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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Epic… fail

posted on Friday 14th of August 2020 in , ,

Epic violated AppStore and PlayStore rules. As a result Apple and Google kicked them out of the store. This was calculated by Epic. They had the lawsuits claiming two different companies have a monopoly in the same market – lol – ready to go. And let’s not forget the marketing campaign outlining the enemy of all good – read: Apple – which surely wasn’t created over night.

Not too long ago Hey applied a similar rethoric. We have seen politicians jump in demanding to split Apple into hardware and software. I am still not sure if they want to ride the current wave of fighting tech giants and gain new voters or if they actually believe this would change anything for a company at that scale. I can think of reasons why they believe this would make sense, but practically I do not see this go the way they imagine.

There are people trying to compare this case with everything they can find… But smartphones are not game consoles. Platform exclusives are not the same. Exclusives in certain game stores surely have to be something different, otherwise the arguments we see from certain publishers would be tongue in cheek, wouldn‘t they be? There simply is nothing in the tech or gaming world you can compare this situation to. The one comparison that might hold up is the car industry: Try to sideload an app in a BMW, Mercedes or Tesla. Good luck.

Obviously there are also Apple fans claiming all is good and others companies are doing exactly the same. I think this is a bit far fetched. Microsoft is shipping software and hardware, but you can install software from anywhere – even on locked down devices, you can easily „unlock“ them. Google sells phones with Android – so do many others. Apples problem is that they are good at what they do and they took it to an extreme.

The easy way for Apple to get out of this would be allowing users to sideload applications. I will not go deep on the pros and cons and if the crowd screaming for this feature would actually ever buy an Apple phone or is just bored enough to demand things, but the concept would resolve all the discussions we have seen and currently see. But this would mean losing revenue and control.

Revenue is the easy one – no company wants to give up money. If they voluntarily do there is usually a larger plan in play. For developers this is also easy – they would make more money. The whole thing is about money and who gets a bigger share, better do not believe for one second this is about the customer. 30% is a big part Apple takes, especially considering most apps sell for sub $10. Personally I think Apple’s share is too big for what they provides.

The other one is control. I want Apple to keep track of what goes on the phone and prevent sideloading. It‘s a feature – and a really important one. The process is not perfect, nothing is. But it works decently well and it stops people from following a 15 step guide to install some software to cheat in free2play games silently collecting all the data and other shady stuff it can.

Sideloading is a nice feature for tech-savvy power users. The majority of people does not fall in this category. But their smartphones are still important for their daily life and they hold more and more sensitive data. In my opinion allowing sideloading would be a major step back and decrease the value of the platform. This is in my opinion also the reason not many people are talking about Google right now. You can still get Fortnite from other stores or sideload the app. Google did not push control that far.

There are certainly problems with the AppStore and they should be addressed. Apple has pushed their control and monetization to an extreme and has to take a few steps back. I think it is too late to do so. Too many people with questionable knowledge are already involved and want their five minutes in the spotlight fighting the big bad tech giant. But the real problem in this case? A company knowingly violating terms of service to play the victim, while using the whole thing as a giant marketing campaign.