. “Non-lawyers don’t understand the difference between something being admitted for its truth and being admitted for some other purpose of evidence,” she told a lawyer. Apple countered one negative review excerpt by simply letting Fischer read the line above it, where the writer said they still rated the App Store highly.
There’s a plausible reason why Epic doesn’t have more specific stories: many developers are reportedly afraid to criticize Apple. That’s an ongoing theme in Congressional scrutiny of Apple, and Epic has clearly identified the ramifications of being banned from the App Store – even if developers try to reenter through Apple’s Safari browser, they will be denied access to cases. as Push Notifications and AR Features.
Epic also still has witnesses who could poke holes in Apple’s story. Friedman will appear in the next two weeks, as will a Match Group executive who spoke critically of Apple in front of Congress. Epic’s attorneys left a big question of whether Apple offers special conditions to some developers – something that Fischer denied, but was not pushed down heavily. In any case, this trial depends on much more than the precise quality of Apple’s developer support.
But today shows how difficult it is to talk about moderation on a grand scale without opening yourself up to accusations of acting in mere anecdotes. Judge Rogers made it clear that she is interested in whether Apple is better or worse than the alternatives, and not just whether it has ever had problems. And while Epic may point to individual flaws, Apple will try to argue that it is doing its best.
“It’s a human process. We make mistakes, ”said Apple’s marketing manager Trystan Kosmynka, the last witness of the day. “But we’ll definitely try to correct those mistakes when we find out.”