The battle between Epic Games and Apple headed to the courtrooms this week. The two companies brought their CEOs as star witnesses, both of whom are coincidentally called Tim. The full extent of the dispute was laid bare and we got to learn a few things. Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, was the first one to appear as a witness. He was followed by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook who was the last to take the stand.
Cook was supposed to vehemently define Apple and its ecosystem and he started by laying out Apple's principles and values in the way it operates its ecosystem. Cook also had to provide details about its financial calculation and how the company arrives at the commissions it charges. The battle between Epic Games and Apple covers two major issues.
Epic Games is looking to establish whether in-app purchases, most of which occur within the Apple Store ecosystem, are monopolized by Apple. Epic Games is also hoping to explore the question of whether iOS itself, the operating system that runs on all Apple phones, is a monopoly. Epic Games would aim to force Apple to open up iOS to third parties arguing that this is in the best interest of consumers.
But Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, sees it differently. At the core of his defense against Epic Games arguments, Cook appealed to the safety and privacy of customers. He argued that opening up the Apple ecosystem to third parties means that Apple will no longer be able to guarantee the privacy and safety of its customers. Cook went on to add that privacy right now is the most “important issue of the century.”
Apple, being one of the largest tech companies in the world, has a responsibility to make sure that privacy is protected. Allowing people to sideload apps would simply mean that Apple needs to remake the iOS ecosystem. This according to Cook will give users more control of the apps they can use on their device. But on the flip side, it will mean that users will also have to face the privacy and safety risks that are associated with these apps.
Cook argues that the iOS ecosystem is designed in a way that customers don’t have to face these risks. By using app store provided apps, they can be sure that Apple has done what’s needed to safeguard their safety. But Epic pointed out that despite Apple claims, its so-called "foolproof" system has in many times failed to protect users.
Malicious apps have made their way into the app store over and over again. But Apple maintains that such a large ecosystem cannot be 100% perfect and sometimes mistakes will happen. Despite this, the judge in the case appeared to be more interested in the mandatory in-app purchases than opening up iOS. This is the cornerstone of this lawsuit.
Apple maintains that it invests a lot of money in safeguarding the apps in its app store and it’s only fair for it to get a cut. But Epic Games argues that customers should be free to choose how they want to make in-app purchases.