Apple’s developer problem is much bigger than Epic and Fortnite

At the end of the Epic v. Apple trial, Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers had some sharp question Introduce the relationship between Apple and its developers for Tim Cook. She cited an internal survey of developers and pointed out that 39% of them said they were dissatisfied with the App Store release. So, she asked, what is the motivation for Apple to work with them?

Cook seemed to be caught off guard by this question. He said that Apple rejected a lot of applications, and “friction” may be a good thing for users. Rogers replied, “You don’t seem to feel pressured or competing to change your behavior to address developer concerns.”

This is a brief but convincing exchange. And this touches the core of Apple’s current unstable relationship with developers.

Epic vs. Apple vs. Developer

On the surface, Epic’s antitrust case against Apple is about the iPhone manufacturer’s Fortress night And refused to allow game developers to bypass the App Store for in-app purchases. Epic and many other well-known developers have long been annoyed by Apple’s 30% commission or “App Store” tax.

Not just because they think 30% is greedy and unfair (Apple recently reduce For small developers, it needs 15%). Apple seems to have a different attitude towards some developers than others.For example, documents unearthed during the trial detail how Apple did its best Block Netflix Extract in-app purchases from their apps.

After considering “punishment measures” against the streaming giant, Apple provided Netflix custom APIs that most developers cannot access. It is also pending the possibility of additional promotions in the App Store or even its physical retail stores. In any case, Netflix eventually cancelled in-app purchases, but this shows that many developers have long suspected that Apple’s “special treatment” Some applications.

At the same time, game developers have no choice but to pay Apple’s “tax.” Not only that, Apple’s rules even prohibit them from reminding users that they may be able to make the same purchase elsewhere at a lower price-this is the so-called “reverse direction” rule.

The friction with these rules is nothing new. But the details of these arrangements, as well as Apple’s tough strategy for developers, have never been exposed as during the trial.

“The great thing about the Epic experiment is that it exposes many of these issues and enters public conversations,” said Megan DiMuzio, executive director of the App Fair Alliance, whose representatives believe that Apple’s policies are anti-competitive developers Advocacy organization. “I think we have seen how Apple chooses to deal with their relationship with developers more generally, and how they value or not value their relationship with developers. I think these are very incredible soundtracks and stories in the eyes of the public plot.”

This case involves other issues that have been the source of long-term dissatisfaction among developers for Cupertino, not just giants like Netflix. Epic also highlighted common complaints from developers about App Store search ads, fraudulent apps, and Apple’s often difficult to understand review process.

In a particularly memorable exchange, the developer of the yoga app Down Dog talked in detail about how Apple’s opacity policy has a huge impact on developers.For example, he said that Apple has repeatedly refused app updates for seemingly strange reasons, such as using “Wrong” color On the login page. He said that one update was rejected because App Store reviewers could not find the integration of his app with the Apple Health app. Later he realized that this was because the reviewer was testing on an iPad, which did not support the Health app.

Most developers are probably familiar with these types of complaints. It’s not uncommon for Apple to argue over the location of certain buttons or other small functions. As Epic has repeatedly pointed out, these seemingly small problems may last for days or weeks. But such quarrels rarely spread to the public eye as they did during the trial.

The trial also raised other more basic questions. Epic witnesses testify about App Store’s operating margins Is 78%, A digital Apple disputed, but did not provide evidence to the contrary.Instead, Tim Cook and other executives insist that they just do not know How much money does the App Store make.

However, when asked whether game developers effectively “subsidized” the rest of the App Store, Cook did have more to say. Cook said: “We are creating all the commerce in the store, and we are doing this by focusing on attracting the largest audience.” statement.

This argument touched some people’s nerves.Marco Arment is a long-term iOS developer whose app has been recommended by Apple Stern blog post as a response.

“The idea that the App Store is responsible for most customers of any fairly well-known app is an illusion,” Arment wrote. “The App Store is just a mandatory distribution gateway for a platform. It “promotes” commerce no less than a web browser, ISP or cellular operator, server hosting company or credit card processor. Apple continues to claim otherwise is rude, almost Delusion.”

However, determining how many developers agree with this view is tricky. There are millions of iOS developers, and for most of the history of the App Store, most people are reluctant to criticize Apple publicly. The company conducted its own investigation-as evidenced by Epic’s experimental disclosures-but the results of the investigation are usually not made public. Even Cook admitted that he was not sure if this was an indicator that the company regularly tracks.

“There are not many actual third-party surveys on the developer ecosystem,” said Ben Bajarin, CEO of analytics company Creative Strategies. He has been conducting his own polls of Apple developers to gauge how they feel about the company.

He said that he believes there is a “considerable gap” between the smaller independent developers on the App Store and the larger companies. He said that developers with smaller projects “just rely more on Apple.” Although they have concerns about issues such as search ads or Apple’s review process, they don’t have much choice. “These are not developers with huge marketing budgets […] They rely entirely on Apple to attract customers. “

The coming antitrust war

These problems may ultimately be much more serious than Epic or some other high-profile frustrated developers. Regardless of the outcome of the Epic trial, Apple faces other antitrust struggles in the United States and Europe, which raise many of the same issues.

UK regulator roll out Survey of the App Store in March. This investigation into developer complaints is studying Apple’s developer rules and its policies regarding in-app purchases.In addition, the EU is advancing its The antitrust case is centered on the company’s commission structure and anti-guidance rules.Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers also Hear Introduction from application developers who have been frustrated in recent months Five Antitrust Acts Target Apple and other tech giants.One of them will prohibit Apple pre-installation Any application On the iPhone.

The result of any one of them could greatly change the way Apple runs the App Store and the rules it sets for developers.

For its part, Apple Argued Opening the App Store will harm users and affect their ability to protect privacy.According to reports, Cook personally lobbied members of Congress behind the scenes Rethink Proposed legislation.

Even if Apple can stand out from the antitrust struggle relatively unscathed, dissatisfied developers may eventually cause more serious survival problems for Apple. According to Bajarin of Creative Strategies, the developer’s problem is unlikely to cause damage to Apple in the short term because there are currently few other options. However, he said that this situation may change if Apple faces competition from emerging platforms that it has not yet dominated, such as AR or VR.

“You just don’t want this kind of pressure in the developer relationship, because Apple wants all these developers to be prepared on the first day for everything that happens next. They need the larger developers to still prioritize their operating system.”

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