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Microsoft's chief legal officer calls out Apple's App Store policies

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Microsoft logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft's chief legal officer, Brad Smith, believes antitrust regulators should fully investigate Apple's App Store. Smith spoke about the App Store and its walled garden nature in an interview with Politico earlier this week.

"If you look at the industry today, I think what you'll find is increasingly you're seeing app stores that have created higher walls and far more formidable gates to access other applications than anything that existed in the industry 20 years ago," Smith says of the App Store, adding, "They impose requirements that increasingly say there's only one way to get onto our platform, and that is to go through the gate that we ourselves have created. In some cases they create a very high price for a toll, in some cases 30 percent of all your revenue has to go to the toll keeper if you will."

Smith does not state that the app store he's referring to is Apple's, but Bloomberg confirms that he as referring to the Apple App Store, as clarified by a Microsoft spokesperson.

Smith also states, "I do believe the time has come, whether we are talking about Washington DC or Brussels, for a much more focused conversation about the nature of app stores, the rules that are being put in place, the prices and tools that are being extracted, and whether there is really a justification in antitrust law for everything that has been created."

Apple's App Store has been in the spotlight recently. The EU announced a formal antitrust investigation of the App Store and Apple Pay earlier this week. Additionally, Apple's decision to reject the email app "Hey" has caused tension (via The Verge).

Phil Schiller says Apple will not change its mind over Hey Email app

The United States House antitrust subcommittee is also looking into Apple's App Store policies in a probe. Rep. David Cicilline spoke about the App Store on The Vergecast, stating, "Because of the market power that Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents — highway robbery, basically — bullying people to pay 30 percent or denying access to their market," adding, "It's crushing small developers who simply can't survive with those kinds of payments. If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn't happen."

Any legal battles regarding the App Store are in their early stages. At this point, we'll have to see what the EU and House antitrust committee state regarding the policies.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

28 Comments
  • I'm not an apple fan but it's their business and their gate. It's for their customers to vote with their feet. Walk to android only and the gate will burn.
  • I am assuming "their customers" mean Developers drained by Apple and not users.
  • I agree that 30 percent is way too much to charge for being in the App store. There really should be no need for an app store. You should be able to install anything you want on your phone from anywhere you want. When Apple first announced the App store, it was a very bad day for me, knowing nothing good would come out of that. Regarding anti-trust, I actually feel more strongly about how Apple enforces proprietary protocols for interoperating between devices. For example, the lighting jack, projecting only to Apple TV, Facetime only working with iPhones, iTunes having a proprietary database organization, not using mp3 for audio file format, etc. These proprietary interoperations that Apple enforces limits the options to consumers, or at a minimum make things inconvenient for the consumer, which then keeps the consumer in the Apple world of devices. This behavior needs to be recognized as anti-trust.
  • Well, hosting apps, keeping apps up to date, managing payments and so on is not straight forward. Reaching users/customers is also petentially easier. In this regard, these app stores are great. Also, the chances of downloading malware is greatly reduced, as well as having one portal for apps is convenient for the user. That said, these stores needs to be regulated. Their expences should be covered, sure. And they should get some payment for increased exposure of the app as well. Up to a certain degree.
  • The store could still exist and be a convenient way to sell and obtain apps. It just shouldn't be the only way.
    Just think if Mac could only get apps through apple store instead of installing whatever you want from any vendor.
  • Apple should charge more than what they are doing now.
    They don't charge enough. If people don't like it, go somewhere else. Microsoft wishes they could get anybody to come to their app store,
    so they can charge them also, but they can't. later
    -1
  • If iPhone users could easily switch app stores like they could switch apps, then you'd have a point.
  • "Apple should charge more than what they are doing now. They don't charge enough."
    Says the non-developer who has no money on the table to lose. How brave. Also, signing your comments on here with "-1" is very ... 2000s. This isn't a forum, you're not sending an email.
  • OMG SAY SOMETHING ELSE COOL
  • Ok. Something else that's cool.... -2. It's 100% cooler than -1 ;)
  • Sure. When the European Union will force Apple to allow users to install apps outside the store you go and tell Apple that if they don't like the European rules better go somewhere else to sell iPhones. Like Siberia or Manchuria. sooner
  • They don't charge enough? What would be the reason they need to charge more? How could anyone make any real money, if Apple charged more and what would be the incentive for them to continuing to develop Apple apps? For that matter, what would be the incentive for people to pay more for an app, because Apple wants to be greedy and Devs in turn have to charge more for apps? Thirty percent is more than enough to charge for allowing Devs to publish to their store.
  • If developers published their apps to more stores, like MS store as well as Google Play and Apple App store, then there would have been three large stores now, and lowering the cost of apps could be something that would convey people into choosing a echo system, making both apps and hardware more afordable.
  • Honestly no, the MS store was made to provide a legitimate way of getting apps, and you can get apps via the regular way by installing the Application regularly or Sideloading.
    They are on different platforms entirely, if you want to compare to each other, try Amazon Marketplace and Google Play, you look at both and see how differently they are used.
  • App Stores are a two edged sword. Great for discoverability, but I think in a lot of ways App Stores have caused the monetization dilemma for devs: * Sell your app for a whopping .99 cents.
    * Litter your app with ads.
    * Go "Freemium".
    * The ever so lonely donation button.
    * Start a Go Fund Me. It's why we see so much abandonware.
  • Apple sycophants will rush to its defense as usual. "iOS and MacOS don't have a monopoly" "Apple created the market, they can charge whatever they want" None of that matters. Apple does have a monopoly on its platform and imposes ongoing costs on any developer who wants to sell product on its platform that are well beyond anything resembling what it costs Apple to maintain that platform and also just so happens to protect the market share of those products Apple creates itself by discouraging competition. It is well past time for this abuse to be regulated. There can be no serious disagreement that forcing Microsoft to end its abusive practices has created a far more robust technology marketplace than we would otherwise enjoy. The same is true with Apple.
  • Not visiting the Verge anymore. No more clicks from me. I’m not even in America, but their constant democratic/“progressive”/woke dribble pieces infuriate me. And the constant Elon Musk hating is bordering on obsession. Sad to see a once great tech site go down such a dark path.
  • Same. Haven't been on The Verge in months. I'm no conservative but there's only so much leftist dribble you can take before you see it for what it really is.
  • Once great? They were once... iVerge. They never saw an Apple logo they didn't like. I think this is overheated personally, but at least it's progress.
  • The government should probably not get involved, unless there's something fraudulent going on. I'm not an Apple user (but my company does have apps on Google Play and the App Store and I do have some iOS devices purely for app testing), but questions of business ethics should have nothing to do with our personal opinions on the products. Does Apple have a monopoly on apps? No. In fact Google has about half the mobile OS market in the US (80% globally) and a vibrant Google Play marketplace. Does Apple say, "If you want your app in the App Store, you can't post it anyplace else"? No, most major apps in the App Store are also available elsewhere. That should be the end of the discussion on anti-trust. Microsoft would also have a share of the market if they hadn’t dropped out of mobile or if they updated and fixed the Microsoft Store for Windows. I do think the world would be better off with more platform competition (and I would prefer to use Microsoft products), but it’s not due to any illegal actions by Apple that MS gave up. Instead of complaining about the business terms of competitors or channel partners (MS makes its apps available through the App Store, so Apple is also a channel partner for MS), build a better product and win in the marketplace. If I invent a device and want to bundle software or create an app marketplace and charge 30% or 50% of all sales, then I should be able to do that, and app developers can choose to post their apps with me and accept my terms or not. If I instead want to attract developers to my platform by only charging 5% or no fee at all, that’s fine too. Excessive fees create an opportunity for competitors.
  • To clarify: on pure opinion of what I wish Apple would do, I agree that it would be nice if Apple reduced their 30% cut and/or made it easier for service providers to sell through their own sites without being in violation of App Store policies. It's just that I think far more important than my opinion, or anyone else's opinion other than Apple's, is that Apple (and all other companies) should be free to offer whatever terms they want and let the market determine if it's a good package. If you start a company, no one should tell you what terms you have to offer, but if your customers don't like them, you'll probably go out of business. Just because you then become successful (short of true anti-trust violations, like prohibiting your customers from also buying from competitors), doesn't mean you should loose the right to set your own policies.
  • This isn't really different than a company having accessories or software that work only with their devices. It's networking externalities. But it's also the hipstery cool factor. As long as people are willing to pay a huge premium to pretend to be video editors or music producers in coffee shops, Apple will have plenty of market power.
  • And as long as Windows Hipster-Wanna-Be’s continue to look down their noses at everyone else, Windows will continue its downward slide into Legacy Land.
  • Push comes to shove, maybe in a worst-case scenario they design a really nice PWA? I know it's not the same, but Basecamp can make some incredibly competent web applications.
  • What a flaming hypocrite. If the Microsoft store was a success - instead of the dismal failure that it is - MS would be doing EXACTLY the same things. Get over yourself. Developers make more money with Apple than with all of Android combined. Apple users have no problem with the Apple store. Sounds like EXTREMELY sour grapes to me.
  • Glad to hear it. I developed apps and Apple is way too militant about the app store. Sorry if I don't have tens of thousands dollars to build apps from complete scratch. I hope the Justice Department fully investigates their underhanded practices including the two factor authentication scam.
  • That's his problem. I
  • It's only apps.... let's get real how many apps are really worthwhile and not boring to dead after a few days of use 10? 100? and then zillions of absolute crap apps - a little app for this and a little app for that and before you know you have an absolute scattered environment it is proliferation to the max. Added value? remote.