Epic’s decision was called a “great victory” by Apple. It was not so

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Its App Store survived a big antitrust test, but the judge’s ruling leaves it on shaky ground.

But there are signs peppered throughout the lengthy, detailed verdict that the App Store’s foundations may be on shaky ground amid a broader push to cut Big Tech down to size. In addition, Gonzalez Rogers opened a significant crack in Apple’s model by issuing a permanent injunction that would force Apple to allow developers to offer iOS users alternative ways to pay for their apps, services and digital goods — ways that would bypass Apple and its fees.

The best news for Apple is that the judge rejected Epic’s claim that the iOS App Store represents a market unto itself, with Apple commanding a 100 percent monopoly. Instead, the judge found that the market in which Epic Games’ apps competes is “digital mobile gaming transactions,” a sector that includes Google’s Android platform. She was also unconvinced by Epic’s arguments that Apple “locks in” users with policies and services, such as iMessage, that make it overly burdensome to switch to Android. She noted that Apple’s high customer satisfaction ratings suggest most users stay because they like it, not because they’re trapped.

Story Highlights

  • Apple claimed a “huge win” Friday after a federal judge ruled that game developer Epic Games had failed to show that its App Store holds a monopoly in the mobile gaming market. But a closer read of the verdict suggests it was less an Apple win than an Epic fail.

  • “Success is not illegal,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote, ruling against most of the “Fortnite” developer’s antitrust claims. Her decision allows Apple to keep its own App Store as the exclusive market for apps on iOS devices, and to keep taking a 30 percent cut of users’ purchases on many of those apps — a fee that Epic and other developers argue is too steep. No doubt that comes as a big relief to Apple, for which the App Store is a major source of revenue growth and profit.