As the Epic vs. Apple trial continues, today marked our first Apple executive testimony. The vice president of the App Store, Matt Fischer, testified in the case today, detailing his involvement in the App Store, the creation of Apple’s guidelines, and more.
Fischer serves as the vice president of the App Store and has since 2010. During the testimony today, Fischer was asked a variety of questions about his role in the App Store. The App Store VP explained that Apple has long put a focus on security in the App Store and refuted suggestions about things like alternative payment methods and sideloading apps.
Fischer also discussed Apple Arcade, the App Store account system and fraud, and more. The App Store VP claimed to Epic’s lawyer that Apple has not conducted studies on whether gaming companies using third-party payment platforms in-app would lead to security issues.
Meanwhile, Apple’s lawyer also asked Fischer a slew of questions about his involvement in the App Store redesign that came as part of iOS 12. Fischer also detailed a multitude of instances in which Apple and Epic previously worked together on bringing games like Fortnite and Infinity Blade to iOS, as well as prominent featuring in the App Store.
The Apple lawyer also asked Fischer about a handful of different friendly emails that he received from Epic thanking Apple for the App Store promotion. Fischer was also asked about his reaction when Epic deployed its server-side update circumventing the App Store In-App Payment system. “I was blindsided,” Fischer said.
Apple and Epic had been exchanging emails about working together at a future WWDC up until Epic deployed that change. The relationship obviously went south from there.
Emails and evidence
There was also some drama during Fischer’s testimony around the admittance of internal communication from Apple into evidence. Judge Rogers seemingly objected to Epic’s continued attempts to admit certain documents into evidence, based on factors like relevancy and documents that quoted third parties.
One email shows there was an internal question about why Hulu was able to switch between App Store billing and Hulu billing. As it turns out, Hulu is part of a “set of whitelisted developers” with access to the subscription cancel/refund API. The company had initially given Hulu access to this API to support upgrade and downgrade plan changes before this was natively built-in to the App Store.
The Hulu situation was internally passed around at Apple after Phil Schiller noticed a tweet from developer David Barnard. Barnard questioned how the StoreKit API was able to automatically cancel App Store subscriptions, which is something Hulu was doing in conjunction with the launch of its new live TV service.
Another email revealed that Fischer generally wants to avoid featuring competitors in the App Store. In one specific instance detailed in an email, Apple’s Accessibility team was planning an App Store editorial feature on apps that implemented Voice Over support. The Accessibility team wanted to include the Google and Amazon applications in this editorial feature, but an Apple executive wrote that “Matt feels extremely strongly about not featuring our competitors on the App Store.”
During his testimony today, Fischer refuted this notion and explained that Apple has repeatedly promoted apps that are competitors.
Other emails showcased Apple’s work with developers ahead of the Apple TV 4K release, with a focus on inviting developers to create games for the new set-top box. Some of those games would eventually go on to be included in Apple Arcade.
We’ll update this post with more details as the trial progresses. Fischer is still on the stand.
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