Tuesday, August 25, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Court Rules on Epic’s Temporary Restraining Order

Manish Singh (Hacker News, MacRumors):

A district court denied Epic Games’ motion to temporarily restore the Fortnite game to the iOS App Store, but also ordered Apple to not block the gaming giant’s ability to provide and distribute Unreal Engine on the iPhone-maker’s ecosystem in a mixed-ruling delivered Monday evening.

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Apple can’t retaliate against Epic Games by blocking the gaming firm’s developer accounts or restrict developers on Apple platforms from accessing the widely used Unreal Engine tools.

This seems like the right call to me. The order is here.

John Gruber:

For good play-by-play livestream coverage of the hearing, I suggest reading Sarah Jeong’s thread on Twitter.

Florian Mueller:

Judge Gonzalez Rogers reminded attendees of the fact that a TRO needs to be replaced by a preliminary injunction (PI) after 14 days--unless extended by consent--or it simply goes out of effect. Therefore, even if Epic obtained a TRO now, Apple could still try to prevail with respect to Unreal Engine a couple of weeks later--and this goes both ways, so whatever Epic doesn’t win immediately, it could still pursue in the next round. The PI hearing has been scheduled for September 28, so the TRO decision will be in effect for about a month.

[…]

With respect to Fortnite, however, the case appears clear to the judge. She told Epic’s counsel that they “didn’t tell Apple you had code in there [for an alternative payment system]” and noted that “this was not an insignificant breach, hence the reason we are here.” Counsel for Epic argued that her client merely “ceased complyi with an anticompetitive contract” or, more narrowly, “an anticompetitive provision.”

[…]

The judge expressed concern over Apple having taken an overreaching step by announcing the termination of a developer agreement that “has not been breached.”

Apple:

We thank the court for recognizing that Epic’s problem is entirely self-inflicted and is in their power to resolve. Our very first priority is making sure App Store users have a great experience in a safe and trusted environment, including iPhone users who play Fortnite and who are looking forward to the game’s next season.

We agree with Judge Gonzalez-Rogers that ‘the sensible way to proceed’ is for Epic to comply with the App Store guidelines and continue to operate while the case proceeds. If Epic takes the steps the judge has recommended, we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS. We look forward to making our case to the court in September.

Colin Cornaby:

It’s worth noting how bizarre Apple’s argument was. They demand their contracts be dealt with as absolutes, but when asked why they are terminating the dev tools contract that isn’t breached, they go “well we break routinely break contracts when we feel like it”

Frank Reiff:

It’s shocking to hear that Apple’s legal team are gunning for all Unreal Engine developers and do not seem to care much whether thousands of blameless developers’ livelihoods are impacted, just so that they can make a stronger move against Epic.

Ben Thompson:

The problem for Epic — and, I suppose, for me — is that to this observer it seems exceedingly likely that Apple is going to win this case, last night’s decision notwithstanding. Current Supreme Court jurisprudence is very clear that businesses — including monopolies — have no duty to deal with third parties, and if they do choose to deal with them (or are even compelled to), that they can choose the terms on which to do so. The only exceptions are if the monopoly in question changes the rules in an unprofitable way with the express purpose of driving out a competitor, or if any company — not even a monopoly — changes access to after-market parts and services.

In short, what is needed are new laws built for the Internet, which is why it was encouraging that Congress is holding hearings about these issues, and also frustrating that Apple received relatively little attention.

[…]

Here is what I believe the App Store has fundamentally wrong: its current organizing principle is digital versus analog; anything that is digital has to have in-app purchase, while anything that is analog — i.e. connected to the real world — can monetize however it pleases. […] The better organizing principle is whether or not the app developer has marginal costs.

Michael Love:

There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I have to take issue with the idea of allowing external / lower-commission purchases if an app has ‘marginal costs’; while a reasonable principle in theory, I think it would be completely impossible to apply in practice.

Dave Wood:

The obvious answer is just to move iOS to a macOS like system but it’s just as obvious Apple isn’t willing to do that. My proposal is a compromise that I believe offers a fair direction forward for all parties involved.

[…]

More than that, my biggest complaint with Apple is the power they have to decide if another company should be allowed to provide their product/service. They are able to block any app that competes with them (now or in the future), is innovative in any way Apple hadn’t considered, or that goes against their values. Apple shouldn’t be allowed to project their values onto their customers.

[…]

The key difference being that Apple accepts anything that isn’t illegal or a valid security issue, but not every accepted app gets listed in the App Store. An app that has been accepted, but excluded from the store can be installed by a user that has a direct link provided by Apple upon approval. Side note: this gives Apple a great opportunity to optimize the App Store since they can remove the millions of junk/neglected apps and only present the best apps to users.

Previously:

8 Comments

Old Unix Geek

I'm glad the judge is preventing Apple from breaking its own contracts with regard to the Unreal engine. It shows Tim Cook's claim that Apple is competing to get developers to be totally hollow. Given how happy they seem to be to destroy iOS access to the Unreal engine, it is clear that Apple does not care about 3rd party developers, any more than it actually cares about music, despite the image they try to project. This should make everyone else now consider new product ideas that require the use of an Apple device as somewhat suspect...

I think Epic is actually trying to fix the AppStore for everyone, because they could have increased their revenue in a much more subtle manner: they could have created 2 different classes of "vBuck" currency. vBucks sold through IAP could have been assigned significantly less purchasing power (30%? so that things cost more, and some things could simply be unavailable for purchase with "Apple vBucks"). vBucks sold through other means would have full value. Kids would soon learn the rudiments of the black market: how to exchange "Apple vBucks" against "real vBucks" at a loss. Then they'd learn to buy "real vBucks" from Epic's website directly. Net result: Apple's tax would affect less and less of the Fortnite economy...

I'm amazed at how slowly the wheels of justice turn... Epic's antitrust case will only be heard in April 2021? 8 months from now? That's ridiculous.

It sucks that it's 2020 and Apple still has no good competition for the Mac if all you want is a desktop computer that works well for a multitude of creative uses. Linux is still too geeky for people who aren't developers or Unix nerds and of course it doesn't run creative software like Photoshop or Ableton Live or any number of things. Windows has the software, but after all these years it still sucks, still doesn't natively support PDF like Mac does, still doesn't do Audio/MIDI as well as the Mac, still doesn't do hi-DPI as well as the Mac does, still has janky trackpads on most PCs, etc.

I really wish nothing more than for Microsoft to make Windows as good as the Mac or even better. Apple needs more competition. They are too complacent, and think that they can abuse developers and users with this Gatekeeper garbage, bad UI decisions, etc. Their arrogant "take it or leave it or just go F yourself" attitude is really starting to wear me down after using and enjoying Macs for 30+ years, it's just not enjoyable anymore. But there's nowhere else to go.

>Windows has the software, but after all these years
>it still sucks, still doesn't natively support PDF
>like Mac does, still doesn't do Audio/MIDI as well
>as the Mac, still doesn't do hi-DPI as well as the
>Mac does, still has janky trackpads on most PCs, etc.

I don't want to turn this into a huge discussion about the merits of Windows, but I feel like the things you mention about Windows are mostly not true anymore.

1. Windows sucks. I guess that's subjective, but in my opinion, the versions after Windows 8 are overall really nice, and in some ways better than OS X (e.g. window management is much improved over OS X). Obviously, there are still problems, but overall, I find Windows to now have fewer issues than Mac OS, including in the areas of usability, stability, and performance.

2. No native PDF support. Not sure what exactly your needs are, but Windows can generate PDFs out of the box, same as OS X, and it can display PDFs using Edge. It doesn't have Preview's PDF editing abilities out-of-the-box, but overall, it does most of the things OS X does.

3. Don't know about midi.

4. Hi-dpi used to be a huge issue even just two or three years ago, but in my experience, apart from some ancient applications, it works fine now.

5. Trackpads on most Widnows laptops are now about on par with MacBooks. In my extremely subjective opinion, I actually now prefer Windows trackpads, because I never got used to Apple's "one huge button" design for trackpads, and still sometimes accidentally zoom when I mean to drag because I'm resting my thumb on the bottom part of the trackpad. Windows laptops, on the other hand, are available with actual physical buttons that you can actually feel and that actually have real tactile feedback when they're pressed.

Obviously, switching from OS X to Windows still isn't easy, but I think the days when OS X was clearly and vastly superior to Windows, and MacBooks were better in every way than Windows laptops, are long gone.

Regarding PDF: While some of Preview's built-in features are still quite good, PDF rendering on the Mac has in my experience fallen far behind Windows and Linux in both speed and quality, especially on standard-DPI monitors. PDFkit now has this weird 2-stage text rendering, which makes skimming nearly impossible. Even after the second rendering pass, the text is much blurrier compared to any reader on Linux and Windows (or even my PowerBook G4). It's gotten to the point where I will now actively avoid macOS if I have to read a PDF for any meaningful length of time.

Regarding audio: It's weird. I hear some people on Windows pining for the Mac, but Windows does have some nice built-in audio features that would otherwise require Rogue Amoeba apps on the Mac (notably, per-app audio recording and volume adjustments). Also, there were (still are?) audio recording issues on Fusion Drives, and Macs with T2 chips seem to be having a hard time with audio devices at the moment.

Regarding high-DPI: I do think the macOS approach still leads as far as usability. Linux desktops don't have per-monitor DPI scaling, and it may just be the particular hardware I'm using, but Windows does not play well at all with my combination of high-DPI and standard-DPI monitors.

Have you tried Windows recently? A number of your complaints are a lot better (can’t speak to audio/midi, though; never used it). Trackpad-wise it depends on the machine; nothing Microsoft can really do about that directly (unless you’re buying their hardware). The mid-to-high end laptops have some very decent trackpads. Only reason I still use a Mac is decades of purchases of indie software and my work footed the bill for the hardware. Been happily using Windows outside of work for a while now.

Thanks for the helpful info. I've only really used Win 10 in Parallels on my Mac and my wife's old laptop when I need to access something that's not available on the Mac. Guess it's time to really try moving over to Windows on a daily basis so when my 2014 MBP dies I'm ready to make the switch. I don't like the direction that the Mac is moving in, and there's increasingly a lot of software that I use that's either Windows-only or the Mac version is just a crappy afterthought. I couldn't care less about Apple's transition to ARM because 95% of the time that I use my Mac it's plugged in and even on this 6+ year old Mac the processor is only barely starting to feel slow. I feel like any new PC laptop with an i9 will be enough to last another 5-6 years.

It sucks that it’s 2020 and Apple still has no good competition for the Mac if all you want is a desktop computer that works well for a multitude of creative uses. Linux is still too geeky for people who aren’t developers or Unix nerds and of course it doesn’t run creative software like Photoshop or Ableton Live or any number of things. Windows has the software, but after all these years it still sucks, still doesn’t natively support PDF like Mac does, still doesn’t do Audio/MIDI as well as the Mac, still doesn’t do hi-DPI as well as the Mac does, still has janky trackpads on most PCs, etc.

This is way off-topic, others have answered it, and I can’t comment on MIDI, but…

I try Ubuntu Linux every three years or so and it’s just… mediocre. It’s good enough as an app platform but doesn’t inspire in the way early Mac OS X did.
macOS arguably hasn’t kept up the pace. I’m torn on whether this is because it’s simply mature or they took the foot off the gas. Both?
Windows has gotten better.

still doesn’t natively support PDF like Mac does

Yes and no. Microsoft has moved away from their Vista-era hubris. I don’t think I’ve heard of their PDF competitor XPS in… many years. They use PDF now.

Windows 8.1 added a PDF renderer API. Edge, the default browser, can show PDFs (albeit basically as a side effect of Chrome implementing that). It’s not quite what macOS is, but… it’s gotten better.

still doesn’t do hi-DPI as well as the Mac does

Wellllll.

You can actually make the case that Windows does it better. It has had a scalable UI since 98(?). It lets you pick sizes like 150%, or 300%. This both allows display manufacturers to be more flexible in their densities (and consumers to have more choice in displays), and makes for accessibility: just scale the whole thing up a little if your eyesight isn’t as good. On the other hand, in practice, most apps, including many of Microsoft’s, never supported any of this well. It’s only in recent years that things have improved, and running into apps that just flat-out don’t scale correctly (either looking bad or leading to controls being flat-out impossible to interact with) still is a thing in 2020.

Or you can make the case that Apple does it better. It briefly flirted with a similarly flexible approach in various developer tools, but never actually shipped that code, instead going strictly with integer scaling: 100%, 200%, 300%. It’s very easy to code for, and even when apps don’t properly support it, you simply see a scaled-up 100% version. Looks blurry, but works perfectly fine. OTOH, this is bad for accessibility (so instead, Apple has separate approaches for that), and it’s proven to be terrible for the display market; very few displays give you decent quality at “Retina”.

I think Microsoft ultimately picked the choice of ‘in it for the long haul’ with their hi-DPI stuff, and is starting to be proven right. Apple did that at first, ditched it, and instead went for something pragmatic, which is also fine, but bad for people who want additional displays (or, if you take the Mac mini or Mac Pro, any display at all).

still has janky trackpads on most PCs

I think that’s still mostly true. Microsoft Surface trackpads seem fairly good; Dell’s seem… OK; Panasonic’s continue to be infuriatingly bad (I care because we collab with them on industry purposes).

It is still common for people to bring a mouse (but not a keyboard) with their laptop when going somewhere. That says it all, IMO. It’s also no coincidence that outside of Apple and Logitech, there are basically no external trackpads on the market. The Windows reputation of a trackpad continues to be that it’s a poor substitute for a mouse. The Mac reputation is that it’s a very efficient way of navigating the screen.

Thanks for the additional info. I actually bought a bunch of PC parts and put it together yesterday, but haven't booted it up because the power supply won't arrive until later this morning. I was really, really surprised how easy it was. Literally plug and play. Last time I put a PC together was in the 90s (helping a friend). Wow it's come a long way since then. All the cables were keyed and everything -- completely impossible to get it wrong. Anyway, I figure if I'm going to think about jumping ship then I should actually dive into the water for a while and try it instead of just fooling around in Parallels.

Honestly, seeing how easy it was (so far) and how cheap it was (exactly HALF the price of an equivalent high-end iMac with the 4K display/kb/mouse included), I probably should have done it sooner since more than 90% of the apps that I use on my Mac are cross-platform and honestly better on Windows anyway (the Mac versions seem like afterthoughts or bad Java ports or something).

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