Apple vs Epic

Some of you may have heard of the video game Fortnite, which Epic makes for the cell phone market and sells through Apple’s app store. Associated with that is Epic’s move to make in-app sales—purchases of other products made from within an app—without having to pay the 30% commission Apple charges for in-app purchases via an app that was sold through Apple’s app store.

Some of you may have heard of Apple’s subsequent decision to block Fortnite sales through its app store and of the ensuing antitrust hoo-raw over Apple’s move.

The hoo-raw is centered on government intervention into what should be a free market: government antitrust law and the use of the government judiciary branch to press the beef.

That’s wrong, however legal the beefing might be.

I consider Apple’s use of its facility, here its app store, to be entirely withing Apple’s right to control its property, regardless of how widespread third-party use might be. Walmart, for instance, is not legally required, nor is it morally obligated, to sell any particular third-party product that wants shelf space. To provide space, or not, is a purely business decision, whether the space is physical for physical goods or virtual for electrons.

On the other hand, there’s nothing preventing Epic from selling its output through other facilities than one provided by Apple. There’s nothing preventing Epic or other app producers from forming their own individual app stores or from banding together to form a collective app store or collection of app stores.

Along with that, there’s nothing wrong with app developers selling their output exclusively to or through Android device producers and eschewing Apple device compatibility altogether.

That’s what a free market does. It’s what should be occurring here. Don’t bother with antitrust litigation; instead, set up separate app stores.

As an aside, Alphabet’s Google Play charges the same 30% for the same in-app purchase process, but the current beef only involves Apple. If there is a legitimate legal beef here, maybe it’s in the two biggest players in the app sales business charging the same price. It’s hard to believe that the two entities have sufficiently identical cost structures that they would arrive, naturally, at the same market price.

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