Apple’s online marketplace would become a “toxic” mess if the iPhone maker were forced to allow third-party apps without reviewing them.
Cook, the final scheduled witness in the case of Fortnite maker Epic Games, provided a solid defense of Apple’s procedures for reviewing and approving all of the apps it offers to iPhone and iPad users.
“We could no longer make the promise … privacy, security and protection,” Cook said under the full control of Apple attorney Veronica Moye in a federal court in California.
According to Cook, Apple’s verification process helps keep malicious software and other problematic apps out and creates a safe place for consumers.
Without this review, the online marketplace “would become a toxic kind of mess,” he said.
“It would be terrible for the developer too, because the developer depends on the business being a safe and trustworthy place.”
Cook’s testimony concludes a high-profile study that opened earlier this month accusing Apple of abusing a monopoly in its market by creating a “walled garden” that pressures app makers.
Epic, maker of the popular Fortnite video game, wants to force Apple to open up the market to third parties in order to bypass Apple’s procedures and commissions by up to 30 percent.
Apple booted Fortnite from its app store last year after Epic dodged revenue sharing with the iPhone maker.
“Not about money”
Under cross-examination, Cook discussed the profitability of the App Store with epic attorney Gary Bornstein.
Cook denied Epic’s claim that the profit margin on apps was around 80 percent, but financial details were not disclosed in court for confidentiality reasons.
The Apple executive said the proprietary payment system that Epic has questioned is more about consumer convenience than profit.
“We always put the user at the center of everything we do,” said Cook. “It has nothing to do with money.”
During his testimony, Cook defended Apple’s policy of blocking apps that direct consumers to other platforms in order to purchase subscriptions or credits for games and other services.
“It would be like a Best Buy advertisement that you could walk across the street to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone,” he said.
District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, in a series of tough questions to Cook at the end of his testimony, suggested that Apple’s cut was too high, even if it were lowered to 15 percent after the first year.
“It seems disproportionate,” the judge told Cook. “After that first interaction, the developer keeps these customers, Apple only benefits from them.”
Cook quickly replied, “I don’t see it that way,” then added, “We do all of the trade in the store and do it by reaching the largest audience out there.”
Apple doesn’t allow users of its popular devices to download apps from anywhere other than the App Store, and developers must use Apple’s payment system, which does its cut.
Epic’s attorney also questioned Cook about Apple’s agreement with Google to be the default search engine for the iPhone maker’s Safari browser, another area under scrutiny by antitrust officials.
Cook acknowledged that Google pays for the position, but added that Apple made the deal “in the best interests of the user”.
The Oakland case is due to the fact that Apple is being pressured by a multitude of app manufacturers to take control of the App Store, which critics say is monopoly behavior.
The European Union has officially accused Apple of wrongly ousting rivals in the music streaming space over a complaint from Spotify in Sweden and others who claim the California group has set rules that favor their own Apple Music.
A recently formed app fairness coalition, which includes both Spotify and Epic, has urged Apple to open up its market, claiming its commission is a “tax” on competitors.
The final arguments in the California banking process were expected early next week, with the judge expected to rule within a few weeks.