Apple and Epic have begun a court trial that could decide the future of technology.
On the one hand, the trial – and the very public fallout that preceded it – is very simple. Epic argues that the rules that govern the App Store are unfair, and that apps like its own Fortnite should be allowed to behave differently.
But, at the same time, the fight is incredibly complex. It revolves around the rules that underpin much of the technology that people use each day, and suggests they should be changed.
Though the disputes at the centre of the fallout stretch back for years, the real beginning of the current trial can be traced back to the moment last year in which Epic added a new system into Fortnite that allowed the developers to get around the 30 per cent commission that Apple charges on every digital purchase made in an app downloaded from its store.
In doing so, Epic broke Apple’s rules. Fortnite – and Epic generally – were removed from the App Store, in keeping with its rules.
The legal and publicity campaigns then began, with Epic suing Apple. Its arguments not only related to that specific event, but were much more general: Epic argued that Apple was abusing its power over developers, requiring them to commit to unfair rules if they want access to the App Store.
That campaign did not only include the legal routes that began in this week’s trial, which will run for three weeks in Oakland, California. It also led to complaints with regulators in the US and Europe, and a marketing campaign that included an ad that made fun of Apple’s own output.
Epic says that it wants “changes to Apple’s behaviour” that will allow the company to not pay the current commissions and have their apps distributed through the App Store. But if Epic is awarded that, it could change some of the central governing principles not only of Apple’s App Stores but other distribution platforms too.
The court discussions are likely to take a similarly broad approach….