A lack of interest in pursuing antitrust has left us in a state where there are essentially three tech companies: Google, Apple, and Amazon. Now that legislators are poised to go after the first of those with new allegations of antitrust violations, Apple is looking to step into the void created by a divided Google.
According to the Financial Times, Apple is making furtive moves toward creating its own search engine. It cites a better internal search rolled out with iOS 14, the company’s poaching of Google’s head of search, and a hiring spree of search developers.
As it stands, Google pays Apple billions of dollars a year to be the default search engine of iPhones. This deal is one of several that piqued the interest of antitrust regulators. The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Google claims the company “aggressively uses its monopoly positions, and the money that flows from them, to continuously foreclose rivals and protect its monopolies” in violation of antitrust laws.
While it doesn’t carry as much weight as the filing from the Department of Justice, Apple is locked in an antitrust battle of its own. Fortnite developers Epic Games sued the company, claiming its App Store policies violated antitrust laws after the wildly popular game was removed from the platform. At issue was a direct-payment system that bypassed Apple (and thereby cut them out of a share of profits) for in-game purchases. Apple takes a 30 percent fee on all transactions through the App Store, something that Epic viewed as extortionate.
“Apple’s repeated assertions of theft boil down to the extraordinary assertion that Epic’s collection of payments by players of Epic’s game to enjoy the work of Epic’s artists, designers, and engineers is the taking of something that belongs to Apple,” Epic said in their court filing.
Apple is also facing down a class-action lawsuit arguing that the App Store itself is an unfair monopoly that discourages competition. The Supreme Court allowed the case to move forward last year, and a finding against Apple could have long-term ramifications for the vacuum-sealed version of iOS that Apple puts on its devices.