Apple, Epic in heated US court clash over app market

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney arrives at federal court in Oakland, California for a trial pitting the maker of the popular video game Fortnite against Apple in a case with big implications for the future of the online App Store

Fortnite maker Epic Games and Apple clashed in court Monday at the opening of a blockbuster trial on the iPhone maker’s App Store with big implications for the world of mobile tech, trading barbs over alleged monopolistic actions and what is best for consumers.

Epic attorney Katherine Forrest began the case, accusing Apple of turning its online marketplace into a monopoly “walled garden” that lures in developers and users and then squeezes money out of them.

“The evidence will show unambiguously that Apple is a monopoly,” she claimed.

Apple is no more a monopoly than is a grocery market that sells a broad array of goods, competing with other shops, Dunn maintained, pointing out that people can play Epic games on platforms including consoles, personal computers and smartphones made by Apple rivals.

If Epic prevails, Dunn said, “The result for consumers and developers will be: Less security. Less privacy. Less reliability. Lower quality. Less choice. All of the things the antitrust laws seek to protect.”

Epic, maker of the popular “battle royal” game Fortnite, is aiming to break the iPhone maker’s grip on its App Store.

“As Fortnite scales beyond gaming… it is essential to include the more than one billion iPhone users,” Sweeney said in his testimony.

The trial resuming on Tuesday before District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers comes with Apple feeling pressure from a wide range of app makers over its control of the App Store, which critics say represents monopolistic behavior.

Sweeney testified that Epic provoked a public confrontation with Apple by hiding a “Hot Fix” in a Fortnite app to bypass the iPhone maker’s payment system in violation of a contract.

– Business model at risk –

“It’s going to tell us a lot about how we structure industries and the technology industry going forward,” he said.

Analyst Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities called the case a “Game of Thrones court battle,” with Epic looking to bypass the app platforms of both Apple and Google “while trying to gain support from other developers/app makers in a ‘groundswell movement'” against Apple.

“Apple has successfully defended its App Store moat again and again, with this time being no different in our opinion,” Ives said in a research note.

The European Union has formally accused Apple of unfairly squeezing out music streaming rivals based on a complaint brought by Sweden-based Spotify and others, which claim the California group sets rules that favor its own Apple Music.

Apple booted Fortnite from its online mobile marketplace last year after Epic dodged revenue sharing with the iPhone maker.

Due to the legal row, Fortnite fans using iPhones or other Apple devices no longer have access to the latest game updates.

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