Apple CEO Tim Cook Testifies in Epic Games v. Apple Trial

Today is the last day of the Epic Games v. Apple trial, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken the stand to ask questions levied by both Apple and Epic lawyers. Cook will testify for a total of 100 minutes.

Tim Cook Feature Yellow
Cook’s testimony won’t be integral to the outcome of the trial, but what he has to say is of interest because this is the first time that he’s testified in a legal case, which highlights the serious nature of this dispute.

From the beginning, Cook established that he wasn’t deeply involved with the App Store. He said that he oversees the strategic direction of the company, and that he works with the ‌App Store‌ in a “limited review capacity.”

Apple’s early questioning steered Cook toward discussions of privacy and the privacy protections that Apple has implemented into its devices.

“Privacy is one of the most important issues of the century,” said Cook. “And safety and security are the foundations of privacy, and tech vacuums all sorts of data from people so we like to provide tools to circumvent.”

Cook went on to explain that in a “world where you view everyone looking at your every move, you do less over time” because it affects freedom of expression.

Questioning then shifted to some of the key issues in the trial. Cook was asked if third-party companies could implement app review as effectively as Apple, and Cook said no.

They’re not as motivated as Apple is. For us, the customer is everything. We’re trying to give the customer an integrated solution of hardware, software, and services. We deliver a brand of privacy, security, and safety. I just don’t think you can replicate that in a third-party.

Cook went on to explain that the ‌App Store‌ is “not perfect” and that Apple does “find mistakes being made,” but given that there are 1.8 million apps in the ‌App Store‌, Apple does “a really good job.”

Cook will testify for over an hour, and we’ll continue to update this article with additional key statements as he continues to answer questions.

Additional Testimony From Cook

  • Cook said Apple implemented the 15% cut to ‌App Store‌ commissions for developers making under $1 million because of the impact of COVID. Apple considers regulatory issues when making decisions it was in the back of Cook’s mind, but he maintained COVID was the reasoning. Schiller previously said it was in the works for years but COVID pushed Apple to get it out.
  • Apple spent $18.8 billion on R&D in 2020. Cook said R&D benefits the ‌App Store‌, but Apple doesn’t allocate a specific amount of money for ‌App Store‌ improvement. “We don’t allocate like that.”
  • The ‌App Store‌ is a “great opportunity” for developers and more importantly, great for users. “The breadth of apps and what you can do with them, it’s hard to imagine a part of your life that you can’t have an app for.”
  • In-app purchase commission is used for payment processing, developer support, APIs, and more. If IAP didn’t exist, “we would have to come up with another system to invoice developers, which would be a mess,” Cook said.
  • When asked why apps can’t direct users to deals on their websites, Cook said it would be “akin to Apple down at Best Buy saying ‘Best Buy, put a sign there advertising where we are and that you can go across the street and get an iPhone.'”
  • In emails, Apple often refers to “stickiness,” which Cook says sticky means to “have such high customer satisfaction that people don’t want to leave.” Apple also references locking people into devices, which Cook says means making products work so well together that customers don’t want to switch. Cook said that he is unaware of anything Apple could do to actually lock people into devices. This line of questioning relates to a 2010 email from Jobs that said Apple’s strategy is to tie its products together to “further lock customers into our ecosystem.”
  • iMessage’s platform exclusivity has been brought up several times during the trial, and Cook was asked about the difficulty of leaving iMessage. Cook said it’s a “really good feature” but it doesn’t prevent people from going to Android.
  • Cook says that estimates that have suggested Apple’s profit margins are 70 to 80% do not take into account many of Apple’s investments. This line of questioning stems from an internal document where Apple discussed profit and loss internally. Cook says this document does not show P&<, and this document is sealed and won’t become public.

As today is the last day of the trial, Apple and ‌Epic Games‌ will submit their final findings of fact by noon today. The judge has said that we should not expect a ruling right away because she has many other cases to deal with.

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