Epic Games files its own expert testimony against Apple

Earlier this week, we reported on Apple’s filing of its own expert testimony in its legal battle with Epic Games. And now it’s Epic’s turn to weigh in.

As reported today by 9to5Mac, Epic Games has sought the opinion of several different experts, mostly academics in this regard. In an effort to push forward with its antitrust case against Apple, Epic Games sought the informed opinion of folks who would agree with it. And, of course, there were plenty of experts out there that did.

The original report notes that the focus for most of the academics is the fact that, despite Apple’s claims, it can indeed have a monopoly on access to apps, iOS apps specifically, despite the fact that a competing platform (Android) exists. What’s more, the experts say that Apple does indeed give its own competing apps an unfair advantage, and that, ultimately, “security” is just a way for Apple to argue against competing apps and digital storefronts.

Dr. David Evans is from the University College London, and he says that while it may be technically possible to switch from one platform to another, it’s not realistic for many customers. That’s because it would mean that, in many cases, an iOS user who switches to Android, or vice versa, would need to buy the apps on the new platform all over again.

iOS and Android users make sunk cost investments in hardware, software, and learning for their respective ecosystems. A decision to switch OSs is a decision to move ecosystems, meaning consumers would lose the value of these investments and have to make new ones. These costs reduce consumers’ incentive to switch.

Susan Athey, a professor of Economics of Technology at Stanford, weighed in as well, pushing back against Apple’s claim that a single app store on iOS is paramount to the platform’s security:

My expert opinion is that iPhone security is in fact significantly independent of the review process and the distribution channel (however they may be implemented). Thus, my expert opinion is that Apple considerably overstates the security benefits of its centralized App Store model. Apple is justified in caring about the security of its users; however, an iPhone’s security guarantees are predominantly enforced by the iPhone’s operating system, not by Apple’s App Store and the associated review process.

And then Georgia Institute of Technology professor Wenke Lee piled on with that idea, saying Apple could sign developer certificates just like it does on Mac:

I have evaluated the iOS security model based on Apple’s own stated goals and processes for enforcing security on iOS. My analysis led me to conclude that … the same security features Apple seeks to enforce on iOS can be achieved without the need for exclusive distribution. For instance, third parties could perform the same security screening steps taken during App Review, and Dr. Rubin does not dispute this. Third parties can also perform developer identity verification and code signing. Most importantly, all of the on-device mechanisms that enforce security on iOS are independent of the app distribution model.

Epic Games and Apple’s bench trial begins on Monday, May 3, 2021. The timeline of how we got here is below.

The timeline

August 13, 2020

  • Epic Games updates Fortnite on the server-side, bypassing the App Store review process. It adds a direct payment option, breaking another rule in the process.
  • Apple removes Fortnite from the App Store due to Epic Games breaking the App Store rules.
  • Epic Games launches a media blitz, and it also sues Apple for anti-competitive behavior.
  • Epic launches “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”, a parody video of Apple’s original “1984” ad:

  • Google removes Fortnite from the Play Store, as Epic Games also violated the Play Store’s rules.
  • Epic sues Google, too.
  • Spotify weighs in! Unsurprisingly, it applauds Epic Games for its decision to stand up against Apple.

August 14, 2020

  • Facebook says Apple’s App Store fees make it impossible to help small businessesimpacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

August 17, 2020

  • Apple threatens to revoke Epic Games’ developer accounts for not only iOS, but also macOS. That cut-off is set to take place on Friday, August 28, 2020.

August 18, 2020

August 20, 2020

  • The Wall Street Journal and other news publications sign an open letter asking for Apple to reduce its App Store fees down to a standard 15%.

August 21, 2020

  • Epic Games promotes the #FreeFortnite Cup, or tournament, that is meant to bring even more attention against Apple, and is promoting “anti-Apple” prizes.
  • Epic sought special treatment for Fortnite before it declared war against Apple and the App Store’s guidelines.

August 24, 2020

  • Judge Gonzalez-Rogers rules that Apple does not need to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store as the legal battle wages on. The judge also rules that Apple cannot revoke the Unreal Engine development tools, but it can still move forward with removing Epic’s developer account for iOS and macOS.
  • Apple says it agrees with the ruling made by Judge Gonzalez-Rogers, and is prepared to welcome Fortnite back onto iOS as soon as Epic Games is ready to follow the App Store guidelines.

August 26, 2020

  • Epic confirms that the new season of Fortnite, which is Marvel-themed, will not be available on iOS or Mac. Cross-platform functionality with those platforms is also removed.

August 28, 2020

September 8, 2020

September 9, 2020

  • Epic Games says Apple is going to disable the “Sign in with Apple” feature as soon as Friday, September 11.
  • Apple changes its mind regarding “Sign in with Apple”, allows existing customers to keep using it.

September 10, 2020

September 18, 2020

September 24, 2020

  • Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, and other companies create the “Coalition for App Fairness” to take on Apple’s and Google’s digital storefront policies.

September 28, 2020

October 7, 2020

  • Judge rules that the court battle between Apple and Epic Games will resume in May 2021.

November 5, 2020

  • Fortnite returns to iOS thanks to GeForce Now game streaming service, and only available via Safari.

December 17, 2020

  • Judge orders both Tim Cook and Craig Federighi to testify in the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games.

December 21, 2020

January 14, 2021

February 1, 2021

  • Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is ordered to sit through a 7-hour deposition

February 10, 2021

February 22, 2021

February 25, 2021

  • After some delay, a judge ruled that Valve has to hand over requested documentation to Apple

March 1, 2021

  • Apple and Epic Games’ trial may be in person, and it is set to start in May

April 5, 2021

April 27, 2021