We’ve known for many years that while Apple are market-leaders in designing good looking high-quality products that people are willing to pay small fortunes for, that they can also be a bit of a bully at times. Not too dissimilar to when Microsoft were the leaders of the world back in the late 90s and early 00s.
It seems some of their policies around their dominant App Store have caused a bit of stink, with certain companies going so far as to compare the tech company to Italy’s mafia crime families in the way that they are over-regulating and conducting business (via The Verge). This comes as David Heinemeier Hansson, the CTO of Basecamp, said that Apple is acting like “gangsters,” rejecting a bug fix update and asking the company in a phone call to commit to adding an in-app subscription to prevent it from being removed. “I was taken aback by how brazen that threat was,”.
The company, which owns Hey.com and offers a mail service alternative to Gmail, is claiming that Apple is threatening to remove their app from the store if they don’t begin offering an in-app subscription and sharing a cut of its revenue. This comes as the European Union opened an investigation into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices with EU antitrust head Margrethe Vestager describing Apple as a gatekeeper of sorts for the industry:
[Apple has] obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role. We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers.
This announcement from the EU came after complaints from Spotify about some of the app practices from Apple and their massive cut of in-app transactions. In fact, many companies have gone about trying to get subscribers to sign-up for contracts outside of their apps (like Netflix) to avoid giving Apple a portion of the cut.
As always, there are two sides to any story and Apple may have their reasons for taking a hard-line stance on Hey.com, as many other apps do not get that sort of treatment. Apple has also justified its massive 30% cut describing how they are essentially facilitating an industry worth over $500 billion in payments.
While Apple does probably deserve some of the profits for providing an ecosystem for others to use, that cut is far too high and needs to be reduced drastically. As the App Store is the default place that Apple pushes users to when it comes to downloading anything on the device, Apple needs to understand that it’s those developers that are bringing people to its store that are the reason it has been successful in the first place.
I don’t think the Apple App Store is going away anytime soon, but with this pressure now been placed on it by some big companies and now the EU Antitrust Commission, it will be interesting to see if they will finally change their approach or perhaps see companies bypassing Apple for some other platform.
Last Updated: June 18, 2020