Apple v. Epic: Top Apple engineer makes case for App Store security

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Apple Inc.’s top engineer played up the security of its App Store as a safe haven for developers and consumers as the company continued its defense in an antitrust case vs. Epic Games Inc.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, on Wednesday said major changes to the App Store, including its removal as the central place for software, “would subject iOS users to a huge decrease in their safety.”

Apple has long promoted the bona fides of security and privacy on its iOS as a competitive advantage, particularly as it duels with Facebook Inc.
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for advertising. In the context of the Epic case, if anyone could distribute apps to iOS users — Epic claims the App Store is a monopoly — “It would be a pretty devastating setback for iOS security,” Federighi said. He further warned that consumers would increasingly be susceptible to downloading malware and other sophisticated hacking methods.

In methodical detail, Federighi explained to Apple attorney Jason Lo the significance of security in the design of iOS, and its stark contrast with other operating systems, such as Android and macOS.

“We wanted to radically rethink people’s relationship with apps,” Federighi said of the iOS ecosystem that serves more than 1 billion devices. On computers, people download software infrequently. On the phone, however, they download apps all the time, requiring a secure end-to-end system to protect their personal information.

“The App Store is a trusted source for apps,” he said. “I would have grave concerns” if control over user privacy was handled by a third party, he said.

In his cross-examination of Federighi, Epic attorney Yonatan Even stressed that Federighi was not at Apple when the first iPhone and App Store were launched. Federighi, who was at Ariba from 1999-2009, admitted to Even he had no first-hand knowledge about the design that went into App Store. Even proceeded to highlight potential flaws in Apple security.

Federighi later said he is not involved in day-to-day operation of Apple’s App Review, and unaware of how much time each reviewer spends with an app. He confirmed there are no native gaming streaming apps on App Store.

Epic is suing Apple
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in federal court for what it claims is anticompetitive behavior. The maker of the popular “Fortnite” game says Apple’s App Store amounts to a monopolistic tool with crippling developer commission fees of 30% and technical policies that make it difficult for app makers to compete with similar Apple apps. Apple has steadfastly countered that Epic angled for a side deal for lower commission fees to enrich its revenue, and breached its contract with Apple.

Before Federighi’s testimony, Michael Schmid, head of game business development for the App Store, described a “tumultuous” relationship between Epic and Apple that nonetheless was highly lucrative.

“It was a pretty demanding relationship,” he said, referring to 5 a.m. phone calls and calls on Christmas for support. Epic requested expedited App Reviews more than 80 times in 2020 alone, Schmid said. In several emails, Schmid said, Epic executives thanked him for expediting updates.

Indeed, in the 11 months before “Fortnite” was booted from the App Store in August 2020, Apple spent about $1 million promoting and marketing the wildly popular game, he said. That was more than Apple spent on any other game, according to Schmid.

Epic attorney Lauren Moskowitz countered that court filings disclosed Apple made more than $100 million in commissions from Epic. Apple, she said, spent $1 million assisting Epic but earned at least $100 million.

Apple benefited substantially from having “Fortnite” on the App Store, Moskowitz said, and Schmid agreed. Moskowitz added that Epic complained several times about the time it took Apple to “propagate” the game, which Schmid confirmed.

In an interesting aside, Schmid revealed Apple and Epic discussed the idea of creating a character based on Steve Jobs, Apple’s late co-founder, though it didn’t happen.

When asked by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers — the federal judge who will decide the bench trial — Schmid acknowledged Apple makes billions of dollars from gamers vs. regular iPhone users. The vast majority of games are free, he added.



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