Jury Decides Play Store Is A Monopoly
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 13 December 2023

Yes, it's an Epic win and good news for programmers. Epic Games has been leading the battle against the app store since 2020 and essentially lost against Apple, but won against Google. It's like killing the little dragon while the big one roasts you.

There are sides here. Some favor Apple, some Google and some, but not as many, Epic. A lot depends on where your current income is coming from, but there is more at stake here than that. It isn't just about the 30% tax on developers to sell their work on the two platforms - it is about freedom.

Back in the early days you bought a computer and you controlled what software it ran. Today the app store model restricts that freedom in many obvious and non-obvious ways. The excuse is to protect the consumer of a product, which is a phone and not a general purpose computer, but of course we all know that the real motive is to make money.


Epic was slow to realize this, but once its boss Tim Sweeny got the message he came out swinging at both Apple and Google. We all know that when it comes to app stores Apple is the big one and Google basically is just trying to catch up. Apple created the walled garden model of software and has enforced its control without a break. Google claimed Android was free and open and only slowly worked its way up to a fairly closed ecosystem by doing deals and forcing us to rely on the Play store to provide services. It is probably this untidy scramble to implement a walled garden that made it easier to conclude that the Play store is a monopoly - the effort to make it so is clear to everyone including the fedral jury that Google opted to rely on rather than the judge that Apple selected.


Epic lost on most of its points to Apple but the judge did decide that programmers could sell in-game items without Apple getting a cut, but even this is being appealed. In the case of Google, Epic won all its points and we wait to see what the judge will decide is Google's punishment for breaking state and federal law.

So why the big difference?

As already stated, part of the problem was the messy way that Google had to go about converting its free and open source operating system into something increasingly closed and profitable. Put simply, there was lots of evidence of doing deals with phone manufacturers, carriers and even developers to ensure that side-loading and alternative app stores were discouraged.

A second reason is probably that the jury were up on the case. As Tim Sweeny reports in a Verge interview:

"Something that we’d suspected all along was the jury was really following the case carefully. They weren’t snoozing off as you might expect with the complexity of these documents and things — everybody was paying attention, they’re looking at the question asker and the witness and taking notes and reading documents. It was just awesome to see that the justice system works, even with the most complex type of tech antitrust case that you can possibly throw at a jury.

They got it, they got it quickly, and they were able to pull apart what was going on and contrast it with the fiction of the story that Google was trying to tell."

Sadly the effect of the ruling on Google isn't likely to be of the same sort as a similar ruling against Apple. Google's grip isn't as good and relaxing it isn't going to be as notable a change. It will most likely allow competing app stores but these could have happened anyway if the companies involved hadn't made deals with Google not to.

Will this have any impact on Apple?

To quote Sweeny again:

"The thing with Apple is all of their antitrust trickery is internal to the company. They use their store, their payments, they force developers to all have the same terms, they force OEMs and carriers to all have the same terms."

" You know, I think Apple is... it’s a little bit unfortunate that in a lot of ways Apple’s restrictions on competition are absolute. Thou shalt not have a competing store on iOS and thou shalt not use a competing payment method. And I think Apple should be receiving at least as harsh antitrust scrutiny as Google."

Refering back to a previous news item, I analysed the possible outcomes of the Google and Apple trials from Epic's viewpoint: 

Google Apple
Win Win   :-)
Lose Win  sensible
Win Lose nonsense
Lose Lose   :-(


So we have nonsense - let us see if the law can make sense of it at the next round.


More Information

Epic v Google Trial Verdict, a Win for All Developers

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney: the post-trial interview

Related Articles

Apple Wins Appeal Against Epic

Epic v Apple - Both Sides Lose But It's A Win For Developers

Epic Games V Apple & Google - Smash The App Stores

Google To Pay $90 Million To Devs - But It's Not Enough

Google Matches Apple's App Store Cut

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 December 2023 )