Is Apple a Monopoly?

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 18, 2020

Filed under: Column 266 comments

Please forgive the dashed-off nature of this post. My plan was to spend yesterday writing something substantial and thought-out, but I got sidetracked with programming and the time sort of vanished. I don’t have many images to make it look pretty, but I’ve made up for it by having extra typos. Yo’ure welcome.

One of the great annoyances of talking about Big Tech is that for a lot of people, the word “monopoly” has come to mean “really big annoying company”. Facebook is a monopoly? Apple is a monopoly? Google is a monopoly? Microsoft is a monopoly? Steam is a monopoly? Monopolies everywhere!

In my understanding of the word, a monopoly is when you have one and only one company providing a good or service. My local gas company is a monopoly, because I can’t buy natural gas from anyone else. The pipes in my house lead directly to their… gas-making stuffLook, I have no idea how utilities work, okay?. Same goes for water, electricity, and garbage pickup. Not only are these companies monopolies, they provide essential services. And so there are all kinds of extra rules in place to keep an eye on them because of the special position they holdAre these laws any good? I don’t know..

But none of the big tech companies have the same sort of universal control. Apple users are always free to switch to AndroidHaving said that, I’m willing to bet that doing so is a massive pain in the ass.. Google users are free to switch to DuckDuckGo or (God help you) Bing.

I’m not sure if this shift in meaning is more international or generational. Maybe people outside the USA have different attitudes about what the word means and what should be permitted. Maybe young people have appropriated the word to mean roughly “companies that are so big it SHOULD be illegal.” I don’t know, but it really does make a mess of a lot of discussions.

I was surprised how many people were willing to cheer for Epic in the #FreeFortnite campaign. The thrust of the campaign is the idea that you should be able to sell stuff on Apple devices without paying Apple. That makes no sense to me.


For the record: I am not an Apple user and I only understand the platform by reputation. My Android phone is at least 3 years old and I’m not really into mobile gaming, so it’s likely I’m missing some context on how the top-tier phones work.

Epic launched a lawsuit against Apple and Google. The fact that there are two companies to sue sort of demonstrates that neither of them is a monopoly.

I get that the complaint is that Apple has a monopoly on Apple devices. Which, okay. But… so what?

Maybe this comes down to what mental model you use to think about the phones and their app stores. I think of the Apple Store like any other store. If I want to sell my goods at Walmart, then I need to give Walmart a cut. To me, Epic trying to sell Fornite V-bucks on an Apple phone without paying Apple is like me wandering into Walmart and selling wristwatches out of my trench coat. It makes total sense to me that you’re not allowed to do that.

This is doubly baffling to me because Apple has been doing stupid, infuriating stuff for years and nobody seems to care. Their hardware is shockingly overpriced. And on top of that, they love to hit you with crazy bullshit like randomly incompatible proprietary cables just so they can charge you five times what a standard recharging cable costs.

But despite years of painful price tags and hidden costs, Apple users still line up to buy these devices. People tolerate all of their shenanigans, but then Apple wants a 30% cut of things sold in their own store and suddenly they’re an evil monopoly that needs to be taken down?

I have to assume there’s some killer feature that these people can’t live without. Apple phones cost upwards of $800, and I got my Android for ~$50. If people are paying $750 more than they need to for a phone, then there must be something Apple devices give them that Android doesn’t. I despise Windows, but I use it anyway because it’s really the only viable OS for covering mainstream PC gaming. I imagine there’s some equivalent set of features compelling Apple users to buy phones that cost the same as a pair of gaming consoles.

What I’m seeing is that the opinions branch off fractally, and I’m having trouble getting a sense of where everyone is at, and why. So let me end this ramble with a few questions:

  1. If you’re an Apple hater: What’s the source of your animosity? Are you upset about the Apple Store, or about something else?
  2. For people cheering for Epic: Are you really outraged by walled garden of the Apple Store and the resulting 30% cut they take? Or do you just hate Apple in general and you’re glad to see them getting sued for any reason?
  3. If you’re an Apple user: Love them or hate them? If you love them, what do you dig about the platform? If you hate them, then I assume you’re using them for the same reason I use Windows instead of Linux. What’s the key feature that’s preventing you from leaving?
  4. One very strange thing in all of this is that I have yet to see a single person express any affinity for Fortnite itself. I realize that this site skews towards story-driven games and away from PvP, but come on. This is one of the most popular games on the planet right now. Any fans out there? What’s your take on this? Have you been impacted by the loss of the Fortnite mobile app?

Also, do try to keep it friendly in the comments. I notice some people were a little worked up on the topic yesterday. Please try to keep your hate aimed at the companies that annoy you and away from the people that disagree with you. Like I said above, we’re probably using very different mental models and thus have very different ideas about what is reasonable or fair when dealing with things in the digital world.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Look, I have no idea how utilities work, okay?

[2] Are these laws any good? I don’t know.

[3] Having said that, I’m willing to bet that doing so is a massive pain in the ass.



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266 thoughts on “Is Apple a Monopoly?

  1. Liam says:

    Very anti-Apple here. I don’t like their business model, their overpriced hardware, their rabid fanbase, their software, their walled garden etc etc

    My sister is completely the opposite; she’s a techno-phobe and uses an Iphone because it’s completely inflexible and hence she knows that it will do what she wants and nothing more.

    1. Hector says:

      I completely agree with you. Apple’s business model just feels profoundly weird to me. I get that it’s based around the ideals of Steve Jobs and his desire to make perfect products. Those products aren’t for me though, and I find them very limited. But if people are happy, and Apple doesn’t limit the alternatives, well it’s no skin off my nose.

      As from comments yesterday, I don’t see them as a monopoly except as allowed vis design, trademark, copyright etc. There manifestly are alternative products. Whether or not Apple’s terms of service are “nice” they are clearly not hurting for people lining up to use them.

      Moreover, while their cut of in-app revenue might seem harsh, it’s also likely to prevent everyone from making “free” apps and then only charging from inside a paywall. It might not be my choice by I don’t think it’s inherently unreasonable.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’d just like to point out, that although the common belief is that Apple has very well-engineered products, Louis Rossmann has an entire career of repairing Apple laptops and pointing out the engineering flaws and corner-cutting, which cause them to fail in stupid ways. :)

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Oh, they aren’t perfectly designed. But they look perfect. Every single component, down to the microscopic level, in every Apple product, has no visible flaws.

          1. Sartharina says:

            That’s just Apple Marketing BS. Their business model is to pretend to be the best to the point people believe it.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              It’s really not though. If you’ve worked in semiconductor or telecom, you’d know that quality standards on “fruit” components are unbelievably tight, especially visual. No smudges, no die marks, no finish inconsistencies. It has to work, obviously, but it also has to look perfect. And that applies all the way from the assembly level down to the individual components.
              I’m not saying it’s worth it, but you have to give credit where it’s due.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                That’s only visually good-looking, if you don’t know what to look for, for non-visual defects. Louis’ channel is full of him mocking Apple for designs where entire major components (like a keyboard) will completely fail if a minor component (like a keyboard-backlight) fails. They chose the wrong length of ribbon-cable to connect the screen to the motherboard, such that it fails when you open or close the laptop too many times. Their designs look pretty, but I wouldn’t say anything like “they look perfect down to the atom” – people with microscopes tend to have the knowledge necessary to see the stupidity of the designs.

      2. Mezentine says:

        As someone who has to deal with retail sales all day, including products that interface with apps, Apple’s initial 30% cut on sale is reasonable to me and their additional 30% cut on all follow on transactions is not. When our goods are placed in Target, yes, Target takes 35% or whatever. That’s how they do business. But when a customer gets one of our products home and sets it up with the app and then engages in further transactions, Target doesn’t get any of that follow on revenue

        You’re right that Apple probably wants to avoid people just making the app purchase something you do inside the app, but they have the resources to figure out a creative solution to that. Maybe Apple flags transactions that are considered “purchases of the software” and takes 30% of those. Is that messy and arbitrary? Yes. But they’re already reviewing all apps and app updates that are submitted anyway, it shouldn’t be a man hour problem

        1. Rob says:

          A possible solution would be for Apple’s API to assign every in-app purchase its own ID, with the developer selecting whether each IAP is repeatable or can only be bought once per customer. Then Apple takes their 30% cut from the one-time purchases (which would include any unlocks, content expansions, etc), while leaving the repeatable purchases (gems, crystals, and other in-game currencies) alone.

          Of course, that’s never going to happen. Those in-game currencies account for almost all of the revenue made by the most profitable apps (which are often free to download), which is why Apple demands they get a cut in the first place.

          1. Leeward says:

            The simple workaround there is for app developers to sell one time upgrades via their in app currency. Now a major content unlock is indistinguishable from a consumable that boosts xp.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              That doesn’t work, like, on any level. The whole point is that Apple can and will de-list people for selling in-app purchases through channels outside of Apple’s own system.

              1. Leeward says:

                Right, that’s kind of my point: Rob’s solution doesn’t solve the problem.

  2. jurgenaut says:

    1. I’m leading an android household, while using a macbook pro for work (paid by employers).
    I respect apple products, I just think they are overpriced. And I can’t develop apps without an apple computer, which I don’t like. It’s not hate per se.

    2. I don’t cheer for epic in this conflict. I guess the two companies could make a deal. If Epic shows that they drive X amount of monetary traffic, Apple could give them a percentage off on the cut. Now it just looks like both parties are losing out.

    3. I like my macbook pro for development work, but I could just as well use a linux machine in terms of what the computer is capable of. A package manager, shell and window system is all I need. With apple, if the macbook stops working for some reason I can leave it at a support store and have them fix it. If a linux machine breaks, I have to fix it myself. That used to take days back when I used linux.

    4. I don’t have much to say about fortnite. As I understand it, they developed a multiplayer “Orcs must die” and then jumped on the battle royale train when PUBG blew up. I find PUBG fun, but I play it like a strategy game, positioning myself to minimize visibility, aiming to shoot as few people as possible until the last 10 (because it tells other people where I am). That stealthy suspense is not quite what fortnite offers.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Very convenient, that someone has almost the same views as me. :)

      1. Same, except we can use Linux machines at work if we want. (It’s just that we give up our rights to have other people help us.)

      2. Yup. Two companies fighting over a local-maximum of dollars, instead of cooperating for larger money. (While also serving their customers better, by not walling off products. :| )

      3. I’ve got some problems that I still haven’t found a fix for at home. (Don’t worry, they go away if I rub enough horseshoes and rabbit-feet on my computer. :)

      4. In theory, I wouldn’t mind playing the faster-paced gun-play of Fortnite…but the base-building seems to be totally unbalanced to me. Like, all the guns have cooldowns and wind-up, but the building appears to be as fast as you can click. That advantages youngsters, or people who only play / practice this one game, but I’d be dead quickly. :S

      1. jurgenaut says:

        You know, at a previous job where I had a linux mint install on my machine, I had to unplug one of the monitors while it booted up or it would crash. I never understood why, or what settings I had to manipulate to fix it.

        I also had one particular time when I did dist-upgrade due to some urgent security patch and wrecked the entire install. Took me days to get everything back in order. I get that people enjoy fiddling with stuff like that, but when I’m supposed to generate income to the company, they don’t want to see 2 days of “linux upgrade” in my time sheet.

  3. Asdasd says:

    I don’t like Apple. I don’t like their control-freakery, or their walled garden approach to software, so I don’t use their products. I use Windows 7 for PC and Android for phone as they operate a more open (although not overwhelmingly, and increasingly less so*) approach. I have a few apps sideloaded on my phone. I don’t consider myself at the mercy of Apple’s ‘monopoly’ and wouldn’t even say I feel affected by it in any way.

    However, if Epic (or anyone else) feel they have legitimate grounds to bring an antitrust suit against these companies for operating walled gardens, I’m not going to object to it. It doesn’t seem to be much of a case from where I’m standing, but I’m neither a lawyer nor an economist. If they can a ruling in their favour, I anticipate the changes will be primarily in their interest, but possibly there might be some ‘trickle-down’ in the wider interests of users and smaller developers, which would be good news. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

    What I really object to is the crass and irresponsible way they tried to whip up their audience of predominantly young Fortnite fans into a social media army. It’s a dangerous move for a company with so much influence to take because you don’t know what you’re letting out of the bottle when you go populist in this way.

    Doxxing, threats and harassment are the routine tools of the trade for social media mobs, and even if I subscribed to the theory that there are ‘no bad tactics, only bad targets’ – which I certainly don’t – using George Orwell of all people to kickstart a fake-grassroots campaign that depicts your multinational corporate rivals as a ‘good target’ is some deeply dystopian shit. I’d add that for a company that likes to paint itself as a moral actor, the hypocrisy can be smelled from a mile away.

    * I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finally have to move to W10. I’m hoping someone eventually puts together a sort of ‘jailbroken distro’ of it that shuts off as much of the telemetry and mandatory updating as possible. Security updates are desirable, of course, but MS cottoned on that they could bundle those with feature updates, leaving you with no effective choice.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Dislike Apple’s walled garden? Don’t feel like opting in to all the W10 telemetry and other shenanigans? If only there were this amazing other operating system that gave you, the user, the basic software freedoms that you deserve. An operating system where you, the user, are in control. An operating system that doesn’t treat you, the user, as some sort of prize goat to be exploited for your money and data.

      Yes, I’m talking about GNU/Linux, because you, the user, should be in charge of your own computing.

      1. Asdasd says:

        Actually, I’ve been taking an ‘introduction to Linux’ beginner’s course for this very reason. It’s certainly fascinating how many incredibly efficient and complex operations you can perform simultaneously on a text file with just a single terminal command ;P

        1. MelTorefas says:

          Ok this made me laugh. Describes nearly 100% of the linux courses I took in college before I switch from comp-sci to neurobio. (Granted they were intro courses but yeah.)

          I do like Linux though. But the reason I (and I am sure many others) don’t use linux is because it wont run most of the games I want to play at reasonable framerates/without absurd and complicated setups.

      2. Fizban says:

        What I want to know is how feasible it would be to setup/run linux for the main use with a virtual win10 machine just minimized into a corner somewhere so one can have+etc their cake (’cause rebooting every time you want to use something windows-locked means you might as well just run two machines).

        1. MrPyro says:

          I’ve done Windows VMs in Windows and Mac (using different virtualisation tools: Parallels for Mac and VMWare in Windows). I’ve also run Linux in Linux a few times.

          I think the main issue you will have is lack of hardware acceleration, depending on what you want to use your Windows VM for. Browsing/word processing? Probably fine. Gaming? I don’t think you’ll get the performance.

        2. geophree says:

          The search terms you’re looking for are:
          “GPU Passthrough”, VFIO, KVM, QEMU, “Looking Glass”

          https://linustechtips.com/main/topic/1156185-vfio-gpu-pass-though-w-looking-glass-kvm-on-ubuntu-1904

          Basically if you have two graphics chips (Intel had one built-in usually) you can set up your GPU card to pass through to a windows VM while the VM is running and get very close to native speeds for gaming/VR. It’s my plan for when I finally build another desktop, mainly for VR, there just aren’t enough titles playable on Linux, even through Proton (Steam’s compatibility later).

          1. Fizban says:

            Ah, thanks that looks quite helpful. Same target too: I want VR someday, but despite not using the dread direct x 12, it looks like win10 is required for VR anyway because reasons. So workarounds will need to be employed. But probably not until major upgrades or a new rig (and enough space to tinker on one while using the other until it’s ready, and to even use VR in the first place).

      3. BlueHorus says:

        Games. Games are the problem.

        I’m running Windows 7 at the moment, hoping someone will keep it alive so that I don’t have to change to 10. If I know I can reliably run the games I want on Linux, I’d be happier…

        1. Lino says:

          Same. Games are the main problem. Also, the general turn-key way Windows works. Most Linux distros require quite a bit of tweaking before you get some basic functionality going. Which is something I definitely don’t have the patience for.

          Additionally, there are some apps I’m used to on Windows, and I don’t see a viable Linux alternative. Overall, I don’t see a compelling enough reason to totally disrupt my entire workflow in order to learn how to use Linux.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          If you’re curious which games that don’t already have Linux-native versions will run on Proton, ProtonDB provides a great crowd-sourced database. Anything Platinum rated should be click-‘n’-play, Gold means it’ll work with some minor (but usually just cosmetic) glitches (which you may be able to fix with a few tweaks). Although I’d take the exact number reported there with a pinch of salt, there are undoubtedly many hundreds (if not thousands) of games which run pretty much perfectly at this moment. It’s gotten to the point where I almost forget to check if there’s a Linux version before buying a game on Steam now.

        3. Leeward says:

          I used to have a wintendo, but since I built my latest computer in January, I haven’t had a single game I wanted to play that wouldn’t run on Linux. Even the windows-only games I have through Steam run flawlessly through Proton. Resource intensive games work better on Linux with its lower overhead. I don’t play a lot of AAA 3D run-around games (because they make me woozy) but the few I have run very well. NVidia gets a lot of flak from the free software community for not opening their drivers, but those closed source proprietary drivers do work very well.

          The only real issue I have is League of Legends, which runs perfectly in game but the client is horribly slow. It’ll spend multiple minutes pegging 5 cores at 100% when it’s starting up. So much for the rewrite from scratch approach to solving architectural issues.

          Granted, I develop software in my day job and I’ve been running Linux as my daily driver since the early ’00s so I’m not in a position to say how easy everything is for newbies. I find it a lot easier to deal with than Windows but I realize that’s probably a minority view.

      4. Echo Tango says:

        Yes, the operating system where you are free to fight night and day, trying to figure out what this undocumented, annoying error means. Where you are free to bug-test things for other people! So free! :D

        1. pseudonym says:

          In my experience, Debian and Ubuntu LTS exhibit less problems than Windows 10. Especially Debian which just keeps running update after update.

          I would recommend Ubuntu LTS or Linux Mint for new users, as these are very helpful and stable distros.

          There are however two things you can never achieve with linux:
          – Run the latest desktop versions of microsoft Office. This can be annoying if you are a student and have to do a lot of cooperation. Office 365 online may help out there.
          – Follow the latest and greatest in gaming.

          Of course you can always dual boot. Get the benefits of both! No reason to limit yourself to one OS if you need features of both.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            I have had glitched out experiences with basic USB mice and keyboards, bluetooth dropping my keystrokes, driver problems, and more I can’t remember, for the last three computers I’ve had. I’ve been using Ubuntu or some variant for each. :|

            1. pseudonym says:

              Ouch! I can see how that would be very off-putting. Support is not as good as on the Windows side. On the other side, older hardware which does not work on Windows anymore is sometimes still working on Linux.

              In my experience most things that have a generic driver (mice/keyboards) work out of the box. But indeed, not all hardware is. I always do a web search before I buy new hardware to check how the support on linux is.

              Generally if the company advertises chrome OS support it will work out of the box. Logitech devices and HP printers usually work right away in my experience.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                All my keyboards and mice have been Logitech, because they have the best prices and feel of the keys. They still glitch out. Linux is amazing when it works, and hopelessly lacking in documentation when it fails.

        2. Veylon says:

          Windows is like a four-door Sedan. Linux is like a vast junkyard of parts that could potentially form any vehicle.

          1. pseudonym says:

            Yes. As any seasoned veteran of this site will know!

            https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=18309

        3. Moridin says:

          You’re also free to pay for support, if that’s what you want.

          Also, in day-to-day basis, I encounter far fewer problems with Ubuntu than I do with Windows 10.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I’m mostly in agreement with Asdasd.
      I dislike Apple, in particular their ‘walled garden’ approach. Their products only work well with each other, which pushes you to use ONLY their (more expensive) products; the endlessly changing charger cables are a perfect example.

      I dislike Epic because they keep buying exclusives to force you to use their store* and…their PR, I guess? The current controversy is a good example: they’ve painted themselves as the good guys, fighting for free trade, but that’s clearly not the case.
      Cynically invoking genuine principles for selfish ends is something I hate – #FreeFortnite ALONE gives me the impression this company is run by at least one shithead.

      I don’t have much in the way of feelings about the current situation; a vague ‘a pox on BOTH your houses’ if anything.
      Personally, I think it’s a pre-planned ‘brinksmanship’ stunt on the part of Epic to get Apple to reduce their cut. My predictions are:

      a) It’ll end in an out-of-court settlement where Epic get a reduced ‘Apple tax’ for themselves on the Apple store.
      b) Apple will stand firm, Epic will back down, and it’ll go back to Business As Usual. Fortnite might even just turn up on the Apple store regardless.

      Thinking it’ll have any effect on ‘walled garden’ policies is a bit naive. Both companies have walled gardens that they want to keep – I think this case will disappear before anything approaching a ruling or decision appears.

      *So, not that different from what Apple does at all.

    3. etheric42 says:

      Why not Windows 10 LTSC and then add on an app/firewall to block the small amount of telemetry that remains?

      1. Asdasd says:

        I’d never heard of LTSC before. That’s very interesting, thanks for letting me know about it.

        1. etheric42 says:

          You’re welcome. It’s frustrating that some of these things are so obfuscated. In this case you have the even weirder part where you can’t buy LTSC unless you are already an Enterprise licensee, but there are companies that are already Enterprise licensees that will then sell LTSC on the side.

    4. djw says:

      To be fair, *APPLE* used George Orwell in its add campaign. If the Epic add were “out of nowhere” instead of a direct satire of the 1984 Apple add I’d think you have a point.

      1. etheric42 says:

        Hegel remarks somewhere that all great dystopian fiction occurs, as it were, three times. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce, the third as machinima.

      2. Asdasd says:

        It was stupid and crass when Apple did it too. ‘iT’s SaTiRe!’ is barely even a figleaf. Nobody they’re marketing that video towards was alive when the original ad ran, and its cultural lifespan doesn’t even register compared to that of the novel it so awkwardly invokes.

  4. kylind says:

    It’s not easy to define the borders of a term like monopoly. I agree that most people use it more to describe “big company that I don’t like”.

    One definition goes just by market-share and if you own over 80% (or something) of a market, then you’re a monopoly. But if it’s really easy to switch to a competitor, then even 90%+ might not allow you to do anything bad, because consumers would immediately switch then. So how difficult it is to switch to a competitor has to be part of the definition. Or how difficult it is to start up a new competitor if necessary.

    Another point is how broad you define the market. If there is a company that is the only one that produces grapefruit juice, is it a monopoly? Or not because there are dozens of other juices you can buy as well as soda, water, tea and so on?

    So Apple is a monopoly on the App Store and abuses its position there, sure, but is that the right unit of measurement?

    1. Adam says:

      Its also possible to almost unintentionally become a monopoly. I believe (can’t think of any sources though!) that Intel essentially propped up AMD for a while so that Intel could defend itself from claims it was a CPU monopoly. Because if a firm makes better products at a lower price, so why would any rational consumer buy from anyone else?

      1. raifield says:

        If that’s the case Intel certainly hoisted itself by its own petard, but I’m assuming the “propping up” occurred in the 386/486 days. I think AMD was more viable as an independent company by the time of the K6-II which was followed up by the venerable AMD Athlon.

        Because if a firm makes better products at a lower price, so why would any rational consumer buy from anyone else?

        Is there anyone out there buying an i9 instead of a Ryzen?

      2. krellen says:

        Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri has a video for that.

        1. Chris says:

          Which in turn was inspired by microsoft’s claim that everyone loved internet explorer which is why they used it.

          1. Leeward says:

            That’s a direct reference to Microsoft’s “Where do you want to go today” Windows ads.

      3. Cubic says:

        If memory serves, Bill Gates likewise propped up Steve Jobs in Apple’s darkest days. On checking, it was $150 million in August 1997. Better days followed, as we all know.

        1. Veylon says:

          He had to prop them up to ensure a viable competitor. Without them to point at, he’d have Congress breathing down his neck even harder than it already was.

      4. pseudonym says:

        ” I believe (can’t think of any sources though!) that Intel essentially propped up AMD for a while so that Intel could defend itself from claims it was a CPU monopoly. ”

        There are no sources because it is not true. It is a really really really generous spin on the fact that Intel had to pay reparations to AMD. Because Intel used their vast amounts of money to bribe resellers not to sell AMD. This was settled in court, and the money transfer from Intel to AMD was part of the settlement.

        1. Moridin says:

          Don’t forget that the said reparations were were a couple orders smaller than the damage they caused… and they still haven’t actually paid.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I wouldn’t even call Apple a monopoly in their own store – there’s not much effect there, since people can release software in many other ways and places. Sure, it’s splitting up the customers into walled gardens, but there’s still Android, plus websites / online services. Many websites are still totally separate from a “native” app, but even Apple is backing the so-called “progressive web-app”, where your website basically caches enough scripts and data, to be able to run offline, like it was a normal “app”. It should even show up on your phone’s home-screen like a normal app! I’m not sure how the big companies will monetize apps that get installed this way, but I’m still hoping it happens. One less set of technologies to have to fight with, to build a thing! :)

      1. Richard says:

        You’re factually incorrect.

        If your customers are on iOS, and your product is not a website, then you have no choice whatsoever but to sell your app on the Apple App Store.

        Apple have made it literally impossible for any iOS consumer to install any app whatsoever without going through the Apple App Store.

        Apple have a by-the-book, 100% total monopoly on iOS app distribution.
        That’s an absolute fact – even businesses producing internal-only iOS apps have to get Apple’s stamp of approval.
        (Note that Google’s merely has market dominance over Android apps, because Android supports other stores and side-loading)

        However, having market dominance or even a monopoly is not in itself illegal. What’s illegal is abusing that situation.

        To win their case against Apple, Epic will have to convince the court of two things:
        1) That the context is iOS, and not the smartphone market as a whole. If they prove that, then Apple is absolutely definitely a monopoly.
        2) That Apple have abused their total monopoly.

        To win their case against Google, Epic have to convince the court of two things:
        A) That the context is Android, and not the smartphone market as a whole.
        B) That Google have abused their market dominance. (Note: Not monopoly!)

        Note that (1) and (A) are tightly linked, both of those arguments are very likely to go the same way.

        The reasoning is quite simple:
        Consumers have only one phone at a time, and their next phone is almost certain to run the same operating system.
        People do not lightly switch from from one to another, especially if they’ve bought any “apps” – as they would have to buy them all again for the other OS.

        I think Epic are quite likely to win that argument, if only by asking the judges how many of them have switched between Android and iOS.

        (2) and (B) are very different.
        Apple are extremely likely to lose if it gets that far, while Google… Who knows.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          If a dev’s customers are only on iOS, and they’re not building a website…that’s the dev restricting themselves to only use Apples ecosystem, not proof of a “monopoly”. Apps can be cross-compiled to other phones and devices, so they can be sold to people who have Android phones. But even that is the older method – the entire point of progressive web-apps is that they can be installed on iOS phones, Android phones, and will also work as a “normal website” for people on a computer. That opens up your customer base to literally every device with an internet connection and a screen. Apple supporting PWAs is anti-monopoly.

        2. wumpus says:

          *You can get away with small in-house distributions of iOS software, by having the developer register your in-house users’ devices and directly install builds on them.

          IME, this quickly becomes a giant pain in the ass, though, so, yes, then you will go to Apple’s enterprise distribution scheme. (I don’t think you have to submit enterprise apps to Apple for approval, though?)

          1. FluffySquirrel says:

            I seem to recall hearing that they were taking out the direct install bits of xcode or something.. no idea if it happened, we’d stopping playing with apps for a couple years by that point. But I’d heard they were trying to make it so you had to go through the app store

            1. wumpus says:

              As of very recently it was still possible to compile and install to your development devices. Apple doesn’t have the kind of bandwidth they’d need to approve every. Single. Build.

          2. Synapse says:

            Yea you can add people in your team as “app connect testers” so they will have access to internal test builds from Testflight. Its still a massive pain in the ass i despise the whole build upload process -_- i can quickly get a build up on google play store for external testing in a fraction of the time.

    3. Moridin says:

      It’s not just about consumers, though. Internet Explorer was a de facto monopoly. Sure, any individual could easily download an alternative browser, but if you were a web developer, you essentially had no choice but to ignore standards and develop for IE because otherwise your site would be broken for the majority of your potential users. Windows is a de facto monopoly. That means that software developers will in most cases have to develop with Windows in mind, and if Microsoft actually forces their walled-garden bullshit on consumers(which is what they’re trying with Windows 10 S), then developers will have no choice but do whatever Microsoft demands.

    4. Lars says:

      The definition of monopoly (not the bordgame) is that a legal persona provides an essential service. And that, if that legal persona cannot or will not provide this service anymore, through deny or bankruptcy, the system breakes.
      The gas station is that for your household, while the FED is that for the USA or even the whole world.
      Microsoft might be a Monopoly and Oracle might be, amazon is definitly a monopoly (for server on network providing reasons, not their little shop). Neither alphabet, nor Apple, nor EA or Steam is one. If they go out of business, there is always one other to quickly loot their corpse.

  5. Forty-Bot says:

    It’s not about whether Apple has a monopoly on all smartphones, it’s about whether Apple has a monopoly on apps sold for Apple smartphones.

    Personally, I hope this goes well for EA, because it may help loosen restrictions on jailbreaking.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      Why talk about EA? They’re neither of the participants here. I assume you meant epic.

      1. Forty-Bot says:

        Whoops. Turns out I can only keep track of 2 companies with E in their names :)

    2. Groboclown says:

      This doesn’t explain why Epic then sued Google. You can side-load apps onto an Android phone without needing the play store. It takes more technical know-how, but can be done. Back in the day when Microsoft was sued for monopolistic practices (keeping IE burried deep in the OS), they couldn’t remove IE out of the OS, so at least Google / Android is in a different position there.

      1. Jeff says:

        Samsung has their own distribution program on my Galaxy S10, so there’s already an alternative that doesn’t involve side loading. Some apps (okay okay, games) are available on both, and it’ll tell me that it’s already been downloaded via the Play Store. There’s a few (very few) apps only available on the Samsung store.

        Also, anyone savvy enough to download apk files should be savvy enough to do something as simple as going to Settings and finding the right option to hit “allow”.

  6. Adam says:

    Epic has the Epic Store. Which has timed exclusives. So Epic has manufactured a “monopoly” for itself. Okay, so its arguable if “timed exclusive” == “platform exclusive” but I think that most people would say they are close enough that maybe building a glass house and then throwing stones at other glass houses is a bad idea.

    Also, I haven’t read the Epic Store developer EULA – but I bet there is a clause that says “all in-app purchases / DLC / etc via Epic” in it. Otherwise a developer could give away (or ultra cheap) a demo with an internal paid-for upgrade to the full version, and keep 100% of the money.

    I’d really love someone to win something in this arena – being able to “move” or “share” purchases between platforms/stores would be *amazing* for personal customer experiences (Steam
    -> GOG -> Humble -> iPad native App -> Android phone App, physical book -> eBook, PS4 -> PS5, local PC library -> cloud streaming library, etc). Unfortunately the current legal frameworks and business incentives make this infeasible – separating “the content” from “the access method”.

    1. Adam says:

      Also Epic arguably has a monopoly on Fortnite. For comparison, Fornite did about ~$1.9 billion dollars last year, and the US potato market size is ~$4.7 billion ( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/potato-farming-united-states ). So if Apple has a monopoly on App Store, does Epic have a monopoly on VBucks? If not, why not? If one is a problem, why is the other not?

      Plus patents and copyright are designed to limit who can sell a particular thing. Are they monopolies? If I have the largest diamond in the world, do I have a monopoly by definition on the largest diamond in the world?

      1. Cainis says:

        “Plus patents and copyright are designed to limit who can sell a particular thing. Are they monopolies? ”

        Yes, they’re literally time-limited government monopolies.

        I know you’re being deliberately obtuse here, but the problem is in defining the market. Some people want to define it as the whole smartphone market, which makes sense if you’re talking about hardware. But if you’re talking about apps on the iPhone, there is no competing store to the App Store. It has 100% of the app market on the iPhone. You can’t load an alternate store like you can on Android (or even pre-load like the Samsung store). More importantly, Apple exerts monopoly controls on Apps and will remove apps they find competing with their own offerings:

        https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/29/apple-ceo-tim-cook-questioned-over-app-stores-removal-of-rival-screen-time-apps-in-antitrust-hearing/

    2. Mephane says:

      The whole modus operandi of Epic Games ever since they opened their own storefront has been to accuse every other company that they have some beef with as being a monopoly, while Epic themselves try very hard to establish a similar status quo on their end. So this recent move is ultimately not that big a surprise, albeit I didn’t expect this kind amount sheer amount of chutzpah with how calculated and deliberate it was executed, and how they attempt to weaponize their own player base. They had the video ready, they had the lawsuits ready, and then fired their shots.

      I have no horse in this particular race, so normally I’d say I admire their guts for trying – but Epic Games is the kind of company where, frankly, I rather hope this blows up in their face, big time.

      1. Liessa says:

        Same here. I despise Epic and would love to see this backfire on them, but I despise Apple and Google very little less. Frankly it’s one of those situations where I wish they could somehow all lose – and if this drags on long enough and the lawyers’ fees get high enough, perhaps that might actually happen.

        1. djw says:

          Alternatively, if Epic wins and Apple lowers (or eliminates) its fees *and* that drives greater volume to the Apple store then its possible that both sides do better in the long run.

          I’m not predicting this necessarily, but I do think “win-win”, “win-lose”, “lose-win”, and “lose-lose” are all on the table right now.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      I’m still dreaming of a day when companies federate the logins, purchases, etc, for each others customers. I mean, it’s basically the polar opposite of what we have now, with walled gardens for phones, computers, movies, books… Damn it, we’re living in William Gibson’s future instead of Gene Roddenberry’s. :|

    4. etheric42 says:

      Epic allows keys to be resold by other storefronts and takes no cut. Even exclusives.

      There are developers I know that give you a Steam key in addition to a local copy if you buy direct through them. I don’t know why they couldn’t give you a Steam/Origin/Epic/GOG key at the same time. GOG at one point negotiated with a lot of developers to let you get GOG keys for their games if you had a copy on your Steam library, but that was a time-limited deal due to the difficulty of negotiation.

  7. Trym V. O. Tegler says:

    I harbor a dislike for apple, and their buisness practices. I used to be fairly ambivlant towards the company but this was changed by my purchase of an ipod nano.
    The problem was that I had reacently decided to remove itunes and migrate to winamp. This proved to be a problem since you need to use itunes to upload mp3 to the nano, an mp3 player, due to the compression system or whatever they use. My nano has been sitting in a drawer ever since, and this cemented my opinion of the company.

    To be fair I was probably never going to buy any other apple products anyways due to their pricing but atleast then I wouldn’t activly avoid their productline as a whole.

    1. Cubic says:

      iTunes subsequently turned into Apple Music and Apple Podcasts, which both are trash. Lucky escape.

    2. wumpus says:

      I’m confused – you bought an iPod, but didn’t want to use the interface software required to use it? Did you not know that you needed to use iTunes? iTunes is free – did you just really not want to (re)download it and keep it installed?

      I don’t see how anything about this situation reflects badly on Apple? If you were expecting the iPod to work with WinAmp, then your beef is with Microsoft for not supporting your Apple hardware, isn’t it? This seems to me to be like buying a mouse, refusing to download the drivers, and then getting mad at the maker of the mouse.

      1. ThricebornPhoenix says:

        Lots of non-Apple media players allow drag-and-drop file transfer, which is far more convenient.

      2. Moridin says:

        Frankly, if your mouse doesn’t work with generic drivers, then you fully deserve people calling you out on it. It’s acceptable if some functionality is missing, but basic things like clicking and moving the cursor absolutely should work without needing some special drivers. Your product isn’t so special that people should have to put up with having to download a special program to enable functionality already included in the operating system.

  8. Decius says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that what is in dispute is “Does Apple get a piece of Fortnite skins purchased via iPhones, even if Apple doesn’t provide any payment processing services?” or “Are iPhone apps allowed to link to accounts that allow direct payments that bypass Apple?”

    Say there’s a game that has a desktop app and a mobile app, and allows in-app purchases, and they want to allow people to buy stuff through Steam or through the App Store, and apply those purchases in a manner persistent across platforms. Is that a violation of Apple TOS? Should (moral, normative sense) Apple TOS even be allowed to prevent that? Is that significantly different from accepting credit card payments through the app, or referring to a web site that allows payments?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You’re basically correct here, but you see, Apple wants to be the one transferring funds, so that they can take “their” cut. :)

    2. RFS-81 says:

      Say there’s a game that has a desktop app and a mobile app, and allows in-app purchases, and they want to allow people to buy stuff through Steam or through the App Store, and apply those purchases in a manner persistent across platforms. Is that a violation of Apple TOS?

      I don’t know if it’s a violation of the TOS, but Star Realms does it and has not been taken down.

      The app itself is free on Steam, GooglePlay and AppStore. With the free version, you can learn to play against the AI. Then, you can buy a DLC/In-app purchase that unlocks the online mode across all platforms. Plus, new expansions are released that way, too. I highly doubt that Apple gets to apply their tax when you buy a DLC on Steam.

      1. Richard says:

        Apple do allow you to sell subscriptions/content that can be accessed by the iOS app, but you cannot advertise this fact anywhere.

        In-App purchases must be made via Apple, and give Apple their 30%

        Purchases of the same content elsewhere must be sold at the same price. You cannot offer a discount if the consumer buys it from another storefront (eg that takes a smaller cut)

        These rules also appear to be enforced pretty much at random.
        They seem to do random spot-checks, then smack apps and even entire developers with the ban-hammer.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          Ha, interesting! I just bought one expansion in the iPhone app for science, and it was more expensive than on Steam. Maybe it’s got to do with how the platforms convert Dollars to Euro or something? Apple and Valve take the same 30% cut, IIRC, so it wouldn’t make sense to push players towards Steam.

          EDIT: The dollar prices are equal between Steam and AppStore, but the Euro amounts in the AppStore are higher than the dollar amounts. Weird!

  9. Bubble181 says:

    As for the monopoly question, of course the answer is “it depends”. However, saying a company isn’t a monopoly because they aren’t the only one selling X, is technically correct, but actually incorrect. It is considered a monopoly when a single company controls such a large market share, that it can control the market. Depending on the type of market, this can mean having over 80% of the market, or even just 40%. On the other hand, the word “monopoly” can also mean a government-granted right to be the only seller/supplier of X. For example, the Post office used to have an official monopoly on postal services.
    Microsoft is/was often considered a monopoly with regards to computer OS’s – but even in its heyday, there were technically other options (Macintosh/Apple never stopped making consumer computers).
    After a certain point, it becomes impossible to provide an equal service or good, even if they’re technically superior or equal. Facebook is effectively a monopoly – MySpace etc still exist, but the market is so dominated by FB that using any other “general” social network is not as effective. While they’re not a “true” monopoly, it can easily be argued that their position is similar to that of MS with regards to browsers in the ’90s. Especially when they use this monopoly in one market to try and push into and monopolize other markets (WhatsApp and Messenger for messaging, etc.).
    Of course, this can lead to some sleezy company moves…Consider for example that FedEx is NOT officially a logistics or transportation company, but an airline. They may not move a lot of people, but it’s still technically true. FedEx is about the same size as UPS and there are plenty of other players (DHL, TNT, Aramex,…) that are big enough – and yet when FedEx tried to buy TNT, they were forced (by the EU) to sell off some parts to avoid further monopoly forming.

    1. Joshua says:

      Yep, you don’t literally have to be a monopoly to get hit with antitrust charges. Being able to control the price since you control such a large portion of the supply tends to get you looked on unfavorably, especially in industries where the price of entry is so high that while technically customers could shift to a cheaper competitor, realistically it won’t happen for years because it’s so hard and expensive to get started.

    2. Leviathan902 says:

      Bubble181 here has the correct definition of monopoly (market control) so I’m glad I searched the comment before posting LOL

      I did want to throw in another, somewhat controversial, modern monopoly: Amazon.

      Not only do they own a substantial share of online shopping (somewhere around 80% I believe), they also exert market/pricing pressure over sellers and buyers in their store and out.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Wait, you’re saying that Alibaba, Ebay, Rakuten, and the millions of smaller online stores and online presences of physical stores all combined only account for 1/5th of all online shopping? If so, someone should give Amazon a slap on the wrist.

        1. Lino says:

          According to Statista, Amazon have a 47% market share in the US. Which is probably why they were also in the antitrust hearing Apple, Alphabet and Facebook were in where they were asked some very uncomfortable questions (or at least Google was; I haven’t got to the others yet).

  10. John says:

    I dislike Apple. I think they charge far, far too much for their hardware and always have. As much as I loved the Apple IIs my family owned once upon a time, even those cost much more than similarly capable machines. I also dislike the way Apple marketing has always tried to portray Apple computers and devices as somehow special and iconoclastic. They aren’t and they never were. I have always hated this kind of marketing.

    I do not think that Apple is a monopolist, because it isn’t. Android phones exist. Apple is clearly not the single seller of smartphones. People call Apple a monopoly either because they misunderstand the term or because they dislike Apple and don’t care about accuracy. While Apple is not a monopolist, however, it does have substantial market power. Some quick Googling suggests that although Apple’s global share of the smartphone market is only about 20%, its share of the US smartphone market is close to 50%. In that light I’d say that Apple deserves whatever sort of anti-trust scrutiny it gets.

    I also dislike Epic. I don’t play Fortnite and I don’t care one way or the other about the Epic Games Store or the Unreal engine. What I detest is Epic’s public rhetoric. It’s one thing for Epic to point out the way that it’s actions (might) benefit indie devs or consumers. That’s fine. It’s quite another for Epic to pretend that its very clearly self-interested actions are somehow all for my sake. I hate, hate, hate it when companies lie to my face like that. If the stories about perpetual Fortnite crunch at Epic are true–and, knowing the games industry, they most likely are–then Epic is clearly not an altruistic enterprise.

    1. Cainis says:

      The market is apps on the iPhone, not smartphones, though. Epic doesn’t make smartphones, they make apps. In that context, Apple is a monopoly and they exert monopoly control. They were literally questioned about it at the last congressional hearing. https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/29/apple-ceo-tim-cook-questioned-over-app-stores-removal-of-rival-screen-time-apps-in-antitrust-hearing/

      1. Asdasd says:

        That strikes me as stretching it a bit. Epic makes software: ‘apps’ is shorthand for ‘applications’, which aren’t exclusive to iPhones or even smartphones in general. Smartphones are ultimately just sophisticated, pocket-sized PCs.

        It seems to me they will struggle to make this stand up in court, as there are not only other platforms on which they could trade their software, they are already actively doing so, and these other platforms account for the overwhelming majority of their revenue compared to iOS and Android (which is presumably why they were even willing to take action that would get them pulled from those stores).

        But! IANAL. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

        1. Cainis says:

          But there aren’t other sources of applications on iOS. If I could, say, load the Humble Store onto my iPhone like I could (maybe still can) on Android, I don’t think the suit would exist. Or if I could load the Google Play Store onto the iPhone like you can on Kindle Fire tablets, suit probably wouldn’t exist. Hell, if you could sideload it like you can on Android, this suit wouldn’t exist (Epic didn’t sue Google when they denied them Play store access).

          It’s consistent with Tim Sweeney’s other comments on the UWP/Microsoft Store on Windows 10, though. I do agree that Mac/iOS isn’t a meaningful portion of their revenue. It’s just interesting to see everyone (including myself) try to define the market in whatever way suits their argument.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Epic is sueing Google, though.

            1. Cainis says:

              They did not sue them originally in 2018, they distributed Fortnite outside the play store. It’s even mentioned that they want the direct relationship with the customer instead of through the play store as a reason, but not the only reason, for distributing it this way. https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/3/17645982/epic-games-fortnite-android-version-bypass-google-play-store

              The current lawsuit is in response to the delisting, but you can still install Fortnite via Epic’s website.

              Because I can’t edit the old comment, though, Google didn’t deny them listing in 2018, Epic just distributed the game outside the Play Store because they could.

            2. Crokus Younghand says:

              For different reasons (illegal contractual conditions).

      2. John says:

        Does Apple control what apps can be sold to iPhone users? Yes, obviously. Does Apple have considerable power over the market for smartphone apps? Yes, obviously. Are there grounds for federal anti-trust intervention on this basis? I think there are. But is Apple a monopoly? I don’t think so. Apple isn’t the only seller of iPhone apps. Apple’s control of the App Store is very clearly anti-competitive and I’m happy to see it come under scrutiny, but Apple is not a monopoly in the traditional sense.

        1. Cainis says:

          “Apple isn’t the only seller of iPhone apps”

          If I want to purchase an iPhone app, where else can I buy them aside from Apple? Where is the Humble iPhone App Bundle like they used to do for Android?

          1. Richard says:

            Apple is the only way it is possible to get an iOS app onto a device.

            If Apple say no, you cannot even put private (eg line-of-business) apps on an iOS device.
            Even if you compiled it yourself.

            1. wumpus says:

              This is simply not true. You can put apps you compile on to your own device. You do have to use Apple’s Xcode IDE (free), and pay to be a developer, and register your devices (and there’s a limit on how many you can register), but once you’ve paid your $99 developer fee, you can install whatever you want on your registered devices.

              I did this professionally for years, and even sandboxed a few personal apps for my kids.

              1. Richard says:

                “Once you’ve paid your $99 developer fee”

                Exactly.

                You are required to register with Apple as a developer, and Apple can take away that ability at any time, at their discretion.

                1. wumpus says:

                  …and? You’ve moved the goalposts. We’ve gone from, “even businesses producing internal-only iOS apps have to get Apple’s stamp of approval,” and “If Apple say no, you cannot even put private (eg line-of-business) apps on an iOS device,” to, “You are required to register with Apple as a developer, and Apple can take away that ability at any time, at their discretion.” If the required stamp of approval you were talking about was them accepting your $99 (online, in an automated sale) – and not just the formal approvals required to submit to the Apple Store – then I yield the point, but there are all sorts of similar points in which other companies could ‘disapprove’ of your ability to use your own devices by similarly arbitrarily blocking a purchase or revoking a license.

                  I note that you can’t use iOS at all, except that Apple created it. You can’t write software for iOS devices without using Apple’s API either. So sure, I concede that if Apple wants to get rid of the iOS ecosystem – which they could do at any time – then they can prevent people from putting code they compiled themselves onto their own devices. I suspect that Google and Microsoft could also render their devices unusable should the whim strike them. (Given that each of them manages to do that very thing accidentally from time to time…)

                  But in the meantime, you can, after satisfying certain fairly straightforward – but not entirely free* – criteria, run code you compile yourself on your own devices without any further review or approval from Apple.

                  *Linux, Windows, Android, etc. development isn’t free either. What that you say? You didn’t have to pay for any of the tools you use for development? I’m going to bet that you still require hardware that isn’t free, access to the internet that isn’t free, power, and a variety of other real and opportunity costs. If any number of companies (not just Apple), individually or in concert, want to prevent you from using technology…you are screwed.

                  1. Chad Miller says:

                    Apple is threatening to revoke Unreal Engine’s permissions. This means that anything made in Unreal Engine won’t be able to be installed or updated on Apple devices. This is neither hyperbole nor hypothetical; it’s a real threat so bad it’s already provoked further legal motions.

                    There is no equivalent in Linux, Android, or even Windows right now, although the level of control does increase as you move down that list (“S Mode” in Windows in particular seems to be an attempt by Microsoft to inch toward Android levels of control over their devices). But for the time being, I can run executables on my Windows machine, and I can make them with FOSS tools and without having to ask anyone for permission.

                    1. wumpus says:

                      And for the time being you can run executables on your iOS device, and can make them with Xcode and without having to ask anyone for permission (other than the permission inherent in a purchase not mediated by humans).

    2. etheric42 says:

      This is why I disliked all the content providers who would benefit from Net Neutrality pushing all their customers to advocate for their benefit. But the problem is people and companies that don’t try to build public support end up paying for it in the end when they in turn get attacked by the mob.

  11. Bernard McGinley says:

    Apple user. I still miss the old windows mobile though. I really didn’t like early android or ios versions or the tile based windows phones.

    Went back to apple around iphone 6 and they’d added a lot of the features I’d had to jailbreak the old phones for. There’s a massive difference in experience between the low and high end of the market on android, whereas i could pick up any iphone running current ios and be confident it’d work fine.

    I think a big part of it is that the apple hardware market is only a handful of phones, all running essentially the same version of ios, or at least it’s reasonabley understood that you don’t have to support older for long. Android though there’s a massive range of hardware, with the main companies all loading their own spin on the os. Some of them will implement major version updates, but I don’t think it’s common. ios 13 works all the way back to the iphone 5s. The Pixel phones seem to have similar levels of support, but I can’t find any obvious info for Samsung past the S9.

    That and I don’t trust google more than I don’t trust apple.

    1. Sardonic says:

      I’m an Apple user, too, and this basically sums up my feelings. The one time I had an android it crashed regularly. This was in the very early days, so I can’t blame them really. Nonetheless, I switched to an iPhone in 2010 and never looked back. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve only paid to upgrade my phone once (I got my Mom’s hand-me-down iPhone 5 in 2013 or so, and didn’t buy a new phone until this year). That said, I don’t like Apple, but I don’t like any company. They sell me things, and I’ll buy them as long as I think they’re worth the price.

      There are plenty of things I disagree with about Apple’s business practices, but taking a 30% cut on their own store isn’t one of them. In fact, I have a hard time seeing how Epic could have anything close to a point here — I honestly have been assuming this whole time that this is a massive PR stunt (although to what ends I’m not sure tbh), and that even they don’t truly believe they can win this case. I don’t know the first thing about law, but that just sounds like the most reasonable outcome to me.

  12. Cainis says:

    I’m pretty sure this is less about the 30% cut and more about the fact the App Store is literally the only way to get apps running on iOS. Tim Sweeney has been pretty vocal about completely closed App Stores; see his comments on UWP and the Microsoft Store. I think Apple is more the focus instead of Google because at least with Android you can sideload, but on iOS you’re locked completely out. Put in other terms, not being on the Play store isn’t really a problem because people can still load your app. Not being on the Apple App Store means iPhone users can’t use your app at all.

    On the monopoly issue, absolutely Apple has monopoly control on the Apps available for their devices. There are tons of articles about Apple app developers having their apps arbitrarily removed because Apple releases a competing app or they just decided to remove a whole category of apps. This is literally why the US congress is looking into them on anti-trust grounds. This doesn’t help their case.

  13. Mephane says:

    Google users are free to switch to DuckDuckGo or (God help you) Bing.

    God, looking at a new Bing user: No, I don’t think I will.

    1. Henson says:

      I use DuckDuckGo myself, and it has its own problem, which is that is appears to use a great deal of Google’s search algorithms, even if it doesn’t track your searches. This is a problem when Google starts fiddling with what things show up in search results: this sort of chicanery trickles down into DuckDuckGo results as well. Bing, for all its faults, doesn’t appear to have this problem, as far as I can see.

      1. Mirrows says:

        DDG predominately uses Bing. They don’t use Google at all.

        https://help.duckduckgo.com/duckduckgo-help-pages/results/sources/?kp=1

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    I was one of the people advancing the Apple monopoly point, and my take was based more on what the law is than what I want it to be (without getting too far into politics, I am not a fan of the general state of US antitrust law). But as I understand it from talking to a lawyer buddy, the law is super complicated, tech rulings are always messy and all that means there’s some probably small chance Epic actually wins the suit. Since what the courts deem a monopoly is what gets legally treated as a monopoly, I am inclined to adopt a definition where anything is a monopoly if the courts say it is, much like anything is a crime if the courts say it is, regardless of whether it should be. So Apple might be a monopoly which means Epic’s lawsuit might be well-founded, even if I’d prefer to live in a world where Apple can do whatever they please with their own overpriced phones.

    You probably shouldn’t use me as any kind of representative example though, the state of legal discourse on the internet (and IRL, frankly) is dire and most people don’t seem interested in or capable of making this kind of distinction between what they want and what is legal.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I can imagine the state of legal discourse on the internet isn’t helped by the fact that different countries have different laws (though the basics (no axe murdering, no Welshman shooting, no covetting your neighbours cow), I can only hope, are the same everywhere).
      Good thing there are people like Leonard French who make legal proceedings understandable for us laymen.

      1. Asdasd says:

        I’d add that while I don’t know if this is actually true, from the outside looking in, it certainly seems the law-adjacent professions have a financial incentive to keep the law as impenetrable to the rest of us as possible. (And have responded to it with enthusiasm.)

      2. Bubble181 says:

        Wait, no Welshman shooting at all? I thought it was OK on Saint Grumfried’s Day. Is that just here?

        1. John says:

          No, no. It’s only legal if they’re within city limits after dark.

    2. Boobah says:

      …much like anything is a crime if the courts say it is, regardless of whether it should be.

      That’s kind of the point of juries. Well, one of the points.

  15. Doctor Beat says:

    Like you said, it depends on your mental model. If the App Store is Walmart, then Apple is the town you live in. If you live in ‘Apple Town’ then you can view it as a de facto monopoly, as your only option to buy software is via the App Store. Sure, you could move to ‘Android-Ville’ to get access to a different store, but moving can be a major hassle. The gas company monopoly is similar – you can technically move house in order to get a different utilities supplier, but how realistic is it to expect people to move just to get a better deal on gas?

    I don’t know if that’s a correct model to view this by, as it depends on how easy it is for people to switch between mobile ecosystems. The moving house example has the assumption that this is difficult. If switching from Apple to Android (or whatever) is easy, then this line of argument doesn’t hold much weight, though I suspect the case is the former.

    Personally, I disagree with Apple taking an arbitrary cut of all software sales. It is in Apple’s interests to encourage software to be developed, as software is what adds value to the hardware they’re selling. Demanding a 30% cut of the sales on someone else’s work seems a good way to discourage this. Not that I’m particularly in support of Epic – as mentioned by other people, they are doing this for purely selfish reasons, and have their own poor practice issues.

    1. Epic Greed says:

      I think they are entitled to a cut. It’s their hardware, which includes state of the art mobile processors. It’s their developer tools, which are used to run apps on their operating system. It’s their operating system, which has a high upgrade to the newest version rate on mobile and longest device support on mobile. At the end of the day, it’s their customers. As a parent, Epic can STFU. They want want to create a store where they can bypass the parental controls Apple has in place.

  16. tmtvl says:

    I’m only an Apple hater when I’m forced to use their products. At one of my previous jobs I had to use an iMac running Yosemite (towards the end of my contract updated to Catalina). It may seem silly to say, but my time spent using an iMac is one of the most painful memories I have. It violently opposes all my views on software freedom and it has terrible usability.

    I don’t cheer for Epic for the same reason I don’t cheer for Apple or Google. Anti-competitive practises are bad. Whoever wins this battle, we all lose. I would liken an Epic victory to the opening of isolationist states as happened, for example, in China, Japan, and Korea.

    As I said earlier, I used an iMac for a year and hated it. After Google announced they would be canning Google Play Music I became a bit distraught as I will never use iTunes/Apple Music/whatever and Bandcamp just doesn’t have the massive library that Google Music had. Buying music albums is a pain.

    I presume the average age of Twenty Sided visitors is over 7… I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. To me Fortnite seems much like Team Fortress or Overwatch, a not-entirely-dumb FPS for people who love getting griefed by other people while nominally relaxing. That said, I was a big Starsiege Tribes fan back in the day, so I really have no room to speak.

    1. Asdasd says:

      “for people who love getting griefed by other people while nominally relaxing. That said, I was a big Starsiege Tribes fan”

      Ah, that timeless feeling of spawning into a Tribes 2 server to find your entire base has already been taken over and locked down by a squad of enemy heavies.

      I know for a lot of people, Tribes was synonymous with jetpacks, skiing and spinfusors, but I was a big fan of all the extraneous stuff they shoved into the sequel. Setting up forward bases, scrambling to react to bombing runs, mortar fire coming over the hills from half a map away.. it was the pandemonium of Planetside, with just a teensy bit more focus (and an ending). Wonderful times.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I’m kind of in the same boat as regards situational Apple-hating; for context, I grew up using Windows, switched to Linux at home 6 years ago at the age of 25, and have been using a MacBook Pro for the past 3 three years provided by my university for my PhD. I am, shall we say, not a fan of macOS. I think it has to do with a sort of “uncanny valley” of computing; that probably sounds weird, but hear me out.

      Windows and Linux both actually share a lot of fundamental paradigms about how you use them, for all their differences. (I found making the switch to Linux comparably easy, while I don’t think I’ve managed it even after 3 years of using macOS for my day job.) Ctrl-C copies and Ctrl-V pastes on both Windows and Linux. Macs also have a Control key, but you don’t use it to copy, you use Command-C. (Which is also in a different location on the keyboard, so my muscle memory gets shot every time I switch between my Linux PC and my MacBook.) On Linux/Windows you press F2 to rename a file in the file explorer; on macOS it’s Enter (which opens the file on the other two OSs!), and I could go on and on. It’s the constant flood of little, niggling things like this which are almost what you’re used to but just slightly different which make it so annoying for me to use.

      You might think it’s not so bad, given that, like Linux, it’s built on top of Unix, right? Welllll, it’s built on top of Unix, but seems to have deliberately removed several of the features that make Unix so good. There’s no native package manager, so it’s back to the Windows model (ugh) of downloading random installers off of individual websites and having to manually update them all individually (instead of a dead-simple one-line command to update everything on my computer which has updates available all at once; seriously, it’s so good). There are community-maintained package managers like Homebrew or Conda at least (and given Apple’s other software, perhaps I should be grateful they don’t have a native package manager, though I guess that’s kinda what the App Store is). macOS doesn’t even have the Unix secondary clipboard for the middle mouse button! (Actually it does, but it only works in the terminal, which just adds insult to injury.) That’s hands-down one of the best features of Unix; any OS I use without it feels so limited now.

      Now, while this could easily turn into a Mass Effect-retrospective-length rant on all the things I detest about macOS, I don’t actually hate Apple as long as I’m not being forced to use their products. (And to be fair, some of these things are probably only a problem for me because I didn’t grow up using a Mac so I don’t have Apple’s design paradigms internalized as “the proper way computers work” like I do Windows and Linux paradigms.) Do I think they have some crummy business practices, and their products are a bit overpriced for what they offer? Yes. But so do a lot of other companies I ignore, and as long as I’m not using them they don’t really affect me.

      (I suppose it’s only fair to also list the things I like about macOS, and there are a few: though I was initially put off by it, I’ve come to like the way macOS handles clicking in the scrollbar by jumping directly to the point instead of just scrolling quickly; it makes large document navigation much faster. The preview functionality in the file explorer is also pretty handy, like when you just want to peek at the contents of a CSV file without needing to boot up a proper program to actually handle and manipulate it. And the trackpad navigation is legitimately pretty good, I often use it in place of mouse-wheel scrolling while perusing large PDFs and the like, though I guess that’s sorta on the hardware side too.)

  17. Atacama says:

    Shamus, I’d argue that Google, at least, is a monopoly. Not because you can’t use another search engine (I’ve been using Bing for a few years now – not because it’s necessarily better, but because they “pay” me through the MS reward program – otherwise, I’d probably be using DuckDuckGo), but even if you use another search engine, you can’t actually use the majority of the internet without “touching” Google. There have been a few articles written about various tech journalists trying it, according to what I remember (and presuming I’m remembering it correctly), if you cut off all communications to Google, suddenly you are on late 90s/early 00s internet again. A slew of other services, from Uber to Dropbox, also don’t work correctly if you cut off Google. It may not be a monopoly in the strictest sense, but if you can’t function online without it, is that any difference from your house not functioning without natural gas?

    Now that I’ve ranted, I suppose I can answer your original question:

    If you’re an Apple hater: What’s the source of your animosity?

    I am 2-3 years younger than you, and I remember when I got my first “real” computer (i.e., not a Timex Sinclair or a Radio Shack TRS-80). It was a 386 SX20. Everyone where I lived back then was either very pro- or very anti- Apple. Since I wanted to tinker with, upgrade, and otherwise be able to “legally” alter my own machine, being pro-PC and anti-Apple was an easy choice. I probably dislike Apple much less now then I did then – but I still wouldn’t buy one of thier products.

    Thanks for the great article, like always.

    1. John says:

      The heartbreaking thing is that in the days before Steve Jobs decided that the Mac was the future of computing, Apple machines were extremely tinker-able. The original Apple II had something like eight expansion slots. The compact Apple IIc replaced most of the expansion slots with dedicated hardware for the sorts of things that most people ended up using those slots for–joystick ports, for example–but even the relatively late model Apple IIe still had, I think, six. By contrast, my contemporary micro-ATX motherboard has just three.

  18. rabs says:

    I’m a kind of cheap Linux user, so I also use a 4 year old Android $50 phone. Would like better a small dual-SIM PinePhone though.

    Epic Games trial is not the right one to me, I’d like to be able to buy hardware with technical documentation and being able to install what I want on it. But I’m dreaming, and Epic Games is dreaming too. I understand why Apple locks down stuff, and set the cut they want on their store. Wouldn’t buy those devices, but people do.

    At work, some people switched to Apple OS X computers as it “just works” and got a BSD kernel + Unix tools.
    Though a few became enraged by Apple updates from time to time, and switched back to Linux where they can control/patch things as they like.
    Those with Apple computers tend to get iPhones, but people I know never get the latest fancy ones. The smaller form factor and more reasonably priced line-up seems fine.

    About the Tim Trillionaire vs Tim Billionaire war (liked Penny Arcade take on this), I don’t care. Hope they’ll destroy each other, if somebody can save Unreal Engine from this mess.

    1. Asdasd says:

      That Penny Arcade post was interesting, yeah. Here’s a link for anyone curious.

      1. MelTorefas says:

        That is the first time I have looked at anything Penny Arcade in ages. The new art style is… really really different. Not a fan. Which is fine, since I’ve avoided the site and its creators for a long time anyways and don’t see a good reason to stop now.

        Anyways. Thanks for the link, interesting situation.

  19. noga says:

    I think in most countries the legal defenition of a monopoly is closer than “more than 50%” than to 100%. That’s defenitly closer to the informal understanding in mine.

  20. JumpGhost says:

    I worked phone tech support for a couple of years for a government website that required Java to work properly (yes, it was terrible). OS X users were massively over-represented in our callers because Safari is a nightmare of anti-usability that does its utmost to stop you ever enabling Java, even intentionally. Every new Safari version we would have to go and find which hole they’d hidden the setting down this time.
    Many of our callers were on the older side, and had been advised to get a Mac by well-intentioned (stupid) younger relatives because they “just work”. They don’t. I have spent too much time explaining how to operate OS X – an operating system I do not use – to confused grandparents to ever take Apple’s side in anything.
    That said, Epic are transparently doing this for the money and it’s pretty sad how many people seem to be falling for their spin.

  21. Mervyn Bickerdyke says:

    I’d like to question your examples of a monopoly. They are not consistent.

    You state that Apple is not a monopoly because users could switch to Android. This is a legitimate view, but then, your gas provider is not a monopoly either, because you could switch to solar (or woodfire or any combination) for heating.

    1. Shamus says:

      A monopoly is a company that controls a single good or service. Like, I can’t switch to another company. Your proposals involve not alternate companies, but building my own. If we use your definition, then nothing is a monopoly because you’re always free to build some impractical alternate solution given infinite time & money.

      Also:

      Solar? Not in this part of the planet.

      Woodfire? Also not legal within the city limits. (Large fires are banned, because of smoke and danger to other buildings.)

      So yeah. I don’t think I could switch to anything else, even with with limitless time, money, and engineering skill. Cities generally don’t want you constructing massive engineering projects in your yard.

      1. Frustrated lurker says:

        I find your stance in this conversation frustrating because I feel like you are treating law a lot more glibly than you treat, say, D&D.

        You’ve taken a term of art (“monopoly”), chosen not to engage with its technical definition in favor of applying its simplest dictionary definition, and then sort of thrown your hands up as if saying — well, there’s no squaring this!

        But… there are numerous articles, wiki pages, podcasts, and YouTube videos that discuss the concepts of American antitrust law. You would never do this sort of pedantic argumentum-ad-Merriam(-et-Webster) on a topic related to coding or hit points.

        This is one step away from “the second amendment says you get arms — and most people are born with two of those!”

        1. Shamus says:

          See my response to Jared Smith below.

      2. Captainbooshi says:

        “In my understanding of the word, a monopoly is when you have one and only one company providing a good or service. My local gas company is a monopoly, because I can’t buy natural gas from anyone else. The pipes in my house lead directly to their… gas-making stuff[1]. Same goes for water, electricity, and garbage pickup. Not only are these companies monopolies, they provide essential services. And so there are all kinds of extra rules in place to keep an eye on them because of the special position they hold[2].

        But none of the big tech companies have the same sort of universal control. Apple users are always free to switch to Android[3]. Google users are free to switch to DuckDuckGo or (God help you) Bing.”

        I mean, you are free in exactly the same way to switch to a different gas (water, electricity, garbage) company, by just moving to a different house with a different provider! Of course, the real problem is that moving is a huge amount of effort and hassle, so that’s not a practicable solution. There is a barrier in the way, giving the gas (water, electricity, garbage) company an effective monopoly, even if they aren’t the only such company in the entire country.

        Well, the same can be said of switching from Apple to Android. It’s just a huge pain. The apps you use won’t be transferable, so you will need to re-buy some and find completely different alternatives to others. There is an additional monetary cost associated with the switch between phones. You’ll have to learn how to use a completely different OS, which is easy for some people, but can be a huge struggle for the technically-challenged.

        Now, you can argue that the barrier to change is not high enough to consider it a monopoly, but that’s a completely different kind of argument than the one you were making, that just because it’s POSSIBLE to switch, it can’t be a monopoly.

  22. Gordon says:

    Don’t get hung up on definitions, what matters is outcomes. You walk close to the logical fallacy of monopoly bad, this is not technically a monopoly, thus this is not bad.

    “Not technically a monopoly” is not a defence against accusations of bad behaviour, it’s only a defence against accusations of bad behaviour covered by a specific set of preexisting rules.

    A more useful general approach is to ask if we can make the world on average a better place by changing / enforcing the rules these entities operate under.

    Epic of course can only sue under existing law, although they can also fight in the realm of public opinion to try and get the law changed, and the current suit is clearly intended to do that as well.

    I’m not a lawyer but it seems like the guts of the complaint is that Apple have a monopoly on IOS app sales, which is an interesting framing. And that they are using that monopoly to force artificially high commissions for app and in app sales and also to push their way into other markets by forcing the use of their in app purchase system.

    Remember Apples rules are not just that they take 30% of app store sales, they also force in app sales to go through their platform and then take 30% of those. And if you sell something out of app that is used in app they require you to make that available through their in app purchase system again at 30% and you are not allowed to tell your customers it’s cheaper / you get to keep more of the money if they buy direct.

    1. Syal says:

      Don’t get hung up on definitions, what matters is outcomes.

      The outcome is “Words no longer mean anything and become indistinguishable from an animal roar.” This result concerns me far more than any cause anybody has. It’s a threat to the expression of nuance as a whole.

      That said, apparently Shamus has the wrong definition here. The government’s use of monopolization is something like “a company unaffected by negative publicity that is willing and able to use its size to directly hamper competition.” Don’t know if Apple meets the last part but it’s certainly entrenched enough for the first part.

      1. Gordon says:

        I didn’t mean it as words, definitions and nuance aren’t important, they very much.
        But viewing something like this little conflict entirely through the lens of “what does the word monopoly mean” loses sight of important details like, whose definition of monopoly? can that definition be changed? are they potentially liable for other related but not specifically monopoly things? is their behaviour undesirable even if it’s not technically illegal under current law?
        My statement about outcomes was trying to push this toward “what’s likely to happen here?” and “what would we want to happen here?”
        Someone convincing themselves that since Apple doesn’t fit the dictionary definition of monopoly there is nothing to see here reminds me of the unexpected hanging paradox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPOXhFJsqlM

        1. Shamus says:

          I wasn’t arguing that people were WRONG for opposing Apple. In the article I agreed, multiple times, that Apple is guilty of rotten anti-consumer stuff. I was just saying that “I don’t get the use of monopoly in this context”. Several people have offered viewpoints that helps me understand where they’re coming from. This is context I didn’t have because (like I said in the article) I don’t use the device and I’m not familiar with its problems / limitations.

          I still wouldn’t personally use the word monopoly*, but now I at least understand WHY people reach for that word.

          * I’m a fan of “Market hegemon”.

          1. Webternet Rando says:

            I think that the use of the term ‘monopoly’ here is very reminiscent of the use of the term ‘gambling’ when discussing loot boxes.

            Most people have their own practical understanding of what those terms mean, which may differ quite a bit from the legal definitions of what those terms mean.

            Microsoft was found to be a monopoly back in the 90s based on the legal definition of the term, even though practically speaking other software companies existed to compete with Microsoft. I think a similar situation exists here, but with people speaking past each other due to differing understandings on what the term ‘monopoly’ means for this case.

    2. Gordon says:

      Another thing I wanted to mention but forgot. There is some degree of parallel between app store gate keeping, common carrier rules, net neutrality and section 230. That’s not to say they are the same or they should be treated the same, just that it’s an interesting thought exercise to compare and contrast.

  23. Andrew says:

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy with Epic. I think their hype around the issue seems really hypocritical (a lot of the focus is on Apple/Google’s 30% cut, which they themselves claim on their own store-front). And I really can’t see how they justify suing Apple, but not Microsoft, because the situation with the Xbox store is surely the same?

    That said, I kind of think their case against Apple does have a point (I’ve no idea whether it has any chance of succeeding- I’m not a lawyer). Apple isn’t a monopoly here, but it’s very far from being in a healthily competitive market (there are basically two players, both huge; in a market in which there are massive barriers to entry). I think the market in phone apps would be better for consumers if Apple were not permitted to lock down their operating system and control everything that gets installed on their phones.

    It’s basically the same logic that says that Microsoft shouldn’t be permitted to force everyone to use Internet Explorer. Or (god forbid) Games for Windows Live. Admittedly Microsoft’s position with respect to PC operating systems is *closer* to a monopoly than Apple’s with respect to mobile OSs, but this is all a matter of degree.

  24. Lino says:

    What I love about the #FreeFortnite video is that 95% of the Fortnite player-base is too young to understand what that video is referencing (both the Apple ad, and the book it’s based on).

    Regarding the lawsuit, I find it similar to the time Microsoft got sued for pushing IE on Windows. In this case, my money’s on all three companies doing an out-of-court settlement for a sum of money so big, we couldn’t even imagine, and life carrying on business as usual.

    But even though I don’t really have a horse in this race, I’m low-key rooting for Epic. If for nothing else, because they’re sort of the underdog here. Even if you consider they’re owned by Tencent, they’re the smallest out of the three companies. So naturally I get a little kick of shadenfreude out of anything that inconveniences the behemoths that are Apple and Alphabet.

    1. etheric42 says:

      In congressional grilling one of the politicians brought up that same ad to attack Apple. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or if Epic is piggybacking off of it to garner legislative support.

      1. Lino says:

        I think it’s definitely not a coincidence that they filed a suit now. Like any self-respecting shark, I think they’ve sensed the couple drops of blood in the water, and they’ve leapt at the opportunity. Whether those drops of blood will present a tasty morsel remains to be seen, though.

        My money’s on an out-of-court settlement where all three sides claim they’ve won and championed consumers’ rights.

      2. John says:

        Given the time it presumably took to make the video and the fact that it’s a really obvious cheap shot, I expect it’s a coincidence.

  25. Dreadjaws says:

    I wonder what attitude would Epic take if I wanted to sell games for their store where I got the profits instead of them. I’m willing to bet that suddenly their stance on “monopoly under the service provided by that company” would be much less lax.

    If you’re an Apple hater: What’s the source of your animosity? Are you upset about the Apple Store, or about something else?

    To put it simply, they prey on people’s apathy. People who want stuff that’s simple to handle and do exactly what they want compose the bulk of their fanbase. Those people don’t care about the excessive control Apple exerts, the complete lack of freedom they’d find themselves in if they were to even try to stray off the designed path and the exhorbitant prices they absolutely unwarrantedly set. Since those people aren’t directly affected by Apple’s controlling decisions, they decide those issues aren’t important, so the company thrives under their use.

    Now, usually, my hate towards the company used to be simply that I wouldn’t use or otherwise purchase their products. Yes, they were disgraceful, and those who used it, in my mind, were ignorant, but as they only affected their own very small userbase (aka, those who directly engaged with them), they didn’t feel like a real issue, since they weren’t setting any trends. Until they started doing it. Now, for instance, because of their idiotic decision to remove the earphone plug other brands are doing it. And I see some prices rising too high for the amount of benefits the models offer compared to ones with lower specs. So yeah, I’m actively starting to despise Apple, since it’s actually starting to negatively influence other services, as companies start to test the waters to just how much they can get away with before people start complaining.

    But, if anyone has seen my comments here previously whenever the EGS is mentioned, they’ll know that my despise for Epic very well dwarfs any anymosity I could have towards most other companies. Before they showed up with their store I knew their CEO was trash, but didn’t feel anything against the company itself. After they brandished the EGS around and started to pretend to be saviors, fooling the naive and the willful ignorant into thinking they were benefitial, I knew they were wolves in sheep’s clothing. But not even wearing a fleece as a disguise. They just wear a sign hanging from the neck that says “Shepp”. It’s so painfully evident that they’re downright evil that I question the intelligence of anyone who falls for their crap, particularly since they’ve shown time and again that their words mean nothing. Hey, remember the whole “passing the savings onto customers” thing, and how it actually never happened? Fascinating stuff. And yeah, I know they’ve had discount codes and the like to fool people into thinking they’re getting better deals. Many stores have pulled that kind of thing before. I guarantee you if Fortnite wasn’t a license to print money you wouldn’t be getting such “generous” offers, free games and whatnot.

    So yeah, while both companies are a terrible thing, I honestly hope this ends up backfiring on Epic. Sweeney is such a mad lunatic that he might end up trying to sue the government itself if he loses. That’d be pretty hilarious.

    1. etheric42 says:

      Epic would be fine with it. They already are. They receive 0 cut of keys sold on Humble or other stores, even for Epic exclusives.

      In addition to that you can still install Steam and Origin on your PC. Or buy software from a developer’s website and install it. None of those things are possible on an iPhone.

  26. evileeyore says:

    1 – Their ‘monopolistic’, anti-competitive, walled garden nature of their products. No boves, I still have animosity towards MS for it’s exact same behavior (minus the walled garden) back in the 80s, but as you mention there is no viable alternative when it comes to OSes. There is a viable alternative when it comes to phones (because I just want a phone/camera/texting device and don’t want all the attendant cruft that comes parceled with a high-end smartphone). If I just needed a “can internets and word-doc” machine, I could use a different OS. I suspect it’s similar with phones. If you want the best camera, sound quality for music, sandwich making capacity, perhaps Apple is the only viable option.

    2 – Oh, I hate Epic too. The best possible option is that they both somehow lose and this breaks up the market and cautions other companies against being walled gardens (Apple) and greedy “buy-up developers and close them down while making the worst possible customer service online game store ever” shops (Epic).

    3 – I have no Apple products in my life.

    4 – Not a Fortnite fan. Never played it, not even sure what genre it is aside from Genre I Don’t Like (it looks like either a “MOBA arena shooter” or a “Counter-Strike/Team Fortress” style game, neither of which I like).

  27. ccesarano says:

    I’m unable to really read or skim through much of the discussion here, and I have only paid mild attention because I don’t really have a dog in this race.

    My first assumption is that Epic doesn’t actually expect this to hit the court at all, and that it’ll settle out of court with Apple (and Google?) reducing their take. Otherwise, they don’t have a leg to stand on because, as you said, the only solution is for Google and Apple to allow people to bypass their storefront altogether. If Epic games store takes a cut, why would you expect Apple and Google to take none? No, all the #FreeFortnite stuff is just PR.

    Which is what also kind of confuses me. I’ve seen people refer to this as “consumer friendly” and that’s why they side with Epic, but I think any benefit to anyone that’s not Epic is coincidental. They’re not doing this “for the good of the devs”, they’re doing this for the good of their own pockets. Additionally, this has no benefit to consumers at all, or at least not in a direct, substantial way. The ability for indies to put games on a storefront and earn a greater cut could result in more studios creating more titles rather than dying after their first release, but if we’re honest these store fronts are flooded with indies all competing with one another and big studios releasing Gatcha-style games or something else with real marketing bucks behind it. You’re not eliminating that problem by increasing the developer’s cut.

    Additionally, Epic is clearly not about consumer friendliness at all, or else they’d be spending their money on completing their store so it is competitive in terms of features rather than throwing that money at developers for exclusivity and freebies (and I feel like “I got something for free” is too often treated as consumer friendly rather than bait and incentive).

    In the end, I think the idea of developers getting more of the cut is a good thing. But Epic’s methods are sneaky and underhanded. If you were to view a D&D alignment chart, this would be somewhere in the Lawful Evil realm, I feel. They are able to manipulate the situation to pretend to be the good guy, but all benefits are completely coincidental as they are acting 100% in self-interest.

    Or to put it another way: the lesser of two evils is still evil.

  28. Ninety-Three says:

    Recent news on the Epic/Apple fight: Apple is cutting off Epic’s ability to develop Mac/iOS software (as a practical matter, they can do this because their dev tools are obnoxiously locked down and require all kinds of fiddly cert stuff from Apple to work), and Epic is asking the court for an injunction to force Apple to knock it off. The conditions Apple sets for using their tools let them get away with pretty much any arbitrary and capricious retaliation, unless it’s considered an anticompetitive practice. That wouldn’t be an obviously outlandish outcome, but it’s complicated so who can say how it will end up.

    Good luck to Shamus figuring out how to cover an evolving story like this, I now get why you don’t tend to do topical stuff.

  29. Xpovos says:

    Related but different. The same practices being sued here are what is prohibiting Microsoft from successfully launching their xCloud app on iOS devices. Since I game a lot on Xbox, having xCloud on an iOS device (I have some) would be very handy. But I can’t because there’s the POTENTIAL for me to purchase a game through it from Microsoft’s store, and if that happens, either MS gives Apple the 30% cut, or it’s prohibited from the device, at least through the store. I’m sure I could jailbreak and get it in, but the OS-specific software to get to that point would be a nightmare.

    I’m not ever going to buy a game on xCloud via my iOS device, but just the potential for anyone to do it is enough to prohibit an entirely different class of application. Not a game, a service. A wrapper which allows me to use my device to play my games in a way that is convenient for me.

    Whether or not Apple is truly a monopoly or not, it has remarkably anti-consumer positions, and if these are the lawsuits necessary to make it more consumer-friendly, I’d be inclined to support them.

  30. Narkis says:

    I don’t hate Apple. At best I can muster a mild antipathy, the same one I feel about Microsoft, Google, EA and any of other big companies that short-sightedly chase their bottomline.

    But I hate, hate, HAAAATE Epic. I hate their shoddy store. I hate their timed exclusives. I hate their self-serving griping about their competitor’s cut and supposed monopoly . And most of all I hate the gullible morons who believe their transparently double-faced rhetoric and defend them as if Tim Sweeney is a champion of the people instead of the slimy, amoral executive that he really is. It remains completely baffling to me how so many people still take their side in the internet and even act as Sweeney’s personal attack dogs.

    I don’t know if it’s a generational thing. But I think it is a legitimate cause for concern if indeed the young ‘uns fall for corporate bullshit so easily, just because that corporation made a game they like and talks the right talk with no regard to that corporation’s actual actions.

    1. Richard says:

      Oh yes, both are slimeballs, and I despise both equally.

      The difference is that if Apple lose, it’ll be better for developers and consumers because of the precedents.
      – Apple will have to reduce their cut and/or allow other payment processors on iOS, and will no longer be allowed to deny developers from creating iOS (or macOS) apps.

      Of course, if they settle then only Epic wins. I don’t want that.

  31. neminem says:

    I have a problem with Apple and not with Google, for one reason and one reason only: Apple has a monopoly on *app* on their devices. If you’re a company that wants their apps on Apple devices, you *have* to go through their store. They really, REALLY don’t want you installing anything via any other means, to the point where you basically have to cheat to sideload, and even then, it’s a giant pain. So I agree that Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on *devices*, it is still some BS.

    On Android, of course, you just toggle a setting enabling side-loading apps, then you can do whatever you want. And that (I mean, the whole philosophy, not just side-loading apps specifically) is why I never want an iOS device.

    It does always drive me crazy when people say Google is a monopoly, though. No, Google (the search engine) just gets used almost exclusively, because it’s the only search engine that doesn’t totally *suck*. The government absolutely should be in the business of ensuring that existing businesses don’t cheat to kill their competition… but that doesn’t mean they have to be in the business of ensuring that existing businesses have *competent* competition. If they die because they suck, that’s their own fault.

  32. Kornel Blaszczyk says:

    Well, I look at the issue a little bit differently. Lets stick to Wallmart analogy. Epic is not arguing for selling their stuff inside Wallmart without giving the cut to them. They argue that basically (as far as shops go) there are only two existing stores (Wallmart and duno, ShopCo). And so those two should not be allowed do dictate a cut arbitrarily because of their joint de facto monopoly. There needs to be some oversight and independent arbiter, otherwise those two can shape a market in anyway they will (driving competition out with high cut and introducing their own store brands for example) with a harm for competitiveness in general and consumers in particular.

  33. T-Boy says:

    Making note that the discussion isn’t necessarily about what the correct definition of “monopoly” is, but more about anti-competitive behavior displayed by both Apple and Google. Apple and Google are examples of what we’d call a duopoly, and you can have a small group of companies that hold outsize market control over a particular commodity (that’s called an oligopoly). In all of these cases, what’s most notable about them isn’t not that there aren’t any other competitors, or that customers are not provided a choice, but that there are significant barriers to entry for alternatives, and that outsize economic influence can translate to political and social influence that is, fundamentally, threatening to democracy.

    I mean, that’s the issue there: when companies can acquire potential disruptors and innovators to squash them, when they can provide barriers to stuff like independent repair and weaken rights to consumers like first-sale doctrine (which is something you rail about significantly on this blog, especially with regards to Steam and other online game distribution platforms) and also control the cost of not only purchasing the commodity, which might be considered essential, but also set the terms of how you exit that relationship with the seller of the product. I note that transferring out of the Apple ecosystem can be significantly difficult, especially with regards to the utility that the Apple ecosystem can and does provide (some software work best under MacOS, for example).

    I mean, all of these criticisms actually apply to not only Apple or Google, but also to companies like Fortnite, EA Games, Steam, Microsoft, Facebook and the like. It’s not a singular problem that plagues one company that makes them uniquely villainous, and there are no good guys in this particular exchange. Sure, Epic is correct in stating how Apple behaves is anti-competitive, but would Epic not behave the same way as Apple does if it was in that position? Heck no. They’d do it.

    The issue isn’t that any one company here is a villain, the system in itself, after a period of deregulation thanks to some pretty radical (for the time) ideas about what monopoly means and what the American government is meant to do to ensure that healthy competition occurs, and how monopolies should be regulated, we have… this.

    I mean, prior to this, monopolies in America were regulated pretty hard?—?AT&T, for example, were only allowed to keep their monopoly by adhering to government regulations on what businesses they were allowed to enter and other restrictions, and I think it remains the same to some degree (although apparently your ISPs just… ignore it and basically rob you blind because no one can stop them). Now these days, at least until recently, was that monopolies were bad if and only if they raised prices to consumers.

    Turns out that that might actually be a bad idea.

    Now, that being said… someone is literally going to come by and say that consumer choice isn’t restricted, if only because you still have the option of $thing that is slightly more difficult or inconvenient. Which… isn’t really much of an argument, because although you can choose that option, 1) everyone else I know doesn’t 2) the shitty policies that monopolists enact will still affect me at some point. The de facto standard for document collaboration will remain under one of two providers, Microsoft or Google. I might not have a Facebook account, but Facebook does have a shadow profile of me, thanks to the fact that I know people in my life who use Facebook or Instagram. It won’t matter if I avoid mass media because it’s a consolidated mess, but that mass media will still affect me indirectly as, say, democratic policies I support may be undermined by biased reporting or that political discourse gets steered in a way that might not only be in a way that I dislike, but might actively threaten my life. Finding hardware or software that supports my freedom might be harder, because “there isn’t any market for it” (i.e. most systems are closed away from open and collaborative systems and into centralized or walled gardens).

    Just because I don’t use those products doesn’t mean that those companies can’t affect me, because I live in a society, and having a large corporation that is essentially run like a dictatorship, having power over me, is a significant concern. And it’ll get worse as I get older, as I rely on tech that might not only help me stay alive, it might, like some medical devices like insulin pumps or pacemakers, might be essential for me to stay alive.

    1. etheric42 says:

      Epic allows other companies to sell keys for its store and does not charge a cut. Why do you believe they would do the same thing if they were in the same place?

      Google allows people to sideload. Nobody is twisting their arm. Most people probably don’t even know or care about it.

      Market pressure has pushed Steam to open its store to more and more developers, lowering the bar of entry to nearly nothing (in spite of a number of complaints by reviewers and developers already on Steam who might be crowded out).

      Just because there are some bad actors doesn’t mean everyone is.

      1. T-Boy says:

        I’m not saying that those companies are bad actors. I don’t care what they’re doing now. Much like one does not concern whether an organisation or a part of the government does or does not abuse the outsize power they have over human lives — the issue isn’t that they’re being bad now, but what happens when they stop being nice people and start abusing their powers. What are your recourses? What can you do to prevent them from going over the line? Who holds them to account? Who restrains their behaviour?

        We, of course, can only just react to bad actors as they happen, but honestly, that has rarely worked so well. That’s why U.S. Governance was originally run in such a way that its different bodies existed to counterbalance each other, and that your Founding Fathers were terrified of the emergence of another “King”-like figure, no matter how benevolent such a king would be. Sure your king today is good… but what happens when he stops being a king and starts being a tyrant?

        There’s a reason why treating these corporations as potential bad actors is useful in defining policy, because you cannot guarantee that they’ll be magnanimous and treat their customers and the public well. That’s not when it’s a problem. It’s when they pollute, or jack up prices on essential medication, or aid and abet human rights abuses, that you start asking questions about how to not have this happen again.

        1. etheric42 says:

          Sure, regulatory capture is a bad thing, tragedy of the commons is a classic failure mode, etc. But treating everyone as an enemy in such a low-trust fashion also leads to bad outcomes. Walking down the street looking at everyone as a potential mugger is a rough life to live without much compensation. US founding fathers (some of them at least, the ones quoted about the subject) creating a series of checks and balances was specifically to prevent problems in an entity that enjoyed a variety of monopolies stronger than any corporation could hope for.

          Yes, sure, having a set of rules for actions to take if someone becomes a bad actor is a good thing. We have laws against mugging even if we don’t treat everyone as a mugger. But your statement that “Sure, Epic is correct in stating how Apple behaves is anti-competitive, but would Epic not behave the same way as Apple does if it was in that position? Heck no. They’d do it.” is what I’m challenging, pointing out a circumstance where they absolutely could do that and they don’t. I’m not saying that Epic is uniquely virtuous or anything, but prevailing economic incentives do not push profit maximizes into solely abusive positions. Companies, and people, are diverse. This is good because we get a natural selection effect where the ideas that work well continue.

  34. Gethsemani says:

    We should remember that what Epic is pushing for isn’t to be able to cut Apple out entirely on purchases made in the Apple Store. What they want is for companies to have the option for in-app purchases to not have to go through Apple.

    To keep the WalMart analogy: If you wanted to sell a soda carbonation machine at WalMart, WalMart would get a cut off all the carbonation machines they sell. Now imagine that all those machines you sell via WalMart, and only those, had to have a modification installed that meant that customers could only buy new carbon cartridges from WalMart. They couldn’t go to any other store or even your company directly to buy new cartridges because of this. This is essentially what Epic is suing against, since the only way to get more V-Bucks if you use the Apple Store app is to use Apple Store. Fortnite was removed when Epic introduced the ability to buy V-Bucks directly via Epic and cutting out Apple entirely.

    I am not sure this means I’m on Epic’s side, but I can definitely see the grievance and potential claim of monopoly, especially in an ecosystem as closed as Apple’s products.

    1. Cubic says:

      “Now imagine that all those machines you sell via WalMart, and only those, had to have a modification installed that meant that customers could only buy new carbon cartridges from WalMart.”

      Basically like an HP printer then? (Perhaps others use this trick too.)

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        Exactly. Not sure about US law but in NZ we have laws which prohibit lock-in like this, so HP are not allowed to say that you must buy HP ink for HP printers. If other companies make HP compatible ink then that is allowed.

  35. Geebs says:

    I’m an Apple guy; I’ve been using Macs since before the PowerPC switch*. I don’t like much of Apple’s direction since about 2010, but I’m not about to stop buying their products just yet:

    1) the buy-in cost for Apple hardware is high, but for me it’s offset by not having to use Windows, not having to waste time thinking about what hardware to buy (when I’m working, if I spend more than a day thinking about this, I might as well have just bought a Mac; and I’m not even well paid), and the general reliability (my desktop is 10 years old, laptop is six years old, neither has ever broken down).

    2) iPads are the only worthwhile tablets. I have owned precisely one Android tablet, and the battery blew up. I have a six year old iPad which is still quicker than most Android tablets. iPad apps are an actual thing, cf. the terrible state of the Play store for tablets.

    3) I don’t want Google all up in my data. Apple offers some assurance that my data is private, although I expect that will change.

    4) Linux is great for a lot of things; being a desktop OS is not one of them. The application ecosystem for Linux is, again, not cost effective in terms of time wasted vs. the money I could have earned with that time. I’m probably going to build a Linux system to run R and a few other things which are better on Linux.

    5) the switch to Apple Silicon *ptooie* might actually break the deadlock on single thread performance we’ve been suffering under for the last ten years. No, multithreaded performance absolutely is not a substitute for my use cases.

    6) I own a Windows desktop for gaming, because I’m not an idiot, although for most of a decade my Mac Pro did double duty via Bootcamp, and very successfully. Unfortunately I have had a lot of bad experiences with AMD drivers (on Windows) and nVidia have been shut out of Apple’s ecosystem.

    7) I own enough Mac software at this point that switching OS would be more expensive than buying another Mac. Broadly, I’m cool with that.

    8) Personally I think the “walled garden” of iOS is worth it for the massive reduction in malware cf. the Google Play / sideload model. Yes, I could easily jailbreak. I’m not going to; I have confidential stuff on my phone, and I’m not going to risk that data leaking. The ability to perform my own security audit on Android / Linux software is completely worthless to me when I don’t have anywhere near the time to be able to do it.

    Re: the current unpleasantness; Apple are dicks, but at least Epic are getting something for their 30%. In contrast, Epic are nicking popular memes/dances off social media wholesale and not giving the original creators a dime, or even credit. Epic’s vbucks pay for nothing but stolen content, so I see no reason to side with them here. Given their pattern of behaviour over the last few years, I don’t believe for a second that the actual consumers will get anything of value out of this,

    *Before that I had an Atari ST, so you can deduce that I absolutely hate being able to play videogames.

    1. wumpus says:

      8) Personally I think the “walled garden” of iOS is worth it for the massive reduction in malware cf. the Google Play / sideload model. Yes, I could easily jailbreak. I’m not going to; I have confidential stuff on my phone, and I’m not going to risk that data leaking. The ability to perform my own security audit on Android / Linux software is completely worthless to me when I don’t have anywhere near the time to be able to do it

      I was hoping someone would make this point. One of the things you are buying when you buy an Apple product is security. There have been remarkably few issues with virii, exploits, and other malware with iPhones and iPads. The ostensible main reason for the Apple Store is to keep malware out of people’s expensive and, at this point for many of us, _mission critical_ phone/supercomputers.

      The real question being asked is whether Apple is abusing their control of the market for iOS apps (and, if so, whether the government should do something about it, or just leave vendors and consumers to punish Apple by leaving the platform).

      As an Apple user and developer myself, I’ve seen some serious bullshit from Apple at times, and when they were in a less dominant position, they paid dearly with losing marketshare. There have been times when I honestly couldn’t recommend their devices to anyone. (Including when I worked there, briefly, in the mid 90s.)

      On the other side of the coin, Apple really has been a central player in several of the major innovations of my lifetime, from the Apple II to the Mac to the laptop to the iMac to iTunes (remember when there was no legal market for digital music?) and the iPod to the iPhone and iPad. They (generally) do interfaces better than anyone else.

      (No, they are not for the lazy or apathetic. Most people buy refrigerators because they want to store food, not because they want to learn about refrigeration; most people buy computers because they want to read email or browse the web or play games or do their taxes, not because they want to learn about computing. This is not laziness or apathy, and it’s not good design to throw _all_ the switches and options at them when they just want to fucking write a simple letter. And with BSD under the hood these days, I assure you that all the damn switches and more are there if you want to get your hands dirty. As Geebs repeatedly stresses, for most people it’s a time/money tradeoff, and having (most) things just work, with the controls that 90% of users need readily available is worth the lack of hassle.)

      The App Store was, initially, a genius move. It created an entire thriving ecosystem that very, very rapidly took a new device with a new OS and supplied it with a whole universe of apps, bringing all sorts of new people to software development while still ensuring a reasonable level of quality and safety. One of the long standing (valid) criticisms of the Mac was the lack of available software. You don’t hear that said about iOS.

      Nowadays, though, the App Store is so dominant that yes, Apple does seem to be abusing its power to kill off apps it considers competition to its own, to be arbitrary, capricious, and unpredictably slow in its approval process, to set whatever rates it wants for purchases. They (think they) don’t _need_ the ecosystem anymore. They’ve also gone from having such compelling upgrades every year that basically everyone upgraded as soon as they could to having to force people to update so that they can keep the number of iOS (and macOS) versions in the wild down to a manageable number. We’re getting to the point where I can’t really recommend their products again, and I don’t know what fixes that this time. I really doubt it’s this Epic thing, though.

      1. pseudonym says:

        “And with BSD under the hood these days, I assure you that all the damn switches and more are there if you want to get your hands dirty. ”

        This is a misconception: there is no BSD under the hood. It just uses some BSD code to provide a POSIX-compliant interface. Other than that it its own thing and massively different. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMPXhUbmjYE

        1. wumpus says:

          Huh. I didn’t know that (though I did know that the kernel was mach, so I should’ve suspected it). Regardless, the point still stands that all the complexity is there for the tweaking if you are so inclined.

  36. Jared Smith says:

    Shamus:

    RE your confusion over the term “monopoly”:

    I think the problem is that you are looking at it from the perspective of a user, not the perspective of a developer, and from the perspective of a mobile developer looking to monetize Apple holds a ~75% market share because even with Android’s much larger popularity the iOS App Store revenues are 3x the Google Play revenues. That might not be a monopoly, but let’s use your Walmart example: there are now only two stores: Walmart and Target. Walmart is 3 times the size of Target so people have to do whatever Walmart wants or kiss 75% of potential revenue goodbye. So Walmart is going to attract a lot of complaints no matter what they do, and especially if they’re assholes about it.

    It’s no difference than the heydey of Windows back in the late 90’s/early aughts. Windows was never a monopoly for users, but if you wanted to make a lot of money selling end-user software you played Microsoft’s game. If you’re a gamedev and you’re not in the mobile or console space, you still have to today.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yes!

      This is exactly the answer I was looking for. I really wanted to figure out why so many people disagreed on the conclusions when they agreed on the facts.

      The charge of “monopoly” might still be technically incorrect, but it makes a lot more sense from the developer’s perspective.

      Thanks.

      1. Steve C says:

        I dislike all the companies here. I don’t use any of their products and I have no love for any of them.

        Your point about using the word “Monopoly” is both completely valid and invalid. Yes, another proper dictionary term is “Oligopoly”. However a company can be deemed to be an “effective monopoly” by the courts. And in the vernacular it’s shortened to “monopoly.” Case in point: Apple existed back when Microsoft got sued for being a monopoly and for pre-loading Internet Explore onto Windows. Netscape Navigator existed. And yes, today, in this situation and context Apple is almost assuredly a monopoly.

        To me, Epic trying to sell Fornite V-bucks on an Apple phone without paying Apple is like me wandering into Walmart and selling wristwatches out of my trench coat. It makes total sense to me that you’re not allowed to do that.

        If that was the situation, then Epic would also be suing Valve over Steam’s 30% cut. It’s not that.[1] It’s all the terms and conditions of Apple places on any sales outside Apple. It touches into the concepts of Coercive Tied Selling and Refusal to Deal and Price Fixing. Plus Tortious Interference with Contract in the case of Google when they blocked Fortnite being pre-loaded onto OnePlus and LG phones. All of which are explicitly illegal in and of themselves separate from anti-trust (monopoly) legislation in many jurisdictions.

        All of this comes under the larger heading of Competition Law. Of which “monopolies” get the most exposure. Which makes sense because it is ‘effective monopolies’ that have brand recognition. Monopolies are typically the companies that try this stuff and effectively are the only ones that can get away with it long enough for it to make a major court case out of it.

        I’m cheering on Epic (a shit company I hate) because I will always cheer on Consumer Protection. I will also always angrily shake my fist at anything that comes close to touching Competition Law. It is wrong. It’s always wrong. Even when it is not technically illegal it is still Wrong, Evil, and Unfair. That’s why laws were created world wide to combat it centuries ago.

        (I stripped out the links to the concepts as I got hit by the spam filter.)
        [1] For Epic, it is that too.

      2. Dennis says:

        If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading Epic’s complaint; it’s understandable by laymen unfamiliar with the law or Fortnite’s business model: https://cdn2.unrealengine.com/apple-complaint-734589783.pdf

        Epic is hardly the only one having an issue here. I think Hey is a compelling case; Apple ultimately backed off because of the PR ahead of the antitrust hearings: https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/16/21293419/hey-apple-rejection-ios-app-store-dhh-gangsters-antitrust

        Yes, people are frequently misusing the word monopoly. Epic (correctly) argues that Apple holds monopolies on iOS App Distribution and iOS App Payment Processing. It’s also important to note that antitrust doesn’t require a monopoly. Over the past 40 years, US antitrust law has shifted from concern about market share (is a company too large for others to have a chance to compete) to concern about prices (would stuff cost less if there was more competition). I recommend this three-part episode from Planet Money: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/03/20/704426033/antitrust-in-america

        Amazon takes a loss on every (physical) book they sell; this kills bookstores that can’t subsidize prices with AWS revenue. In the eyes of the law, this is fine, because books are cheaper. The same goes for Walmart choking out local businesses in a small town; it’s not an issue because prices are the same or lower.

        Epic made it pretty clear that Apple was driving prices up, as they now charge less for their currency on other platforms. Epic’s goal is to force Apple to allow sideloading of applications / app stores. This would let them launch Epic Games Store for iPhones, then they can take a cut of game sales. Like on PCs, discoverability isn’t a huge issue because they have Fortnite. Then again, they tried to get people to sideload Fortnite on Android (so they wouldn’t have to give Google a cut).

        Off-topic: I’m working to cut the adtech giants out of my life, and I’m down to just Android, Google Maps, and YouTube. The lack of sideloading is the main thing keeping me from buying an iPhone, beyond Apple’s prices and design choices. Android has tons of great open-source applications that aren’t allowed on Apple’s app store. For example, you can put a web browser on the App store, but it has to use Safari’s rendering engine. I use FireFox on Android because it works with uBlock Origin.

      3. DaveMc says:

        I just want to point out the existence of a vocabulary word that I became aware of only recently: a *monopsony* is a situation where there is (or effectively is) only one *buyer* in a market (the classic example is the “company town” where a single company is the sole employer, so they are the only buyer of labour) (or “labor”, if you insist).

        Beyond fun vocab-building, it does seem a little relevant here: the owner of an app store is acting as the sole entity that can purchase (or control the purchase of) all apps.

    2. MaxEd says:

      I disagree about your comparison with Windows development/distribution.

      First, “Microsoft’s game” was never as all-encompassing as Apple’s. They never asked for a cut of your profits, because they never had (a successful) store for apps (in 90’s and 00’s, because there were no such thing; today, because they suck at creating app stores). Consequently, Microsoft never really had a say in what was allowed on Windows. You could (and many did) develop a pornographic game and distribute it from your website, accepting payments using whatever provider would have you. It worked in favor of MS, yes, but they became a “monopoly” by having a very open platform, and so were never in position to do much about it from software developer’s point of view. In fact, they sometimes became hostages to developers and users, for example, when both refused to give up on Windows XP for too many years, forcing Microsoft to support it.

      Microsoft did abuse the status of Windows as the most popular OS, by taxing hardware vendors for pre-installing Windows on their computers. I’m a bit unclear on how that worked, because here in Russia we never bought PCs ready-made from stores, much less with pre-installed Windows, but instead went to various small companies where a PC was assembled from individual components (and a pirated Windows copy installed). So I’m not sure if the tax applied only to real sales of assembled PCs, or to “potential” sales (e.g. one motherboard = one potential Windows install). If it was the later, then that “Microsoft tax” seems pretty fair to me, and any way, it’s not even close to what Apple is doing.

      Second, while Windows is still THE target platform for any PC game developer, it was never as locked-down as Apple’s. With Unity, you can even build your game for Windows on Linux, and you can do the same if you’re using your own engine written in C/C++ (via MinGW-powered cross-compilation; and you can test on Wine).

      1. Jared Smith says:

        @MaxEd That’s a good retort. I still don’t like being forced to work around Microsoft’s buggy broken platform (Apple does much better there at least) but you are 100% correct that at least they don’t gatekeep content.

        I wonder why people aren’t as whiny about Valve’s cut of Steam revenue? Maybe just because they’re nicer about it?

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I wonder why people aren’t as whiny about Valve’s cut of Steam revenue? Maybe just because they’re nicer about it?

          They do. To the degree that EGS has any popular support at all, it’s mostly because their cut of sales is lower than Steam’s. Many people just think Steam legitimately adds extra value for that cut (or they appreciate Steam’s added values without caring about the particulars of revenue sharing)

        2. MaxEd says:

          Aren’t they? Epic, I think, advertised their smaller cut as a major draw for developers, and there was a lot of discussion about it then. Also, nobody stopping any developer from offering their game outside of Steam. Major studios do physical CD releases, and indies used to do business on their own sites, before Steam began to allow everyone in. Some still do.

          1. Mistwraithe says:

            Exactly. This is precisely why game developers are keen on the Epic store, because Valve/Steam have been screwing over game developers for a decade now with their 30% cut. Consumers seem to think that Epic are strong arming developers into taking these exclusive deals, but I believe most game developers WANT Epic to succeed and become a viable rival to Steam. Then maybe Steam will be forced drop it’s cut to a more reasonable level and game developers will get a better return on their games.

      2. Boobah says:

        On the ‘Windows Tax:’

        As I understand it, as far as Microsoft was concerned any PC sold that could run Windows, would run Windows, and if they didn’t get paid for that copy of Windows, it was running pirated Windows. So if you wanted to sell PCs with Windows pre-installed, you had to charge your customers for a copy of Windows on every PC you sold, even if that particular PC didn’t come with a copy of Windows. Yes, as Dell (then the biggest US seller of x86 PCs) learned, even if the PC came with some other OS pre-installed.

  37. Gman says:

    Very anti-Apple, mostly for their shitting business practices a this point. Haven’t used an Apple product in close to a decade now, I think. But I’m also anti-Epic in this as well. It’s a slap fight between billion dollar companies over how easily they can take advantage of people who are susceptible to FOMO and social pressures on Fortnite. Epic is doing a truly horrible thing by trying to reframe this as some kind of revolution, which thus far makes them objectively worse. Apple hasn’t done anything(that I know of) in this fight other than enforce their ToS.

  38. Echo Tango says:

    Apple phones cost upwards of $800, and I got my Android for ~$50.

    The flagship Android phones are also around this price. The non-Google ones are something like $400-$700, and the Google ones are around $800 and higher[0]. For example, I bought my phone as the previous-year’s model, while also on sale from Xmas, and it was about $450 CAD (about $340 USD). The main reason I ponied up the dough, was that only Google upholds at least two years of OS updates for their phones, and with other companies, I found it was hit-and-miss[1], if a particular model would keep getting updates. The longer my phone lasts, the cheaper the amortized cost. :)

    [0] The really expensive phones, are souped-up ones that you can use to play battle royales. It seems to be more common in Asian countries, to use a phone rather than a dedicated computer for gaming. Like, not everyone does it, but in North America I think it’s almost never done.
    [1] By reading reviews and top-ten lists.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Man, I forget how much we Europeans get screwed over. $800 is €670 at the moment. A flagship phone currently retails around €1100, and that’s *not* for the more expensive version.

      1. Lino says:

        Yeah, that’s why when some of my uni classmates did a Work And Travel in the US, a lot of them had bought a bunch of electronics. There are even some people who buy extra, just so they can sell it off.

      2. Moridin says:

        To be entirely fair, a large part of the difference is because in EU, VAT/sales tax is included in the list price, whereas in the US it isn’t.

        1. Boobah says:

          While I can’t say for sure in the EU, for Canadians they are supposed to declare what they brought back from the States and pay VAT at customs. In fairness, foreigners who buy stuff in Canada can use the same process to get their VAT rebated, IIRC.

          Sales tax is almost never part of the list price in the US (I’ve seen some little hole-in-the-wall sized stores list post-tax prices) but it’s still charged at point of sale. Although since it isn’t a Federal tax, the rates vary depending on state and municipality; Alaska doesn’t have a sales tax (alphabetical order, yo!), New York has a 4% tax, and NYC has a 4.875% tax on top of the state tax.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      Because of how open the system is, there are actually a lot of great mid-tier Android phones or budget Android phones that just don’t have Apple counterparts. Entire companies have grown in the space of the mid-tier Android phone market, perhaps most notably OnePlus.

      If you can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of money on a phone but want an iPhone, then your option is basically ‘get an old iPhone’, which is bad because you’re running older versions which are incompatible with some newer apps, and you’re closer to the day of no support, and you’re probably buying second hand which introduces all sorts of potential issues. If you can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of money on an Android phone there is a plethora of options available to you. Although high-end Android phones cost the same as, if not more than the high-end iPhones.

    3. wumpus says:

      I was also hoping someone would point out that $50 Android phone != $800 iPhone.

      One of the nightmares of trying to make cross-platform software (instead of iOS only) is that while ‘iPhone’ means any of maybe a dozen pieces of hardware at any one time, with maybe four distinct OS versions you need to support, ‘Android phone’ means…oh god shoot me now. There are comparable Android phones to the iPhone; they cost comparable amounts.

  39. etheric42 says:

    This feels similar to the John Deere “right of repair” fight. With Deere tractors you can’t repair them unless you have a specific program and that program is only given out to company/contracted repair people. Even if the repair isn’t a software issue, you brick your tractor by opening it up and messing with things unless you pay Deere a fee to fix something you could have fixed yourself.

    Apple does something similar. Not only does each iteration of phone have different features that make it difficult for non-Apple repair-people to repair them, but unless you go through their store, you can’t add whatever app you want, sometimes for any price. Imagine Windows 95 not only pre-installing Internet Explorer, but also preventing Netscape from being installed at all.

    I’ve been working on something for the tabletop world that involves mobile devices for the past couple of years. I would love to give my potential customers the ability to buy one place and then use anywhere regardless of platform. I wonder how Netflix does it?

    record scratch

    Wait. In late 2018, Netflix (and Spotify) stopped letting people sign up through the IOS app and instead directed subscribers to their website to sign up. Thereby getting around the Apple Tax. Why didn’t Epic just do that? Why isn’t Microsoft doing that right now? What’s different about the Apple contract that subscription services are able to get away with it, but games aren’t?

    In fact, I remember when the Steam Remote Play app came out, it was banned from the Apple store but was restored on appeal. Do Netflix/Spotify/Valve simply have more weight to throw around than Epic/Microsoft?

    1. Gethsemani says:

      Because you can stream media via a web browser relatively easily. Apple doesn’t allow downloading of apps that aren’t on the Apple Store however, so if you want to run a program on an Apple device, you need to go through the app store. It is a slight hassle to get on Safari to use Netflix instead of opening a dedicated app, but it’d be a nightmare to play Fortnite via a web page.

      1. etheric42 says:

        But you can get a Netflix iPhone app. You just have to subscribe via browser but once you do so you can still use the app.

        Why can’t Fortnite use a a webpage store and then just have a free app that connects to your store account?

        1. Chad Miller says:

          Netflix is considered a “reader app” which gets an exemption. The cynical explanation is that Apple carved out huge apps like Kindle and Netflix because otherwise someone bigger than Epic would have filed a similar suit already.

          Compare: https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/16/21293419/hey-apple-rejection-ios-app-store-dhh-gangsters-antitrust

          1. etheric42 says:

            Thanks for the link, it also led me to this article:

            https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/17/21293813/apple-app-store-policies-hey-30-percent-developers-the-trial-by-franz-kafka

            Which mentions that Dropbox is a “reader” app. How bizarre.

        2. Fizban says:

          It was mentioned somewhere above that there’s a category of “reader” apps that are allowed to dodge the bullshit- “reader” probably means that the app is itself just a shell of sorts reading the same webpages you’d view with a browser, so Apple begrudingly lets some exist for the big names that lack of access to would offend a significant number of customers.

    2. Steve C says:

      In late 2018, Netflix (and Spotify) stopped letting people sign up through the IOS app and instead directed subscribers to their website to sign up. Thereby getting around the Apple Tax. Why didn’t Epic just do that?

      Because they can’t. Epic tried. That’s one of the things they tried to do. Apple removed their apps anyway. Other app developers also tried the same thing and were removed. Why could Netflix and Spotify do it? Power and clout. They’re special. Which again leads into the lawsuit.

  40. Benden says:

    iPhones “just work” and they work for a long time. My 5s still runs the most recent iOS; I only upgraded to this SE over a broken screen. I never have to do any ‘work’ on the device. My dad is forever trying some new technique to get whatever he wants installed on or uninstalled from his Android—which is newer than either of my phones and can no longer seem to take a system update, though he’ll be quick to say he hasn’t taken it to the store to be sure. Why would you want to have to take it to the store to be sure?

    I guess it’s basically like this: after years of managing home and workplace networks and servers and computers with no or good-as-none dedicated IT service (and I am not an IT worker by trade, it’s just that this work has to get done and I was always capable of doing it), after having to do my own wiring to get out of my landline and onto VoIP back in the day, after all the IT work I’ve done that I didn’t want to do and wasn’t qualified to do but the company “providing the service“ wouldn’t do for me… I’m thrilled to have phones in my household that don’t present me with another IT job.

    And I don’t want any consumer product that does, if there’s any other option whatsoever. That’s not what I’m here to do anymore.

    1. etheric42 says:

      Your description of your father’s difficulty with installing and uninstalling apps on Android seems strange to me. “Normal” apps “just work”. However there are apps for Android that require root access or being sideloaded because they don’t meet the store guidelines. Both of those things are choices an Android user has above and beyond what an iPhone user has. The Android user has their “Just works” apps too, they just have a choice to use advanced apps as well.

      1. John says:

        Based on my experience with my previous Android phone, installing and uninstalling Android apps becomes fraught only when you have an older version of Android, start running out of storage, and need to carefully consider just which sets of apps you can still fit on your phone. In older versions of Android, you could transfer some apps to removable or expandable storage (i.e., an SD card) but apps which could push notifications needed to be on internal storage. As it is the nature of apps to push notifications, most apps needed to be on internal storage. As it is the nature of Google and app developers to constantly update apps, you will inevitably run out of internal storage sooner rather than later. Then it’s time for the hard choices and the “which supposedly vital Google apps and Android services can I disable in order to coax another year of use out of this phone?” My current Android phone, which runs a much newer version of Android does not make the same sort of distinction between internal and removable storage, thank goodness.

        But, yes, normal apps do indeed “just work”.

        1. Benden says:

          It’s probably that his phone is old and low-end, then. I’m kind of tickled that some of you shared your thoughts about this. If I can fix his woes with a new phone, that’s a win. And while it irks me that he has to replace his more often than I do mine, I’ll admit that the price difference probably balances that out.

          1. etheric42 says:

            I recommend Swappa.

            Right as the Pixel 3 came out I picked up a used-but-near-mint-condition Pixel 1 XL for about $140. It still works great. At the time I found you got more bang for your buck by getting a previous year’s flagship model than the current year’s low-end model.

    2. Pylo says:

      “My 5s still runs the most recent iOS“
      No, it doesn’t.

  41. Bojan Ramadanovic says:

    Apple is not traditional monopoly.
    It is, however, something that is called ‘vertical monopoly’ whereby a company uses one component of the supply chain to push its customers other purchasing decisions.

    Equivalent would be if Ford put a stipulation that their cars can only be filled at Ford gas stations or perhaps even only parked at Ford parking lots (which are conveniently in front of Ford supermarkets).

    Sure, they are not a monopoly – you can still go buy a Toyota – but it is a hella uncompetitive/anti-consumer practice.

    Apple makes pretty good looking phones, it also makes OS that some people like very much. Some people *even* like the curation they do at their ap-store etc…

    What is dodgy is that you have to buy all of that in the bundle for no reason aside from Apple’s corporate strategy.

    It is beyond doubt that the consumer would benefit from being able to install Android (or Windows) on Apple hardware, or get apps without having to pay the additional 30% for Apple’s curation and download services.

    Sure you would not get ‘full Apple experience’ but that can be clearly labeled so that nobody gets confused – and those who want it would be at complete liberty to buy it just as it is today.

    The very reason Apple is fighting tooth and nail to maintain the walled garden is that if there were gates in the wall people would want to go through them.

    Here question is, if the corporate behavior should be legal even if it clearly acts against consumer interests.

    On one hand there is argument from liberty that it is not governments job to deal with such matters (although such argument could almost equivalently be made with regard to the traditional monopoly).

    On the other, Apple is a limited liability corporation – entity given all sorts of legal and commercial privileges on the premise that its existence serves public good. It stands to reason that those privileges can be revoked if the company acts in a way that is broadly inimical to the interests of its customers.

  42. DarthVitrial says:

    For me at least the only real point of interest would be maybe seeing apple knocked down a peg. And I’m curious to see the legal systems final say on App Store policies and overall locked down devices like iPhones (would a verdict in Epics favor mean apple can no longer require apps to be installed through their App Store? Would they need to allow random internet downloads?)
    I don’t really have a horse in the race, the only mobile game I care about is Fate/Grand Order.

  43. Wolle says:

    This seems like a good place to drop a link to this article by an actual lawyer: Why Epic Games and Fortnite Will Make Apple Pay for Apple Pay.

    It seems that the question of whether Apple is a Monopoly isn’t as important as most people assume.

  44. MaxEd says:

    As a developer who spent a good chunk of his career working on mobile games (thankfully, no longer), I absolutely hate Apple and everything they stand for. They actively try to prevent people from developing for their platform using other OSes and non-Apple hardware. Hackintoshes are illegal by Apple’s EULA, and all attempts to create a cross-compilation iOS toolchain on Windows so far proved to be too hard to implement and maintain (because Apple keeps changing things constantly). Also, it’s technically illegal to develop (or submit? I can’t remember the exact wording) an app for iOS on non-Apple hardware/software, so even if such toolchain was widely available, Apple could ban any developer using it on a whim).

    I also hate the buggy XCode (holy hell, it keeps crashing and crashing) and the whole business with certificates (which used to take incredible amount of time to sort out; they say it’s easier now). And the fact that new XCode versions are required for new iOS SDK versions, and XCode usually requires a fairly recent version of macOS, which might not be installable on an old Mac (this is an important consideration when iOS is not your company’s main platform, and all you have for building and testing iOS apps is an old Mac Air donated by the investor).

    As an user, I hate iOS, because I wasn’t able to do anything with an archive containing a e-book in epub format I downloaded in browser, because all apps are isolated and can’t share files, unless specifically designed to do so via some god-awful mechanisms. I get that it is more secure, but frankly – screw this kind of security.

    What’s worse, it seems likely that Apple is also planning to lock down their desktop OS, too. This is an awful idea, and should be smothered in the cradle. I very, very much hope that EU comes down on Apple like a ton of bricks, and they are forced to open up their system at least a little (though I’m not seeing it happening any time soon – how that fight for universal USB charger is going in EU, huh?).

  45. blerkface says:

    I think the bit you’re missing is that on an iPhone, you have to go through the Apple Store. Essentially you do not own the hardware you purchased. This is like every x86 machine being forced to give a cut to Microsoft, and you can only use the Microsoft Store to download software. It would be completely awful.

    I can use an Android instead of an iPhone, but that does not solve the problem, it just moves it from one awful megacorp to another. You get a price reduction in exchange for being spied on more thoroughly.

    It’s this insane modern mentality of someone selling a product, pretending it’s a service, and then charging regular fees so you can keep using a product you already paid for. Of course the corporations like this model, but it’s incredibly unfriendly to the customers. Laws have not caught up with this issue (yet), and when they do, a lot of these companies will see their stocks crash as their business model relies on practises which could become straight up illegal. Of course no C-level executive cares about tomorrow if they can make bank today.

    1. etheric42 says:

      You can get an Android phone and load storefronts other than the Google Play Store. Google does not get a cut from those other storefronts. You do have a choice, even if you don’t like the other consequences of that choice.

  46. Mike says:

    I’ve been a hardcore Apple user for the last 30 years. I’ve only purchased 2 non apple computers in that time. Apple has long charged a premium for its hardware in exchange for what many consider a more consistent and seamless experience. However it should be noted that my most recent computer is a non apple one. I plan on my next phone being a non apple phone as well. I have been very unhappy with the direction Apple has been going for the last few years. There is a fine line between security and freedom, and Apple has decided it serves its marketing (and maybe they actually think it is better for users) to go hard into security at the expense of freedom. I have also felt that as they have chased services revenue, their hardware and software quality have taken a sharp dive. I used to be happy paying a premium for what I considered a premium experience. The experience no longer feels premium. I have since switched to mostly Linux with a little Windows. The Linux experience is not nearly as clean and pretty as the Apple experience, but whenever i notice something clunky i can easily excuse it because it is free. Every time Apple does something extremely clunky it feels like a “Premium:” dagger twisting in my gut.

    I have never liked the App Store, but the 30% cut isn’t my issue with it. To me it is about control. In the name of security modern Apple limits not only what software is available for use, but what features are able to use. And they can cut of apps at any time for any reason. Even the Mac isn’t safe. The latest versions of the OS require notarization to install software, or they display scary messages like “You should not use this software it will damage your computer”. Apple very recently “Accidentally” revoked a developers certificates, making all of his notarized software break. They completely shut down his business, his apps wouldn’t even run.

    Apple has also been heavily pushing services revenue as their new form of grown, since iPhone sales have been leveling off. Their “Monopoly” is that since they control the only store that a billion devices connect to, they can make arbitrary rules that benefit their own software at the expense of both users and developers. The app store is not an even playing field, even though Apple says it is in their marketing. Apple’s apps do not pay a 30% cut, can use private API’s and can get extra exposure in the store. Apple also loves to block apps and its defense is that it is just enforcing the rules. It conveniently forgets to mention that Apple wrote the rules, and could change them at any time.

  47. Allen Gould says:

    I have this feeling Epic hasn’t thought this through, because if they can avoid the T&C for using Apple’s services… why couldn’t we avoid the T&C for using Epic’s services? Gooses and ganders and all that.

    As for OS/machines, Within sight of my desk I have stuff running Windows, Mac, Android, Linux.. there’s an old iOS phone in a drawer somewhere. They’re all good in some ways and bad in others. Yes, Macs don’t let you monkey with their stuff – on the other hand, you don’t have to monkey with their stuff. Linux/GNU gives you complete control in fine-grained detail… but that means you spend a lot of time having to tinker to get things to work. If you just need a commuter car to get from A to B, why buy a car that requires tweaking and tuning every weekend? (Unless that’s how you like spending your time, in which case you do you.)

    If you buy an Apple device, you get the Apple Store. Complaining that there isn’t a second store is like complaining your XBox games don’t run on your Playstation.

    1. etheric42 says:

      I feel kind of silly to keep repeating this, but I keep seeing this show up in the conversation:

      Other storefronts sell Epic keys.

      Epic gets 0 cut of those keys.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Where do they get the Epic keys?

        1. etheric42 says:

          Presumably the same place all the third party Steam key sellers do (like Green Man Gaming or Fanatical or Humble). They get them from the developer who then gets them from Epic.

          So yes, at a certain level, Epic’s T&C applies, but it applied to get on the store in the first place.

          If the goalpost is Epic wants people to load whatever game they want onto their iPhone, then this isn’t hypocritical because if you want a game that Epic doesn’t sell, Epic does not try to stop you from loading it onto your PC.

          If the goalpost is Epic wants to use Apple content delivery to deliver content that Apple normally approves of but without the continuing cut, then this isn’t hypocritical because they allow other storefronts to sell content that they then have to deliver without taking their cut.

  48. Jeff says:

    Even throughout high school, I had always strongly believed Apple had superior hardware – which was why they cost more. They were used for high end graphics stuff like movies and such.

    Then smartphones came out while I was in university, and my mom got an iPhone. It was the most infurating piece of garbage to troubleshoot. Samsung phones had 2 buttons in addition to the Home button, a Settings and a Back. (They used to be physical, now they’re software and the Settings button is a “running apps” button.) It was trivial to manage literally any apps on the latter, because it had that universal Settings button.

    On the iPhone though, it was a maze of convoluted garbage. Half the settings I needed to fix for my mom would be in a Settings app and the other half would be in the app itself, accessed through some arcane app-specific combination of voodoo. I’m talking about settings involving e-mail here, not some niche app. Why the heck were half the needed settings in Mail and half the needed settings in Settings? It’s nonsense! It’s all in one page on a PC program like Thunderbird!

    Also while some apps had a proper Back button on their app-specific UI, some didn’t and gave you no clean way to return to a previous page or even exit the app. My parents eventually switched to Android phones and had ZERO issues from the change. A retired tech-illiterate couple can go from iOS to Android with no difficulties while I (studying computer engineering at the time) had been reduced to ranting in frustration when trying to get an iPhone to deal with the most basic setup for e-mail.

    Apple switching from their own hardware to the rest of us non-Apple peasents while charging the same price only furthered the idea that they were basically scamming the gullible. I have a buddy that still uses iPhones, and I’ve never been impressed. The hardware remained inferior to my equivilant-generation Galaxy, at a higher price point, with less user control.

    They do look nice, though. Very stylish.

  49. RFS-81 says:

    I’m a new iPhone user. Didn’t see that coming myself, actually. Previously, I had an Android phone on which I installed alternative operating systems, first CyanogenMod (RIP), then LineageOS. I used mainly open source applications from F-Droid plus a couple of side-loaded proprietary apps like WhatsApp and Signal. (Technically open source, but they’re pretty hostile towards forks and third-party clients talking to their servers.)

    Due to COVID-19, me and my colleagues mostly work from home and not everybody can be at the office at the same time. My employer now requires us to use an app to reserve a working space and check in. I couldn’t get it to work on my old phone. I don’t know if the OS version is too old, or if it’s missing some proprietary bit of Google software, or if the app contains a check for rooted devices. Since the battery in my old phone was already extremely weak, I decided to buy a new one, and I don’t want to fuss with it because I need to run this app. I chose an iPhone for privacy reasons. Apple is in the business of selling devices, Google is in the business of harvesting data.

    I’m still not a fan of the whole walled-garden thing. I certainly wouldn’t replace my desktop or laptop with an Apple device. But I’m pretty happy with my new phone so far.

    Regarding Apple being expensive, the iPhone SE (2020) cost me 540 Euro which seemed not that unreasonable to me. The main complaint from reviews, besides “bezels are sooo 2017”, is the battery life, which will be a problem if you watch multiple hours of YouTube on your phone while on the go. Tethering over Personal Hotspot also drains the battery uncomfortably fast, which is something I’m a bit more concerned about…

    About the Epic thing, it would be nice if they can force Apple to make iOS more open, but let’s be realistic, the most that will happen is Epic getting special treatment on the AppStore. The whole panic about Epic recruiting children for a harassment campaign with their stupid publicity stunt seems overblown to me.

  50. Raygereio says:

    If you’re an Apple user: Love them or hate them?

    After having briefly supported a user with a apple computer at work I never want to touch the damned things ever again.
    But I have an iphone & ipad for personal use and I just… like them? They function well.

    Also, Apple’s marketing should just be “Our products don’t come with preloaded crap”. Every android device I’ve seen from friends, family and coworker seems to come with shitty adware on it.
    My coworker splurged on 1000,- android phone that has adds in the phone app. Completely bonkers.

    1. MaxEd says:

      All phones from Android One program are clean. I have a Nokia 3.1, and while it has its drawbacks (eh, it’s a 100$ phone, I didn’t expect much from it), it had no additional non-Google software pre-installed. Today, Nokia isn’t a very popular brand in US (it’s actually a Chinese phone company masquerading as a Finnish one these days), I think, but it’s rising, and recently received new large investments from Google and Qualcomm. I think I’m going to stay with them when time comes to replace my device.

  51. Dude Guyman says:

    I despise Windows, but I use it anyway because it’s really the only viable OS for covering mainstream PC gaming.

    I dualboot windows for the same reason. But linux has been making huge leaps and bounds in this area in just the last year alone, thanks mainly to steam. I’d say maybe 75% of my steam library (of 700+ games) works either natively or with proton with no fiddling, beyond just ticking one box to make proton launch with all games instead of the dozen or so it’s set on by default. I mainly play indie games, though. I have no idea how it works with modern AAA stuff like assassins creed or whatever, so your mileage may vary.
    I should mention, my system is on the upper end and far beyond the recommended requirements for pretty much everything on the market, and yet on some games I may sometimes struggle to hit 60fps or have slight stuttering issues. I can see this being a much bigger problem if you have a more mid range machine. Lack of driver support and proton having a bit of a performance tax can be an issue.

    Still, for all that, things have changed a huge amount in a very short period of time. Compared to just a year or two ago, I hardly ever need to boot up windows for playing games anymore. There’s still room for improvement but it seems hopeful to me.

  52. Dragmire says:

    I don’t hate Apple, I just had a few annoyances when dealing with their products in the past. A place I worked at in the past had Apple computers with 1 button mice. All the programs I used required lots of right clicks which I meant command clicks. I know, it’s a really petty complaint.

    The other was dealing with iTunes. I had constant issues using it with a windows PC and it did its’ best to hide the music I bought.

    I never really had any issue with the 30% fee to sell a product at a store but I’m not a developer so I’m not really invested in it one way or the other.

    Never played Fortnite, competitive games are too stressful for me.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I don’t think it’s petty, a one-button mouse sounds really limiting.

      1. Benden says:

        The one-button mouse hasn’t been standard Mac equipment since the aughts.

        1. Dragmire says:

          That’s about right. I was working with that mouse in 2006.

  53. Steve C says:

    I dislike all the companies here. I don’t use any of their products and I have no love for any of them.

    Your point about using the word “Monopoly” is both completely valid and invalid. Yes, another proper dictionary term is “Oligopoly”. However a company can be deemed to be an “effective monopoly” by the courts. Case in point: Apple existed back when Microsoft got sued for being a monopoly and for pre-loading Internet Explore onto Windows. Netscape Navigator existed. And yes, today, in this situation and context Apple is almost assuredly a monopoly.

    To me, Epic trying to sell Fornite V-bucks on an Apple phone without paying Apple is like me wandering into Walmart and selling wristwatches out of my trench coat. It makes total sense to me that you’re not allowed to do that.

    If that was the situation, then Epic would also be suing Valve over Steam’s 30% cut. It’s not that.[1] It’s all the terms and conditions of Apple places on any sales outside Apple. It touches into the concepts of coercive tied selling and Refusal to Deal and Price Fixing. Plus tortious interference with contract in the case of Google when they blocked Fortnite being pre-loaded onto OnePlus and LG phones. All of which are explicitly illegal in and of themselves separate from anti-trust legislation in many jurisdictions.

    All of this comes under the larger heading of Competition Law. Of which “monopolies” get the most exposure. Which makes sense because it is ‘effective monopolies’ that have brand recognition. Monopolies are typically the companies that try this stuff and effectively are the only ones that can get away with it long enough for it to make a major court case out of it.

    I’m cheering on Epic (a shit company I hate) because I will always cheer on Consumer Protection. I will also always angrily shake my fist at anything that comes close to touching Competition Law. It is wrong. It’s always wrong. Even when it is not technically illegal it is still Wrong, Evil, and Unfair. That’s why laws were created world wide to combat it centuries ago.

    [1] For Epic, it is that too.

  54. Erik says:

    I’m going to come at this from a completely different angle, which may or may not be interesting.

    The key to the titular question is actually definitional: what is a monopoly? There are two answers, and people conflating them is part of the problem. One answer is from Anti-Trust law, where a monopoly is defined as a single company or a cartel of companies with market penetration above some critical threshold. The other answer comes from economics, which is less concerned with whether or not someone can prove active coordination and more concerned with whether or not there is market distortion as a result.

    Interesting, in relatively recent research (within the last decade, and I think within the last 5 years), economists have been able to take the big datasets that are now available and demonstrate clearly that the threshold for a healthy market is 5 or more active competitors. With 4 competitors, the share of costs taken as profit by the companies goes up significantly, and at 3, 2, or (of course) 1 market participant the profit share skyrockets as the pressure from competitors to hold prices low becomes less and less relevant.

    But this is still potentially obsolete since software is a unique good, for all the reasons you’ve cited in all your DRM posts. Information is uniquely non-rival – if I give you all of my data, I don’t lose any of it. I can give it away (for a price, if desired) as many times as I like and I still have as much data as I started with. Whether that data is statistics or executable code, anything stored as information on a drive is very different from a physical product. And that difference is just beginning to be dealt with within the academic economics community. The first papers exploring what that means have been starting to come out, but there’s not even a consensus that this is an immediate problem, much less what the solution to the problem may be.

    So is Apple a monopoly? Legally, no. They are the leader only in profit, not in units shipped (Samsung or Huawei, I think) or mobile OS market share (Android). Do they act as a monopolistic player in the market? Yes, absolutely – the use of the App Store as a private gate to the platform is certainly from the monopoly playbook. (Though don’t forget – the App Store didn’t ship with the iPhone. It didn’t appear until around 2 years later, with the update for the iPhone 3G.) And on the third hand, they only control the apps on the hardware they built, which is not any different from the XBox store, or the shares demanded by PlayStation or Nintendo. (And thus the quote from President Truman, “Give me an economist with only one hand!”)

    A lot of this also hinges on how you view your phone: is it a communications device with extra features, or is it a general purpose computer that happens to fit in your pocket and has dedicated communications gear attached? If the former, then not allowing anyone else to process payments through your device is completely normal behavior – you don’t want anyone else charging calls to your phone. If the latter, then restricting payment options is crazy and a travesty. Most of the industry views it the first way; many of the users (especially the younger ones) view it the second way. And I think we’re in a period of transition from one to the other, and we’ll need to speak out and apply pressure if we want to influence the final outcome.

  55. Jeff says:

    I am sympathetic to Apple because of the the major tech companies I deal with, they and Amazon are the only ones who treat me like an actual customer. To Facebook and Google I am transparently a product to be sold to advertisers, and Microsoft gives the sense that they deal with me only because broader market share protects their enterprise business.

    On top of that, in my professional workflow, the advantages of the MacOS software ecosystem are sufficiently profound to pay for the (arguably) more expensive hardware many times over, and subjectively Apple products tend to be more pleasant to use for me than their PC/Android equivalents.* (And because of Android fragmentation, the iPhone is by far the most relevant single reference device for mobile.)

    *Except for computer gaming, alas.

    1. Benden says:

      Statement above describes my experiences and situation as a professional using Macs for work and iOS for personal devices well!

  56. Thomas says:

    Given Apple have just threatened to cut-off access for everyone to the Unreal engine on iOS _and_ Macs, I’d have to guess that Epic have a very very strong case that Apple is a monopoly, because that is a batshit illegal dumb desperation move.

    EDIT: Well threatened Epic with not allowing them to make updates to the Unreal engine

  57. Cubic says:

    I entered Apple’s walled garden at a time when their prices were quite fair and the gear worked like a top-class laptop with Linux-like except the hardware and software just worked. Very pleasant, and I have continued the trend with acquiring ipads, iphones, etc.

    However, at this time I’ve lost my previous placid enthusiasm a bit. The software works reasonably well as a rule, but diverges more and more from plain Unix. Certain utilities and tools can quietly die without any easily located mitigation except rebooting. I’m not an Apple dev so I haven’t even suffered from XCode. Prices seem to have steadily risen, so now a Mac is not a nice bargain but an expensive piece of work. Apple also had a half-decade fetish for crappy keyboards that ruined your laptop if you were unlucky, which is hair raising if you’re paying top dollar. My ipad ‘pro’ fell a couple of feet and cracked its screen, repairing which would cost about the same as buying a new one. I haven’t yet switched, but have delayed my purchases for those reasons.

    1. wumpus says:

      Oh god, the keyboards – I’d blocked that out of my memory. WTF, Apple. Keyboards are _functional_ devices, not pieces of art.

  58. General_Karthos says:

    I use an Apple computer. I’m typing this from a computer that is five years old, and runs just fine. It doesn’t run shooters with incredible graphics, but then I don’t play shooters. I’m probably going to need to get a new computer to play “Crusader Kings III” because the system requirements for games I DO play are finally catching up to and surpassing my system.

    So I’ve been checking out the price on Apple computers and remembering the last time I did this five years ago, and I am VERY much considering going away from Apple because the systems are overpriced. But I’d be unable to migrate my system if I did leave Apple, so I’m stuck in a bit of a quandary. Of course, I could buy a new computer and keep the old one. But I don’t have enough space available to set up ANOTHER computer. Eh, it’s something I’m going over and over again in my head and going round and round on it. In the end, it’ll probably come down to affordability, and that means getting an alienware machine or something like that. But I do like the all for one set up that you get with a mac. No need for a tower or a bunch of cables to connect things. I’ve got one cord connecting my computer and monitor to the power. (Having just recently set up a work PC, which cost me almost nothing and is virtually useless for anything except my work, and all the associated cables, I appreciate that.) I also really, really like the OS far more than Windows 10.

    It’s not like I’m tied down to apple and product compatibilities. I don’t use any other apple products. I have an amazon firestick plugged into my TV and I use a google phone. I also have an Amazon Fire Tablet with a bluetooth keyboard. COMBINED, these things cost me less than an apple phone alone. (Granted, I shopped for good deals and got lucky with a one hour online flash sale for my tablet.) I don’t have an mp3 player, and if I were to get one, it’d probably be an iPod, but I’m not sure, because I haven’t looked at mp3 player prices in many years.

    In the end, the very thing keeping me from leaving is the price of a new computer, but that will cease to be an issue by the end of the year. I just need to decide whether to blow all my extra cash on a new Mac, or save some of that money and go for something else. Seems like this would be an easy decision, but it’s not.

  59. Johannes says:

    This lawsuit isn’t about selling stuff in someone else’s store, it’s about running software on your own computer. For all their shortcomings, mobile phones are full, general-purpose computers, if not for one thing: there’s someone controlling what you can and can not run on these devices. The thing Epic is after is allowing users the freedom to install software on their own devices, that they paid their own $800 for. Which, currently, isn’t allowed, because Apple doesn’t like it. Or wants to make the software themselves, or because it’s not prude enough for the evangelical American market. There are easily-found examples for each of these items.

    I own neither an Apple device nor do I play Fortnite. But I cheer for Epic because they fight for the users’ freedoms.

    1. Raygereio says:

      But I cheer for Epic because they fight for the users’ freedoms.

      This statement is amazing to me, because it just highlights how effective good marketing and PR is.

      Seriously, Epic is not your friend. They’re not fighting for you, or any other user. They’re fighting so Tim Sweeney can swindle more money and get bigger profits.
      None of this story is about good vs evil. It’s a corporation who only wants your money and doesn’t give a shit about you, having a slapfight with another corporation who only wants your money.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        I think you’re conflating motivation with consequences.

        The sad truth is that when you’re talking about entities this large, anyone who can make a dent is going to be some massive entity driven by amoral people. And that’s about the most I can say without going full Political Discussion here.

        1. Raygereio says:

          Ok, then only talk about consequences.
          The consequence of this will not be improved user rights. Most likely Epic & Apple will reach a settlement where Epic gives Apple a big pile of cash and in exchange Epic has more freedom to squeeze their user base for more money.

          None of what’s happening here is for our benefit.

          1. Richard says:

            That’s why I really, desperately want this to go to court.
            A settlement will only benefit Epic, not consumers.

  60. Paul Spooner says:

    The problem I have with Apple is it feels like a cult. They have shrines, priests, doctrines, and it’s impossible to argue with their acolytes. Plus you basically have to start over from square one if you want out of their ecosystem, because they make it a huge hassle to export your data. Is Apple the Dark Souls of computing hardware manufacturers?

    1. wumpus says:

      I’m shocked that someone who characterizes Apple users as cultists has trouble arguing with them. Wonder why that could be?

      1. tmtvl says:

        No, I think the cult comparison is a consequence, not a cause.

        1. Benden says:

          I submit that it’s a vicious circle, but Paul could easily get out of it in the right company.

    2. Shas'Ui says:

      As someone who’s wandered the threads of iPod-troubleshooting, I strongly agree with the cult aspect: because it’s a magic box that us mere mortals aren’t allowed to understand/meddle with, when something goes wrong, you wander the halls of the similarly-damned, searching among the many varied, frenzied rituals they use to try to appease the device. For me, it turned out that the way to be able to synchronize music again was to disable and enable synchronizing photos. Did I know why that fixed it? Will I every understand what went wrong in the first place? Is there any explanation as to why this works other then someone desperate throwing everything at the wall and somehow stumbled onto a fix? Of course not.

      On the other hand, it did its job well, and with fewer issues than my new android. Never had any issues recognizing the SD card (as it couldn’t take one). The default apps seemed a bit better put-together, and covered more tasks. Somewhat monopolistic, in the Internet Explorer fashion, but there was some convenience in having a well made app already there rather than browsing through a crowded store of “free” apps crying out with their unique features. I still somewhat miss Itunes, before it transitioned to apple music; when I switched I tried to find something similar for android and had to sort through a dozen to find one that worked & didn’t have ads everywhere.

      On the gripping hand, I doubt I’ll ever go back. I’ll not bore everyone with my reasons why, but my most petty, and therefore interesting [*citation needed] is that on apple devices, they want to show off the logo. Fair enough, but when I’m buying the “I have a bad habit of dropping my phone from high places” level case, I don’t like that there’s a big window in the back for the logo. The chances of hitting that exact spot are minimal, but it still felt wrong to have a deliberate weak spot.

  61. Thomas says:

    A good way of seeing how dodgy Apple is is this: according to Apple’s terms of service Netflix shouldn’t be allowed on the iOS store. Because Netflix collects subscriptions for a service available on Apple without paying Apple money for those subscriptions, even thought Netflix collects those subscriptions entirely outside of Apple’s ecosystem.

    If a smaller developer tried to implement a subscription service for their app which you pay for on a PC (and the service is delivered across platforms), Apple can and has removed them from the iOS store.

    The only reason why they haven’t removed Netflix is they know Netflix would sue them for anti-competitive practices, and Netflix has enough money to win that case. Smaller develoeprs don’t.

    1. etheric42 says:

      And Spotify, and Steam.

      Actually, are you sure Apple is declining to enforce or maybe they just found a loophole?

      1. etheric42 says:

        So Netlix dumped the system back in early 2019 and not it appears in early 2020 they started allowing it… but not for subscription models like Netflix.

        https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/1/21203630/apple-amazon-prime-video-ios-app-store-cut-exempt-program-deal

        1. Thomas says:

          I like the line ‘Apple said the program has been “established” for some time and designed for “premium” providers that allows those companies to use their own payment methods and exist outside the App Store’s standard financial ecosystem.’

          “Premium” here stands for “able to sue the heck out of us for this”

  62. Scerro says:

    1. If you’re an Apple hater: What’s the source of your animosity? Strictly speaking, I’m not an Apple hater. However, I don’t use them because A) Price, B) Narrower Software range. The haters hate Apple most off of “Oversimplified UI”/Locked down OS (which is just a version of UNIX/Linux), which they’re charging money for. How dare they!

    2. For people cheering for Epic. The simple take here is that people who play Fortnite want it to be easily accessible. Those who do cheer on Epic seem to not understand the fact that Epic is making it hard for players by being extremely aggressive in business.

    3. If you’re an Apple user: Love them or hate them? I actually like Apple. I’m just not willing to spend the price. They truly do simplify things to the point where you only need to click one thing instead of 5. They make slick stuff. They make durable stuff. (My iPod touch 2nd gen from 12 years ago is still going). They support their stuff – Apple gives phones at least 5 years of updates, Good luck finding anyone else outside of Google that promises that and has half as good of a track record.

    Lets be fair – you get what you pay for. Apple is a Luxury, yes. But as you know with computer hardware (144Hz) there IS a bonus to paying a premium for your stuff. If you’re a person who uses your phone intensively 1hr or more daily, Apple is worth it.

    One very strange thing in all of this is that I have yet to see a single person express any affinity for Fortnite itself. I realize that this site skews towards story-driven games and away from PvP, but come on. This is one of the most popular games on the planet right now. Any fans out there?

    I have co-workers who played Fortnite before it became “the game” for the teen demographic. Your site demographic is very opposite leaning from what Fortnite is.

    1. Fizban says:

      This comment is second from the bottom as I type, and not one poster has said they play Fortnite yet, that I’ve noticed.

      1. Scerro says:

        Technically I guess I played it, but disliked how the primary factor to winning is building.

  63. Jabrwock says:

    “Apple phones cost upwards of $800, and I got my Android for ~$50.”

    I feel that’s focusing on the wrong thing. I realize the article is asking if Apple is a monopoly, but… Epic is also suing Google, for the same reason. That they’re a “monopoly” who’s demanding a cut of v-bucks sold through the app available via the Playstore.

    1. etheric42 says:

      There are overlapping reasons but different reasons between the two lawsuits.

      (Edited to be a bit more precise)

  64. Dev Null says:

    Apple doesn’t have a monopoly. But there are various laws designed to prevent monopolies from happening in the first place, which limit various forms of anti-competitive behaviour _before_ they get to the level of a monopoly. Apple getting a cut of what is sold in their store makes a certain amount of sense. But this is leavened by the facts that: 1) Apple makes a significant amount of hardware. 2) Apple won’t let you install any software on your Apple phone unless it comes through their store. So you can’t just go load Fortnight from a different store, because Apple won’t allow it. (Unless you jailbreak, but then you’re invalidating your warranty and losing some of the value of the phone.) And 3) They’re not trying to regulate what is sold in their store, they’re trying to regulate what you can do with those things _after_ you buy them in the store. It’s as if they said to Amazon “you can sell your app in our store, but we want a cut of the sale price _and_ of everything the user buys on Amazon using the app afterwards.”

    None of these things makes Apple a monopoly, but it can be argued that all 3 together make for an anti-competitive environment. There is no hard-and-fast definition for that; you just have to make your case in court.

    1. General_Karthos says:

      I think it’s more like telling Epic “you can’t develop a competitive and marketable platform for your games. We control a large portion of the market, and we’ll sell your game and your products, but it’s reasonable to give us a cut.” (I don’t even know if Epic games has a mobile distribution platform, and their personal computer platform is a tire fire.) And Epic Games says, “no, we demand to be able to use your platform to sell our products, and you don’t get to ask us for any money.” Like the old college friend who moves in, sleeps on your couch, eats your food, watches your TV, and doesn’t pay any rent. They get all the benefits of your house without having to pay anything.

      It’s not like Apple is selling land. Epic Games doesn’t own whatever chunk of bandwidth Apple has to give up to host it, and Apple is having to provide services for troubleshooting, technical support, etc. out of their own pocket. These things have costs, and if all of the profit goes to Epic Games, why should Apple keep supporting Fortnight? I mean, it’s just a red number for them, because nobody buys a phone these days for the games. Epic games makes money from people buying dances or hats or whatever it is that they sell, not from the game itself. If Epic Games isn’t making money from the game itself, but making all its money through microtransactions, it’s only fair for Apple to want a cut of that money.

      1. stratigo says:

        Apple’s Terms are far more onerous than this. They don’t dictate merely what you can sell on their platform, they dictate how you are able to sell that same product outside their platform or else they will remove you from their market dominating platform. Which is very much anti business, and it becomes rapidly anti consumer too.

        1. General_Karthos says:

          Oh. This I did not realize. Not really up on all this. Yeah, that’s pretty rabidly anti-consumer. I mean, it’s also some extremely powerful leverage with certain groups who need Apple’s market domination to make them successful. No wonder they have more money than the U.S. Government.

      2. Dev Null says:

        I still think there’s a reasonable distinction to be made between “we want a cut of what you sell in our store” and “we want a cut of any further transactions made inside the software you sell in our store.” It’s not cut-and-dried; if someone gives the product away for free and supports it entirely on microtransactions, then it’s fair for Apple to want a cut of those rather than just a share of the nothing. But I also think it’d be fair to put a cap on that, roughly equivalent to what they’d get if you were selling the game at a normal price.

        Of course, it’d make things easier if the entire idea of microtransactions were banished back to the infernal pit it crawled out from, consumers could pay a known price to play the game, and the store could just go back to taking a cut of the sale price. Just sayin…

  65. Chad miller says:

    Hey shamus, I Think your spam filter didn’t like a link I posted. At least I assume that’s why my comments stopped appearing after that.

  66. alchemyheelsi says:

    1) Dislike Apple. I have no problem with them taking a cut of the revenue (it’s their store after all). I really dislike their walled garden approach (I fear it will mean far fewer independent blogs like this one as the free open internet has to compete with walled gardens where there is an information access asymmetry). Also dislike the level of control they seem to think is acceptable over devices which users have bought and paid for. Also dislike their attitude toward right-to-repair, I’ve had a long distaste for their cable incompatibilities, and I will never forgive them for killing the headphone jack. But I totally agree they are free to do what they like on their app store. It’s theirs after all.

    2) Not cheering for Epic. Don’t know much about them, but not a fan either.

    3) I sometimes use a mac book pro for work (have to if you want to develop anything iOS related). Normally use linux for development at work though. And at home, linux / windows (the latter for games).

    4) I have never played it and don’t intend to.

  67. Sleeping Dragon says:

    What drives me up the wall is Epic’s handling of this. As many people mentioned above the whole thing is actually very complex legally and there are nuances that go so far beyond the dictionary definition of “monopoly” as to make it effectively useless in or even harmful to the discussion. Yet Epic is more than happy to use it as a rallying cry either in the hope that this might get enough social traction so as to affect Apple’s public image and make them more likely to relent in an eventual settlement or to reinforce the idea of their noble battle for the future of gaming in the heads of their supporters.

    And the thing is this is in line with Epic’s general behaviour. To be clear I’m not one of those people who are opposed to the EGS, I approve of their lower cut, I’m even willing to argue that exclusives are more on the devs than they are on Epic and in many cases may give studios the financial comfort they need… but Epic’s self-narrative seems to aim at creating entrenched, partisan following and they appear quite happy to alienate part of the potential customer base as long as the customers they have are strongly invested in them.

    1. Scerro says:

      Fundamentally I didn’t have a problem with EGS either, but I’m with you. Epic has shown they that don’t actually care about improving the things for developers or players, they will do whatever they can to get marketshare with their Fortnite cash. They want to be in Steam’s position and will throw cash at whoever or whatever to make it happen.

  68. Lars says:

    Wait, you were buisy programming? Is that anything you could write about, Shamus?

  69. Mirrows says:

    One of the benefits of the walled garden approach is the fact that all payments go through Apple via an intuitive UI (can pay via Face ID, the amount is clearly defined, if it’s a subscription the start date is displayed – if the app is deleted the subscription cancelled etc.)
    I can view all my existing app subscriptions (and cancel accordingly) with ease.
    I know when purchasing an app that my payment details are not going to a nefarious company (say what you will about their labour practises, Apple tend to do right by their customers data when legally able).
    I know that if I want to purchase an app it’s definitely going to be in that one location, will be auto updated and those updates will be at least glossed over for potential abuse.

    I can see the arguments for forced fragmentation, but I’m not particularly upset at the current iOS implementation.

    1. I feel like as a customer we wouldn’t notice much of a difference between Appstore only and various stores except some in app purchases and subscriptions might be a bit cheaper on other storefronts.

      That would be the choice though. A company could loose customers due to convenience and security if they build their own separate storefront in order to gain some more profit, but if you ask me having that choice from both a developer and customer point of view is important.

  70. Alecw says:

    Hi shamus
    Few points:
    – Monopoly as a term also has been used to embrace trust / anti trust matters.
    You are “monopolistic” if your behaviour is anti competitive – pushing toward a monopoly or duopoly. And a good duopoly is only semantically different from a monopoly.
    – if a company controls 85 or 90% of a market, they may not be a technical “monopoly” in the sense of government having a Monopoly on the military, but you control a market almost completely. When you then use that market power to prevent market disruption and real competition you become an effective if not technical monopoly (see deBeers and diamonds).
    – Apple is very much a monopoly in many areas in this way

  71. From my understanding, the “Walled Garden,” isn’t necessarily that Apple wants to review and take a percentage of things sold on the app store, but two different things.

    1. Apple is the only app store on Apple devices. Microsoft got in trouble for antitrust years ago for something 1/100th as bad as this, yet apple is getting away with it every day. Google doesn’t quite have this same problem, but it’s a big part of the Epic Vs. Apple fight.

    2. Apple (not sure about Google) doesn’t just take a percentage of app sales, but instead app revenue meaning all micro-transactions and subscriptions also need to be reported and a percent given to Apple. This would be like if Microsoft wanted to sell Xboxes at Wal-Mart, but had to give 30% of all Xbox live subscription revenue to Wal-Mart for doing so. Another big deal is they make arbitrary exceptions for some apps, Netflix as an example, but not others like Epic.

    I don’t hate Apple. They make (definitely overpriced) devices that feel smooth and are really pleasant to use. As a developer, I don’t like their initiative in stopping support for cross platform technologies like OpenGL, and their tendency to make things proprietary and call it “Innovative,” when the new way has no benefit.

  72. Leeward says:

    First, your questions:

    1. I wouldn’t classify myself as an apple hater, but I do dislike some of their business practices. More on that later.

    2. I would never cheer for Epic.

    3. I’ve used Apple products before, but their OS makes it hard for me to be productive. Their hardware tends to be well above average for an OEM, but they like to overcharge for things I need (more RAM) and include things I don’t need by default (amazing screen). I use Linux for everything I can, and my work machine runs Windows because of corporate vendor lock-in.

    I’ve played Fortnite. I’ve even won a few games. I don’t enjoy playing it by myself at all, and their crass commercialism turns me off. I stopped playing sometime around season 2 or 3.

    Now for the interesting part: I happen to have an economist with a PhD nearby, and she says that monopolies have market power. It’s possible for more than one company to exist in a market and still be a monopoly if it can do things like set prices. Depending on how you define the market, Apple might or might not qualify. However, the thing we’re really talking about is a monopsony. Monopolies are single-sellers. You buy from your utility company because it’s the only one selling . Monopsonies are single-buyers. Developers sell to (or in this case, through) monopsonies because they’re the only way to reach a market. Another common example of a monopsony is health care (in most developed countries that aren’t the US) where there’s a single entity that buys healthcare services and uses its position as a monopsony to push prices down.

    Amazon is the monopsony I’ve had the most interaction with. I used to work at a large audio company. We had a product that had Google’s assistant but not Alexa (because Amazon assistant was new and we couldn’t fit the functionality in the product). Amazon said they wouldn’t sell it, and the whole product got canned. Best Buy had similar amounts of power over that particular company. Resellers who can decide not to resell your product are scarily powerful when you depend entirely on product sales to stay afloat.

    This same company is how I bumped up against Apple’s business practices. If you want access to the set of Apple users (which we definitely did) you’ll want that MFi logo on it. If you want to use the serial port profile with your bluetooth device connected to an Apple device, you need that MFi logo. If you want your bluetooth device to be able to pop up a link to an app on first connection, MFi. Anyway, this logo isn’t just a picture you slap on the box. In bluetooth devices, it means you’ve added an extra chip, and in audio devices it means you support AAC. That chip plus AAC license costs about $1-$2 per unit, which adds up fast when you make a few million units per year.

    Anyway, Apple’s arguably not a monopoly, since I as a consumer can buy a phone from a different company. However, they’re most definitely monopsonists. If I want to sell a product to the large set of users who have bought in to their ecosystem, I have to go through them. For apps, this is very clear. If you’re an app developer, and you care about having access to a huge group of consumers with high end hardware (like a game developer would) then you have to sell through Apple’s store and play by their rules.

    I don’t know if monopsonies are good for consumers or not. In the health care market, they get better prices and pass them on. In the case of retailers, they can extract more wealth from their roles as middle men than small resellers, but sometimes that results in conditions consumers value. Certainly some of Apple’s value is that their app store is a walled garden with less noise in the signal than other app stores. Bad for developers, but good for consumers? Maybe. Wal-Mart is another example. They get their low low prices because having your product on their shelves is worth the hit in the wallet.

    As far as the Epic thing goes, lots of developers have been complaining about inconsistent rule enforcement and high cuts on Apple’s store for a long time. Knowingly violating Apple’s terms then turning their entirely predictable response into a PR stunt is…not going to make me into an Epic fan.

    1. Richard says:

      Monopsonies only get better value when they are explicitly run as a not-for-profit (and have a governance structure that limits grifting)

      A for-profit monopsony squeezes suppliers out of business while still charging customers far too much.

      It’s the ideal capitalist structure in fact, as you get to milk everyone for supernormal profits.

  73. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Honestly I used to have animosity towards Apple but that kind of died off a couple of years back. I used to be mad about how they marketed their computers based on form rather than function but I have to admit that Apple does value performance. And I used to be mad at them about their overpriced hardware but at least in the phone department, I spend as much or more on a phone as Apple users do. I actually like to get a premium phone, I just don’t update all that often.

    I can tell you one thing that made me consider switching to Apple is my family has all switched to Apple and they use the iCloud to share family photos somewhat privately amongst them. I don’t get to see those photos since I don’t have an Apple device. You need at least some kind of Apple device to register the right kind of iCloud account (you can use iCloud on your PC but you have to have an Apple device first to register for the account). So if you want to know why users stick with Apple, its probably a lot of stuff like that.

    I haven’t switched at this point mainly because I feel it would be a pain and because I just bought a new Android so I’m going to be paying that off for a while plus I feel like if i was going to use an apple device I’d need to go all in on Apple and I, like you, rely on my Windows PC for gaming.

    As for the monopolies. I agree with you about terminology but I still think there’s such a thing as companies that get too big that aren’t monopolies. Disney is my go to example.

  74. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’ll throw a wrinkle in there. I think there should be a consideration for monopolies on individual properties.

    I like Superman. For me there is no acceptable substitute for Superman. I like that set of powers, that costume, that secret identity, that alien origin, that character. No similar character produced by another company is similar enough for what I want. (I’m not saying I don’t enjoy other superheroes but Superman has special qualities to me that aren’t replicated by other heroes).

    If DC does things with Superman that I don’t like or simply produces a poorly written, poorly drawn, substandard Superman or overcharges for Superman content, I can’t go to a competing company and purchase their Superman comics. I have to go purchase their Marvel comics, or their manga or something. The best I could do is pick up one of the alternate takes on Superman like Hyperion but they’re different characters.

    I think DC should be considered to have a monopoly on Superman and its other characters

    Monopolies don’t exist on all characters. For example, nobody has a monopoly on the character of Sherlock Holmes (its a little complicated, actually, there is still a copyright on aspects of the character of Sherlock Holmes that appear in Doyle’s later works). Nobody has a monopoly on Hamlet. I can go to different companies to get my preferred version of Hamlet.

  75. EmmEnnEff says:

    Hi Shamus,

    Whether or not Apple is a monopoly is not quite the right question – because prior to the invention of hundreds of legal rules about monopolies in the 19th century, nobody considered monopolies to be a problem.

    The right question to ask is: “Is Apple’s behaviour bad for customers and competitors? Should we maybe consider drafting some legal rules to reign it in?”

    My answer to that is “Probably, and maybe.”

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