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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Big Tech antitrust throwdown of 2020 continued Thursday when Fortnite maker Epic Games sued Apple (and Google) over how they manage their mobile app stores, objecting, for instance, to the 30% cut the company takes from in-app payments.

Why it matters: Apple’s control over iOS app distribution has been a thorny issue, so any changes would have ramifications for the business models of startups and indie app developers.

  • 30% is not an insignificant portion of revenue to pay in rent. For some companies, it can be bearable, but it can be crippling for others. Though some companies get to pay less.
  • And even more extreme: Apple can also shut out apps from the store.
  • While Epic is suing Google with similar allegations, its Google Play Store is not the only Android app store, so Apple has a unique power over apps for its operating system.

For new companies, the so-called “platform risk” of being at the mercy of Apple App Store's rules and power is an existential one.

  • Entrepreneurs and investors absolutely consider whether a company’s product and business can withstand barriers from any given platform.
  • Not to mention the heightened risk if their product is directly competitive with one offered by Apple (or any other platform). Just ask Spotify

The bottom line: It’s very possible Apple and Epic Games will come to some sort of compromise soon.

  • But if this makes it to a trial and an ultimate verdict, it could have an impact on the future of apps and Big Tech.

Go deeper

Nov 18, 2020 - Technology

Apple settles with states for $113 million over slowed iPhones

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

Apple will pay states $113 million in a settlement over allegations that the phone maker secretly throttled speeds on older iPhones to extend battery life, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: 34 states were involved in the investigation, which alleges that starting in December 2016, Apple released a software update reducing performance to keep some iPhones from unexpectedly shutting down.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Nov 18, 2020 - Technology

Microsoft adding security chip to Windows machines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft said Tuesday it is working with chipmakers AMD, Intel and Qualcomm to bring a new security processor to Windows machines. Dubbed Pluton, the security chip is based on work done for the Xbox One and designed to bring an added layer of security.

Why it matters: A number of difficult-to-patch chip flaws in recent years have left computers vulnerable to attack. It also comes as many of the biggest tech companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, are increasingly designing their own silicon to augment traditional processors.

U.S. military buys app tracking data from private services

Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty

U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is quietly purchasing access to vast troves of real-time location and user data from commercial apps that focus on everything from dating services for Muslims to weather reports, according to a new Vice investigation.

Why it matters: Though legal, the purchase of these data tracking services by the U.S. military raises serious civil liberties and privacy questions — as well as questions about just how the military is employing this data.

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