Just over 20 years ago Microsoft was taken to court by the U.S. Department of Justice. The claim, at the time, was that Microsoft was abusing its power by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows: By bundling IE with Windows, Microsoft was harming the web browser market and abusing the monopoly that Windows had on the market. Windows is the operating system used in the vast majority of PC sold today and it was even more dominant before the turn of the century.
Arguments for Microsoft back then amounted to the fact that you could use IE to download a different browser and use that if you wanted. You could even set that other browser as your default browser so that when you clicked on a link in another application it would open in your browser of choice.
But the DOJ had a point, after all most people just use the default that comes with their device whether it was a PC in the 1990s or a phone today. By bundling IE with Windows, Microsoft did harm competing browsers and it took decades for Google’s Chrome to unseat IE as the favored browser used by most.
Today, not many people worry about the fact that Windows is the majority OS for PCs. Today, PCs have to compete with phones and tablets for your time and I’d guess most of you use your mobile device a lot more often than you use your PC.
And that’s the reason that you should pay attention to the lawsuit between Epic Games and Apple.
Apple walls off many of its devices (all except the computers) with an App Store. If you want to make an app for someone to use on their iPhone, you must put it in Apple’s App Store. If you want to download an app to your iPhone, you must do it through the App Store. Apple also takes a 30% cut of every transaction that happens on the App Store. Not just the initial purchase, but any in app purchases as well as subscriptions (though they lower their take to 15% on subscriptions after a year).
This is the reason that you cannot sign up for Netflix on an iPhone. It’s also the reason that Spotify made waves around the time Apple Music released. It’s pretty unfair of Apple to directly compete against an app in their store while also charging that app 30% of every financial transaction.
Now Epic, the maker of Fortnite, Gears of War, the Unreal Engine that is used as a base for a lot of video games, and a lot more, is suing Apple in an attempt to loosen their grip on their devices.
There are certainly two sides to this argument. On one you could say that Apple built the platform and if you want to do business on it you have to do whatever they want. On the other it’s plain to see that Apple is acting much more brazen today than Microsoft was in the '90s. Apple is doing a lot more than simply bundling an app with their OS.
Imagine if Microsoft prevented any applications from installing on Windows unless it was through the Windows Store. Imagine if Microsoft charged developers 30% of every transaction that happened on Windows. Imagine if Microsoft created competing services while still charging that 30% to their competitors. That’s essentially what Apple is doing with iOS.
It’s up to you if you agree with Apple or Epic. I will point out though, that if Epic is successful in forcing Apple to loosen their grip on iOS you are still free to ignore all apps that aren’t in the App Store. The security of your device will remain the same if you do that.