The iPhone-maker doth protest too much? Apple launches new site to wax lyrical about the App Store in the face of criticism
Apple has become more familiar with controversy than it might be entirely comfortable with in recent times. Once a near-untouchable company that could, in many people's eyes, do no wrong, there have been numerous scandals over the last few years -- legal battles, problematic hardware, canceled products, and accusations of anticompetitive behavior.
Faced with an antitrust legal battle after complaints of "monopolistic" practices in the App Store, Apple has launched a new site that appears to be a very public defense of what it stands accused of. The new "principles and practices" pages find Apple going out of its way, falling over itself to expose just how anticompetitive the App Store isn't. This is a company on the defensive.
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The new page proclaims that Apple is "dedicated to the best store experience for everyone". Far from being a monopolistic and anti-competitive arena, Apple would have you believe that "we created the App Store with two goals in mind: that it be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers".
Apple has been criticized on numerous fronts, including the fact that it charges a 30 percent commission on App Store sales and subscriptions, and that developers are restricted from producing apps that replicate -- or better -- features of iOS. Despite this, Apple says, "today, the App Store is more vibrant and innovative than ever, offering equal opportunities to developers to deliver their apps and services across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch".
On the new page, Apple also says:
It's our store. And we take responsibility for it.
We believe that what's in our store says a lot about who we are. We strongly support all points of view being represented on the App Store. But we also take steps to make sure apps are respectful to users with differing opinions, and reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line -- especially when it puts children at risk. For example, we strictly prohibit any app that features pornographic material, discriminatory references, torture and abuse, or anything else in exceptionally poor taste.
This is reasonable enough -- although many would argue that there is still room for disagreement with the way Apple sees things -- but then the company launches into all-out defensive mode.
Far from being anti-competitive or monopolistic, Apple says: "We give developers a platform. And flexibility". It adds:
Today, developers have lots of choices for distributing their apps -- from other app stores to smart TVs to gaming consoles. Not to mention the open Internet, which Apple supports with Safari, and our customers regularly use with web apps like Instagram and Netflix.
We work hard to make it easy and compelling for developers to develop apps for the one billion App Store customers around the world. We now have 20 million developers in our Apple Developer Program, with thousands of them delivering groundbreaking new services, new experiences, and even entirely new business categories.
So eager is the company to have people believe that stifling competition is the furthest thing from its mind, it goes on to point out:
Since the launch of the App Store, an entire industry has been built around app design and development, generating over 1,500,000 U.S. jobs and over 1,570,000 jobs across Europe.
We're proud that, to date, developers have earned more than $120 billion worldwide from selling digital goods and services in apps distributed by the App Store.
Directly tackling claims of anti-competitive behavior, Apple says it's: "A store that welcomes competition".
We believe competition makes everything better and results in the best apps for our customers.
We also care about quality over quantity, and trust over transactions. That's why, even though other stores have more users and more app downloads, the App Store earns more money for developers. Our users trust Apple -- and that trust is critical to how we operate a fair, competitive store for developer app distribution.
The list that then follows -- "Competing apps on the App Store", where Apple lists alternative apps to the ones it produces itself -- almost feels like an act of desperation. Apple seems so achingly desperate to have everyone believe that it's pro-competition and pro-developers, that it is willing to embark on what really amounts to a face-saving marketing campaign ahead of legal action which is going to drag its name through the mud.