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Epic, Apple and the Coalition for App Fairness

Credit: Coalition for App Fairness
The Epic vs Apple battle rolls on and Epic has now started something called the Coalition for App Fairness to further push its point.

As a reminder of what this was all about, Epic — who make the Fortnite game — got kicked out of Apple's app store for breaching the rules. Specifically, Epic was giving users a way to make in-app purchases that did not go through Apple's payment processor, thus evading the 30% commission Apple takes.

The thing is, Epic has no way to install Fortnite on iOS/iPadOS devices other than via the app store. You can do it on macOS and, if you're prepared to jump through some hoops, you can do it on Google's Android (so-called side-loading), but iOS and iPadOS are locked down in this respect.

Therein began a court case and in the interim a judge upheld Apple's ban on Epic. Astonishingly, the court case will not be heard until July 2021. This means if Epic doesn't relent and obey the rules, Fortnite will be unavailable on iOS and iPadOS for the duration.

Epic is not alone with its grumbles about Apple's app store and it has been joined by other software developers in this Coalition for App Fairness. Users, by and large, don't give two hoots about the legal shenanigans the two tech giants are involved in, but of course they're the ones suffering.

I can see both sides of the argument here. Apple has every right to manage its app store any way it sees fit but, without any alternative way of loading apps, does this make it a monopoly? Or can it be argued that Apple's app store serves Apple devices, which is a whole ecosystem under their remit, one they're entitled to full control over?

I don't know the legal ins and outs about what constitutes a monopoly but, either way, I think there are better ways for Apple to go about this. There are benefits of having a curated app store. Those benefits should sell the app store. They should make developers want to use it and they should make the commission seem worthwhile to developers.

It just seems like Apple is uncertain those benefits sell the app store enough, meaning they have to force developers to use it. Apple could conceivably allow side-loading of apps, even if it does so with many disclaimers.

30% is a lot of commission too. Google charges the same on its app store, but that doesn't make 30% acceptable in any way. Furthermore, the customer relationship is between the app store owner and the customer rather than the product developer and the customer, which seems unfair.

I respect Apple's right to run its app store any way it chooses, but it seems a bit stinky that they feel they have to force people to use it. I appreciate that 'being stinky' is not a legal argument.