Friday, August 21, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Files Response to Epic

Ina Fried:

“If developers can avoid the digital checkout, it is the same as if a customer leaves an Apple retail store without paying for shoplifted product: Apple does not get paid,” Apple said in the filing.

[…]

Apple says Epic has no antitrust case against it because it can’t possibly monopolize the mobile app market, given competition from Google. (Epic maintains that Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store are in fact discrete markets, each a monopoly in its own right.)

Dieter Bohn:

It might be a strong argument! I’d have more sympathy for it if developers had the choice of any other way to distribute software on iOS.

[…]

Apple is making the argument that the App Store is more than a marketplace, that it’s inseparable with offering SDKs and developer tools like TestFlight, ARKit, and even stickers.

I don’t know that those things need be bundled. They’re not on the Mac.

Sacha Sayan:

A better analogy is if the customer goes to the farmer’s market, and the grocery store gets angry because they’re not getting a cut.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

I’m not on team Epic, and I’m definitely not on team Apple. The way Apple thinks about the developers that bring life to its platforms is disgusting

I don’t know whether there was an internal change in the last 18 months or if the mask has simply slipped, but Apple has made a lot of official statements lately that are really tone-deaf from the perspective of a developer. It doesn’t seem to understand or value our contributions or remember that apps existed before the App Store.

Previously:

Update (2020-08-25): Dave Winer:

In 1980-something I was invited to give a talk at Apple along with a reporter from the NYT. The idea was that we would give feedback to Apple people to help them work better with developers and the press. I took the assignment seriously. I showed up with a list of requests, things Apple could do to give their platform an advantage over the IBM PC, their chief competitor at the time. # When I finished, Apple people lined up to give me feedback on how ungrateful I am. They do all the work and I make all the money and get all the glory. Funny thing, because I viewed it exactly the other way around. They had real salaries and benefits. I was always skating on thin ice.

Paul Haddad:

Apple keeps acting like it only creates development tools & technologies as a favor for developers. BS they do it because without outside developers no one would use their hardware. The relationship is and should be symbiotic.

Apple’s filing is here.

Nick Heer:

In the category of “arson, murder, and jaywalking”, Apple cited an insufficient changelog as one justification for pulling Fortnite from the App Store.

Jeff Johnson:

“Epic wants access to all of the Apple-provided tools like Metal, ARKit and other technologies and features. But you don’t want to pay.”

Simeon:

Apple deprecated OpenGL and is suggesting Epic should be grateful at not being charged extra for using Metal, the only non-deprecated alternative?

Russell Ivanovic:

Slightly odd considering the open alternative Vulkan is unsupported by Apple. “Epic used the only graphics API we would let them use”. Yeah…of course…what was their alternative exactly?

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Apple’s APIs are not just APIs, they’re Apple IP we developers all leech off of. This kind of thinking should have died with Steve, and is why Apple’s old guard needs to go

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Genuine question: what does a statement like this by @pschiller make you feel as a developer on Apple’s platforms?

Marko Karppinen:

I didn’t realize that “iCloud document storage” was something Apple provided developers in exchange for the 30% IAP cut. I’ve been paying $9.99/month for it like an idiot

Francisco Tolmasky:

It honestly feels like the warranty has expired on Apple’s values and they’ve just decided to go full mustache-twirling villain in the last month. The company has been unrecognizable from a product perspective for a while, but now they’re just doing 90’s era Microsoft cosplay.

Michael Love:

Along with all of the other offensive stuff about this: WE HELPED THEM BUILD IT. Not only by giving people a reason to buy iPhones, but we’ve shaped the way iOS has developed; most of Apple’s decisions about where to take iOS come from studying and/or ripping off our apps.

The Metal API which Apple insists is so innovative was most likely developed with a great deal of input / feedback / bug reporting from Epic, not to mention that Epic helped Apple evangelize it to other developers; did Epic get paid for any of that?

Platforms are collaborative efforts; that’s literally what makes them platforms. If Apple now views iOS not as something that they work with developers to deliver amazing experiences on but rather as a product they sell to us for money then they’ve completely lost the plot.

Christopher Lloyd:

The iOS origin story is rooted in a GPL violation, NeXT distributed modified gcc binaries for Objective-C and did not release source. Relenting in later releases and reworking of the changes after much FSF patience.

saurik:

[When] the iPhone first came out, jailbreaks were plentiful and powerful… the iPhone tried to be a closed and locked down platform, but failed due to the almost continual existence of serious security flaws that allowed for 0-day drops of exploits with almost every new device release (which coincided with every new major iOS release).

This means that we can actually look back at the history of the iPhone and answer the question “could the iPhone have been as successful as it was if there had been a switch that allowed users to opt out of Apple’s complete control of not only whose apps could be installed, but further what kind of software could be installed (to let you install things like daemons or extensions to existing apps)” and the answer is “apparently, it could, because it did”.

Stephen Warwick:

We sat down (virtually, of course) with Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents and analyst Neil Cybart to discuss the lawsuit, how Epic got the ball rolling, its basic demands, and of course, the comparison between the lawsuit against Google. We also chatted about the context of antitrust complaints like those of Spotify, and what it all means for everyday consumers.

See also: Eskil Steenberg, Hacker News.

14 Comments

SJ's Apple is well and truly dead.

Tim's Apple is a monstrous piece of shit. Shame on the employees who do these vile things for a fat paycheck.

Apple always forgets in their terrible analogies to retail stores, that in this fantasy land, the Apple Store is also a department store, where Amazon has a counter that sells millions of products and Apple doesn't get a cut, there are concierges who can book me a ride on Uber or a night at an Airbnb and Apple doesn't get a cut, and there's a Paypal counter where I can connect to my bank and pay for items to be shipped to me from all across the globe. Incredibly, there are Google and Facebook and TikTok counters where they're giving away everything for free if I watch a 10 second advertisement. Yet if I go to the Epic counter and buy something for $7, I'm stopped by an Apple employee on my way out and must pay another $3 before I'm allowed to leave the store.

How's that fair?

Old Unix Geek

They really are delusional about how valuable the technologies they make available to developers are. Remember the old days of reverse engineering iOS, and building your own header files for private frameworks? It wasn't that hard. GCC was free, and worked perfectly well. It's not as if all the "new technologies" like clang, "Swift" or SwiftUI make anything previously impossible now possible. Cydia was and still is a perfectly reasonable "AppStore" written by one person. But yeah, sure, you really NEED those 30% to do all that "engineering" so that people don't find what they're looking for, but instead find advertisements.

@Old Unix Geek The sad part is that the App Store app and the App Store Connect site don’t even work very well. StoreKit is more difficult to use, etc.

Sander van Dragt

> Apple says Epic has no antitrust case against it because it can’t possibly monopolize the mobile app market, given competition from Google.

I guess this opens the door for someone to require Apple to allow the Play Store on iOS.

@Federluigi No, this is the same as Steve Jobs' Apple. In fact, Apple has not changed at all, even since the 90ies. Apple has always behaved just like Microsoft during its monopoly days, but of course, since back then they weren't as big as Microsoft, they couldn't afford doing it always. Sometimes they had to be nice to you, because otherwise they'd lose so many customers they'd go out of business.

Ask anyone who has sold product boxed in Apple's brick-and-mortar stores. They've been making the same inconsistent, absurd demands for modifications there as you see now in the app store.

The only blip was when macOS X came out and they needed to attract new users. Since NeXT had been restricted to the professional university/enterprise Unix market, they knew they were strong there, so they latched onto anything and everything they could there for a few years. They got Unix certified, included lots of common Unix tools, got X11, got Java, to get those customers to come over from whatever Windows/Linux dual setup they'd been riding. And you saw how quickly that got dropped. Basically you can mark the date on when they dropped Cocoa-Java.

"The only blip was when macOS X came out and they needed to attract new users."

Welp, that's exactly when I got suckered into adopting the Mac platform, as a college student. It was a pretty good time period, and that's the standard by which I still judge things.

Three reasons why Apple will lose this case.

First Apple has tried the other stores for other devices angle in the last and lost. During the iPod era, the only store an iPod owner could buy music from was iTunes, as the iPod only understood Apple DRM. Real Media, a music sales company, sued. Apple argued no monopoly since other audio players existed. Real argued Apple still had a monopoly on media sales to Apple-device owners.

Apple lost that case. Apple’s response was typically Jobsian: they eliminated DRM entirely.

Today, Apple has a monopoly on app sales to Apple iDevice-owners.

Second: During the Amazon / iBook anti-trust hearing, Apple argued that collaborating with publishers would help create competition. Amazon countered that Apple’s collaboration included increasing prices. The court ruled that increasing prices, regardless of market competition was illegal.

Apple lost that case.

Last week Epic gave users a choice to buy V-bucks at a lower price thanks to competition in payment processors. Apple banned the app for providing that choice: forcing higher prices on customers.

Third: Commentators have focussed on console margins, and the fact that iPhones are like consoles. That may be true.

However the iOS App Store also exists on the iPad, which Apple insists in its marketing is a full fledged computer. It even looks like a computer with keyboard and trackpad. Apple allows store competition on its (Mac) computers: Steam and the Mac App Store being two. If the iPad is a computer like the Mac, why can it _not_ survive with store competition.

Moreover, consoles are sold at a loss and so need store margins to recoup that loss. The customer benefit is cheap consoles. Apple has always sold iDevices at a profit, so their is no need to seek rents from media sales, and so no customer benefit in allowing it.

They really are delusional about how valuable the technologies they make available to developers are. Remember the old days of reverse engineering iOS, and building your own header files for private frameworks? It wasn’t that hard.

I mean… Apple did build most of those frameworks in the first place, though. And, especially at the time, they were quite innovative.

Cydia was and still is a perfectly reasonable “AppStore” written by one person.

I jailbroke my iPhone again a few months back, and… no, I don’t think Cydia is a plausible mass-market alternative to the App Store. Now, if you were to give it a ten-person team, maybe.

But yeah, sure, you really NEED those 30% to do all that “engineering” so that people don’t find what they’re looking for, but instead find advertisements.

I really found it hard to find good stuff on Cydia.

The only blip was when macOS X came out and they needed to attract new users. Since NeXT had been restricted to the professional university/enterprise Unix market, they knew they were strong there, so they latched onto anything and everything they could there for a few years. They got Unix certified, included lots of common Unix tools, got X11, got Java, to get those customers to come over from whatever Windows/Linux dual setup they’d been riding. And you saw how quickly that got dropped. Basically you can mark the date on when they dropped Cocoa-Java.

That era seemed a bit “throw everything against a wall and see what sticks” to me.

Cocoa and Carbon. Objective-C and Java.

But, also, of openness: initiatives like Darwin (which, for better or worse, never went anywhere), pioneering specs like OpenCL, or HTML features like canvas and video. Apple did that because they weren’t not in a particularly dominant position.

I wonder if there’s a causality between Serlet leaving and Apple, having found an unexpected level of success with the iPhone, not seeing the point in pursuing scientific applications much further. Snow Leopard was his last major release, and it introduced OpenCL. It was the era of Xgrid, Xsan, celebrating Xserves in a compute cluster, etc. Remnants of a bygone NeXT era.

Old Unix Geek

@Sören

Initially, they built those frameworks for their own use, not for use by third party Apps. So they can't pretend that they were motivated into providing extra value for third party developers.

In fact, it was only later that they started targeting 3rd party developers, when they realised that Apps were a thing. But their motivations were not necessarily altruistic. From what I can see, one of their goals has been to reduce the value of their complement. They pushed hard for free or $1 apps, a ludicrous sum for anything meaningful. To increase competition among apps, they introduced Swift, a language aimed at lowering the bar because objective-c was "too hard".

The last decade has seen a transformation of software, such that many things are less difficult to code, but now require more money to sell (be it for advertising, be it for multi-platform support, and so on). The net result is that indies are suffering, and more companies will focus on cross platform UIs like ReactJS. I expect the same Tsunami to hit the Mac once iPad apps can run on it.

For what it is worth, most of the frameworks they built in the early days also were not particularly innovative, even at the time -- they were an evolution: AppKit was changed to make it do more of its work on the fast GPU, less on the slow CPU, and require less memory. The similarity between AppKit and UIKit made it possible to build apps on jailbroken phones without much documentation. That's not to say it didn't result in a great product, they had really integrated the software and hardware well.

You can't find software you like on Cydia? Sure, jail broken phones are not exactly an enormous vibrant market. What do you expect? My point was that creating and maintaining something like the AppStore with a decent search-engine doesn't take billions of dollars to create or maintain.

Initially, they built those frameworks for their own use, not for use by third party Apps. So they can’t pretend that they were motivated into providing extra value for third party developers.

Well, no. But your assertion was “They really are delusional about how valuable the technologies they make available to developers are.” UIKit is, no doubt, quite a valuable framework. (At this point, other frameworks like Xamarin Forms and React Native exist that, depending on whom you ask, may surpass it.)

From what I can see, one of their goals has been to reduce the value of their complement. They pushed hard for free or $1 apps, a ludicrous sum for anything meaningful.

I agree that Apple is in part to blame for the race to the bottom on app pricing, especially with stuff like making iWork free.

The net result is that indies are suffering, and more companies will focus on cross platform UIs like ReactJS.

The funny thing is Apple hurt itself that way.

They could’ve used the iPad’s first decade much in the same way they did the Mac’s, software-wise: keep coming up with innovative, interesting first-party software like MacWrite Pro and HyperCard (mostly, I can think of GarageBand and Swift Playgrounds). I believe this would’ve helped make the case that good software can dare to cost good money, that UIKit is a good framework to write it in, and that the iPad is uniquely good hardware to run it on.

I think the iPhone’s massive success led to these blind spots. It allowed software to sink in value, and cross-platform frameworks and shoddy ports to be perceived as good enough (the OS/2 effect) because, hey, what’s an example of a better app (crickets).

For what it is worth, most of the frameworks they built in the early days also were not particularly innovative, even at the time — they were an evolution: AppKit was changed to make it do more of its work on the fast GPU, less on the slow CPU, and require less memory. The similarity between AppKit and UIKit made it possible to build apps on jailbroken phones without much documentation. That’s not to say it didn’t result in a great product, they had really integrated the software and hardware well.

Sure, much of UIKit is a natural evolution of “what if we built AppKit but two decades later”, but if you look at the context of what Windows Mobile 6, Symbian Series 60, BlackberryOS, etc. were like at the time, I would argue that the iPhone software, including its frameworks (Core Animation, on a phone, in 2007?) was quite a leap.

You can’t find software you like on Cydia? Sure, jail broken phones are not exactly an enormous vibrant market. What do you expect? My point was that creating and maintaining something like the AppStore with a decent search-engine doesn’t take billions of dollars to create or maintain.

I feel like this has a “I could build Stack Overflow in a weekend” vibe to it.

Old Unix Geek

"UIKit is, no doubt, quite a valuable framework"

Sure, it's not bad, but I do not consider it something they provide specifically to developers. If it's shipped on the machine, then using it is no different from using the hardware. You could argue that the header files and the compiler are provided because they do not come with the machine, but they are byproducts of making their own O.S. The only technologies I would consider might warrant an additional fee are the software layers they themselves do not use... are of dubious value to most of us. But we're not talking about an additional fee, we're talking about 30%. The origin for that 30% on consoles was 10% for the use of the platform, and 20% for the manufacture of the cartridges, which seems reasonable since the 10% went to subsidising the cost of a console to the consumer. Apple's taking 30% most of which is pure profit.

"I could build Stack Overflow in a weekend vibe": that's a strawman argument.

>UIKit is, no doubt, quite a valuable framework

To whom? It's certainly valuable to Apple, but it's not clear to me that it is all that valuable to most developers, who typically fall into one of two groups: either they're going to use whatever framework Apple provides, or they're going to use something cross-platform. To the first group, it doesn't matter too much what the framework is, they're going to make it work. And to the second group, it doesn't matter at all.

Frameworks are primarily valuable to the platform owner. Making developers pay for the development of platform frameworks is just backwards.

>>My point was that creating and maintaining something
>>like the AppStore with a decent search-engine doesn’t
>>take billions of dollars to create or maintain.
>I feel like this has a “I could build Stack Overflow in
>a weekend” vibe to it.

There's a pretty huge gap between "one person in one weekend" and "less than billions".

But I think there's a larger point here: the App Store, as it currently exists, anyways doesn't really work, so it's at least a little bit odd to speculate about how difficult it would be to create a competing App Store. Even a low-effort App Store like Cydia is amore pleasant experience than the normal App Store, simply because it isn't filled with garbage, and doesn't have a recommendation algorithm that promotes shitty adware at the expense of actual good apps.

The bar is set so low that even Cydia easily clears it.

Any app store with actual resources behind it would be able to improve on Apple's abysmal offering.

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