U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Apple App Store antitrust appeal | VentureBeat


#1

This will be very interesting:


(Adam Engst) #2

The claim that Apple’s App Store monopoly led to higher prices strikes me as hard to support, given that the App Store was largely responsible for a massive drop in software prices in general, to the point where a large percentage of apps are free now.


(Simon) #3

I have to admit I really don’t understand what the argument is behind this. It’s not like the App Store wouldn’t be an integral part of how an iPhone works. It wasn’t added after the fact. If you don’t like how the App Store works, you could easily get an Android instead of an iPhone. To me this almost sounds as if somebody buys a Toyota and then sues Toyota because they have to buy a Toyota replacement part rather than just using one made for a Ford. But as I said, I don’t get it. So maybe somebody else here can shed some light on why this has merit (assuming it has at least some).


(Paul Schinder) #4

It’s been a long time since I actually worked on my own car, but I seem to recall that Toyota can’t prevent some third party (even Ford) from making identical replacement parts for Toyota’s. I think that might be the problem. Apple prevents you from “side loading” apps onto an iPhone, so you can’t buy “parts” from anyone other than Apple. Doesn’t strike me as rising to the level of a monopoly, but there is an argument to be made.


#5

The claim that Apple’s App Store monopoly led to higher prices strikes me as hard to support, given that the App Store was largely responsible for a massive drop in software prices in general, to the point where a large percentage of apps are free now.

And app developers set the price for their apps; Apple just takes a cut. Esty, eBay, etc. work similarly.


(Simon) #6

I can understand that. If an identical Ford part works, why should Toyota be allowed to prevent you from using it?

But, to stick with this (possibly flawed) analogy, isn’t this suit basically alleging that Toyota should be forced to make modifications to their own engines so that people can also use Ford parts? After all, there are other app stores and people can chose to use those. But once they chose the App Store (by buying into iPhone and iOS), they basically can’t reasonably expect to be able to use Android Play, can they?


#7

Oh Jeez, I didn’t think about this. Apple does pick and choose what apps get sold, and they are very picky. There is no alternative for developers that get turned down. I happen to like Apple’s policy very much, but maybe the Supreme Court won’t.


(gastropod) #8

That’s mostly true, though anyone can add an app that they have source code for to their own devices, without being a paid Apple developer. For open source iOS projects, this isn’t (necessarily) that high a hurdle for installing the software. But for average users or commercial software that Apple bars from the store, it doesn’t help.

I have mixed feelings about it. I’m happy that Apple screens out a lot of iffy and hazardous stuff, but I’d be ecstatic if I could have Little Snitch on the mobiles.


#9

There are some Android apps for sale on Amazon, and I think on some game sites too.

IMHO, anyone who buys an Apple product knows that only the apps you download from Apple’s App Store will work with it. If you don’t like this, you can buy an Android or Windows device. But the Supreme Court might think otherwise.


(Simon) #10

I agree with you and I can now also see why the SC might disagree. Apple cannot argue they just screen for security, they also make business decisions. Apps aren’t just barred from the App Store because they’re broken or they spy on people, they’re also banned if they attempt to compete with Apple, like no non-Safari HTML rendering, no apps that “replicate built-in functionality”, etc. In a way that is Apple locking out the competition.

Personally, I would have an issue with that if Apple had 90% of the market, but since Android is just one alternative and in fact has a majority share, I have a hard time understanding if somebody first choses an iPhone to only later complain that they’re not getting enough app variety form the App Store. But it sure will be interesting to hear how the SC sees this.


(Paul Schinder) #11

How easy is that to actually do? I have all of the developer tools installed (Xcode, etc.) If someone were to hand me the source code to an iOS app, how much trouble is it to get it on my iPhone 8? I’ve installed Open Source stuff on my Macs, and I write my own scientific code (no GUI’s, though) which I also install. But I’ve never done it for iOS, and I don’t know off hand if any OS source code is even available for iOS

Here’s another question. I have an app SysStatsMon which has a button for the process table, but when pressed it says “This feature is no longer supported in this iOS version”. Is this something that Apple is preventing by not providing the proper API’s on iOS, or are they just saying “you can’t put an application in the App Store that shows the process table” (or the filesystem, etc.)? There are any number of ways of looking at the process table on macOS.


(gastropod) #12

I haven’t had cause or time to try it (desperately need to retire!), but here’s an oldish how to (iOS 9 and xcode 7):

It’s not a click-one-button process, but looks fairly straightforward. I suspect the real problems depend on whether the open source developer/s did a good job on the code and the packaging (just like compiling / installing open source on desktops).

I don’t know if there’s a way around Apple’s block on certain APIs. It’s possible they could enforce that to some extent in xcode. But since you can only install apps on your own devices, it’s possible they don’t try all that hard.


(gastropod) #13

What the court is actually going to rule on is whether users (app buyers as opposed to developers) have the right to bring a class action suit against Apple in the first place. If so, it will continue to drag on for years.

https://phys.org/news/2018-06-supreme-court-iphone-app-lawsuit.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/06/18/supreme-court-consider-whether-buyers-iphone-apps-can-sue-apple-alleged-monopoly/712171002/


(Al Varnell) #14

It’s actually WebKit that is mandated. There are dozens of browsers available, including Firefox and Chrome that are almost identical to their macOS counterparts, except that they apparently must use WebKit to render.


(Al Varnell) #15

Let’s assume for the moment that the only reason for rejection is for failure to abide by the publicly available App Store Review Guidelines https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines. There is also detailed guidance concerning acceptance and rejection available. Unless the plaintiffs can show that either the rules are discriminatory or not being uniformly applied, I’m not sure I see a problem with that.


(Paul Chernoff) #16

There could be a stronger argument if Apple had a majority of smart phone sales. They don’t. But the arguments might not be about prices per se but about Apple controlling the apps allowed on the store. Someone working in antitrust law should know the legal issues involved.


(Curtis Wilcox) #17

That’s an important reminder and suggests that, as is often the case, the Supreme Court will make a narrow decision that’s likely not very consequential.

I don’t know why who the seller is, the developer or Apple, matters but given that the developer sets the price, that’s a pretty strong indicator that it’s not Apple.

I find the suggestion that Apple has an illegal monopoly on selling apps in the App Store for iOS devices silly, as if they should have to sell all apps. I’m more interested in the idea that everyone is the owner of the hardware they buy and have the legal right to do what they want with it, including jailbreaking to load apps not from the App Store. There are a couple of problems with that though. First, I think Apple would still be able to make jailbreaking as technically hard as possible, they just couldn’t make it a violation of an agreement. Second, jailbreaking would likely be a violation of the DMCA, something I don’t think the Supreme Court would take the opportunity to overturn, even for the narrow case of doing it for oneself. There are other cases, like the farmers updating the firmware in their tractors, that are more promising routes to getting that part of the DMCA stricken.


(peter@stairways.com.au) #18

This didn’t affect the results of the Amazon/Apple case some years ago where Apple broke the monopoly and was penalised for it.

Given the number of cases where Apple has rejected apps that compete with Apple and/or later released equivalent apps, and given the rather non-uniform way the rules are applied, I suspect this would not be overly difficult to show.


#19

peternlewis
peter@stairways.com.au

    June 25

ace:
The claim that Apple’s App Store monopoly led to higher prices strikes me as hard to support

This didn’t affect the results of the Amazon/Apple case some years ago where Apple broke the monopoly and was penalised for it.

There are nitpicky twists here. Anyone can buy and download an unsanctioned app outside of the App Store, but jailbreaking voids any Apple warranty. Apple claims that the App App Store is a service developers choose to use, and buyers purchase from the App Store because of the security and bug vetting they supply.

The lawsuit also claims that because the App Store is the distributor, they should pay the 30% markup. Apple says that the distributors are ultimately their customers, and they should pay, like department stores mark up products from outside manufacturers.


(Adam Engst) #20

Apple’s behavior in that situation did lead to higher prices immediately. And unfortunately, Amazon wasn’t actually involved in the case at all, other than as a driver that caused Apple to collude with the publishers.