Judge in Epic vs. Apple presses Tim Cook on why so many developers are unhappy

At the end of the Epic vs. Apple study, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a position to provide the study’s most anticipated testimony. After a much-quoted statement that “I’m not a gamer,” Cook testified earlier that day about Apple’s business in China and its privacy policy.

However, some of the toughest questions came from U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who put Cook under pressure on Apple’s relationship with its developers. The judge pointed to a poll conducted by Apple which found that 39 percent of developers were dissatisfied with the company’s distribution. Given the number, she asked Cook how Apple had an incentive to “cater to their needs”.

Cook responded that, given the number of apps the company disapproves, there has always been some “friction” with developers, but that “friction is good for users because they know it is safe and trustworthy”. Rogers replied that “it doesn’t look like you are feeling pressure or competition to change the way you act to address developer concerns.”

She also said it was “incredibly important” that the majority of App Store revenue and in-app purchases come from games, and said the game industry generates a “disproportionate amount” of revenue for Apple. She pointed out banking apps like Wells Fargo, which only pay Apple an annual developer fee. She asked if gaming apps essentially subsidize all of the free apps in the store. Cook disagreed, saying that “a large number” of free apps help drive traffic for all developers.

Cook also faced questions on other sensitive issues. Epic’s attorney inquired about Apple’s policy in China, including the fact that Chinese iCloud data is owned by a state-owned company called GCBD. Earlier this week, the New York Times published a lengthy investigation into the “compromises” Apple is making to do business in China. The CEO was also urged to work with Apple with requests from the Chinese government to remove apps from the App Store. Cook said the company has an obligation to obey the laws of the countries in which it does business.

A few moments seemed to detract from credibility, such as when Cook claimed not to know how much Google paid as the default search engine in iOS and said, “That was probably a better question for her [Google]. “The details of this agreement are currently part of a separate Justice Department antitrust investigation that found last year these deals give Google an illegal monopoly on search-related advertising.

There was also a long discussion about the App Store and how much revenue it generates, which has become a central topic throughout the testing phase. Cook repeatedly said Apple doesn’t break down the App Store’s financial data separately, despite having a feel for the numbers. He admitted that the iOS App Store makes “a lot” more than its Mac counterpart, and that gaming apps make the most money. (At the beginning of the study, Epic called an expert who testified that Apple’s operating margin for the App Store could be as high as 77.8 percent. Apple denied that number.)

Cook’s testimony comes as the weeklong trial ends. The final arguments are slated for Monday, and Rogers said a decision would take “some time” but hopefully arrive by mid-August.

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