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There’s no other way to describe what happened yesterday other than to say that Epic declared war on Apple. They pushed very specific buttons, with full knowledge of what would happen, and they carefully choreographed their video and lawsuit response for maximum impact.

I had planned to write about the App Store this week anyway, but last night’s shenanigans cemented it. I was going to write on this topic because of all the other high profile App Store related events recently. The antitrust investigation, the congressional hearing, Microsoft backing away from xCloud on iOS, and … the list goes on.

I’m not going to talk about any of those events though. Instead, I’m going to step back and give some thoughts on the fundamental problem which Apple has with the App Store guidelines and revenue model.

Back when Phil Schiller defended the “Hey.com” decision, he was widely criticised for his “have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years” line. He was right to face criticism for saying it too. That statement was the wrong place to say it, but the point he was trying to make was valid.

In my opinion, we should all be paying something for the value we derive from such a well trusted and easy to use App Store. It's the flat percentage based revenue model brings that brings so many problems though. Those issues so often end in awkward workarounds from companies trying to avoid the fee. That then leads to more rules from Apple trying to force their hand. It’s a mess. Worse, Apple still receives no revenue from the largest of companies who are (sometimes indirectly) making the most money from the App Store. Then, on the other end of the market, the smaller, developers who play by the letter of the rules effectively subsidise the big companies. It makes no sense.

I’m not going to attempt to determine how much Apple deserve to be able to take for running the App Store, but it’s certainly not nothing. What they created was revolutionary, and they deserve to earn money from it, not just cover their costs.

What’s clear to me is that what might have been a reasonable crack at a revenue model in 2008, does not work in 2020 and I think Apple need give both the guidelines and business model a thorough overhaul. However, what that overhaul might look like is far from clear to me. This is a more complex problem than you or I will ever have to deal with, and I do not envy the people responsible for it.

I wouldn’t hold your breath for any kind of changes quickly (even if it’s forced by legal action, changes take time) but I do hope that there’s a re-think in the works.

Dave Verwer

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