Monday, August 17, 2020

Epic Sues Over Google Play Store, Too

Russell Brandom (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Epic Games has filed suit against Google over alleged antitrust violations, just hours after seeing Fortnite dropped from the both the Google Play Store and iOS App store and filing a similar lawsuit against Apple. Epic’s complaint alleges that Google’s payment restrictions on the Play Store constitute a monopoly, and thus a violation of both the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.

Epic’s hit game Fortnite was removed from the Google Play Store earlier today.


Notwithstanding its promises to make Android devices open to competition, Google has erected contractual and technological barriers that foreclose competing ways of distributing apps to Android users, ensuring that the Google Play Store accounts for nearly all the downloads of apps from app stores on Android devices. Google thus maintains a monopoly over the market for distributing mobile apps to Android users, referred to herein as the “Android App Distribution Market” (infra Part II).


Epic’s experience with one OEM, OnePlus, is illustrative. Epic struck a deal with OnePlus to make Epic games available on its phones through an Epic Games app. The Epic Games app would have allowed users to seamlessly install and update Epic games, including Fortnite, without obstacles imposed by Google’s Android OS. But Google forced OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s “particular[] concern” about Epic having the ability to install and update mobile games while “bypassing the Google Play Store”.

Jay Peters:

Epic also alleges that the original deal between Epic and OnePlus would have made the launcher available worldwide, but Google “demanded that OnePlus not implement its agreement with Epic with the limited exception of mobile devices sold in India.”

Epic also alleges that Google “prevented LG from pre-installing the Epic Games app on LG devices” because — in LG’s words, apparently — LG had a contract “to block side downloading off Google Play Store this year.”

Nick Statt, in April:

“After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization,” reads Epic’s statement. “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store.”

Daniel Bader:

All due respect, there’s more than a little hyperbole in “scary, repetitive security pop-ups.” This is the “scary” process of installing the Epic Games app on Android through Epic’s own, fully guided website.

Inconvenient? Maybe. But not scary.

His screenshots look pretty scary to me. It says, “For your security, your phone is not allowed to install unknown apps from this source.” Google and Apple (on macOS) both use exaggerated language in their alerts.

Michael Love:

I am glad they’re calling Google out on all the hoops they make you jump through for sideloading; it’s better than not having it at all, but it’s hard to argue it’s all necessary for user security.


Update (2020-08-28): Russell Ivanovic:

[Sideloading] doesn’t work because Google makes it very hard to do and also doesn’t let you do stuff like auto update.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

I think Apple and Google are kinda losing the way. Ultimately, a thing I buy is *mine*, and I can do with it what I wish. Put the burden on me, as an adult, to decide if I want to sideload something onto my phone/tablet/desktop computer — and sure, risk the loss of warranty (but that's a different topic, and I don't believe you should lose it). Maybe it's because I grew up in the 70s, and all we did was hack on machines. I expect to continue to hack on machines for the rest of my life.

We're entering an age where computers are amazingly powerful in terms of sheer hardware specs, but what you can do with them is becoming more and more limited, based on the whims of the owner of the OS. I think the genius assertion that a computer is a bicycle for the mind is no longer applicable. Perhaps it's a Big Wheel now. I don't know, I'm bad at metaphor.

If a computer is a bicycle for the mind, then iOS/Android devices are more like a pair of shoes for the mind. Sure, shoes can be comfy, and sometimes you can get to your destination by walking, but shoes just don't augment human capability to the same degree that a bicycle does.

If Apple and Google were making shoes while also advancing bicycles, there wouldn't be as much concern. But as you say, the trend in general seems to be moving toward shoes and away from bicycles which — regardless of the impressive hardware under the hood — fundamentally limits what we can do.

If a computer is a bicycle for the mind, then iOS/Android devices are more like a pair of shoes for the mind. Sure, shoes can be comfy, and sometimes you can get to your destination by walking, but shoes just don’t augment human capability to the same degree that a bicycle does.

Smartphones augment human capability plenty.

Having the entire world’s information in your pants pocket seemed like sci-fi when Star Trek TNG aired in the late 1980s, and is… real now.

Now, could smartphones augment it even more? Yeah, and I think one of the weakest spots in Apple’s argument is when they violate their own “do it for the customer experience” tenet.

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