Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney asked Apple to open its phones to other app stores back in 2015, according to new emails released as part of the companies’ antitrust process. Under the theme “iOS as an open platform”, Sweeney sent an email directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook to justify the possibility of other app stores distributing iOS software.
“The App Store has done a lot of good for the industry,” Sweeney wrote to Cook, “but it seems that Apple can’t be the only arbiter of speeches and trading over the billion-dollar app platform.”
In particular, Sweeney asked to “separate the curation of the iOS App Store from the review of compliance and distribution of applications”
This is a powerful distinction for the current test, in which Apple claims that the exclusivity of the App Store is necessary to maintain the existing security and privacy features of iOS. They are part of the compliance process outlined by Sweeney in the email, and other ecosystems have been successful in implementing them in many app stores. Most recently, Google introduced a similar system on Android called Play Protect, protecting against malicious downloads even from side-loaded software.
Cook responded by forwarding the message to Phil Schiller with the question, “Is this the man who was at one of our rehearsals?”
Probably he was: a few weeks earlier, Epic Games appeared at Apple’s WWDC event, advertising the company’s work using Apple’s Metal API, although Sweeney did not appear on stage.
Other emails show that Sweeney continues to push Apple behind the scenes, asking Epic co-founder Mark Raine to insist on meeting with Greg Yosuiak in January 2018. “If the App Store [were] just the best way for consumers to install software, not the only way, then Apple can organize higher-quality software without acting as a censor on free expression, ”Sweeney argued.
Eventually, Raine managed to arrange a hearing of the idea through Apple’s Tim Kirby and expressed enthusiasm. “He was definitely receptive to the idea,” Rhine writes, “which doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere, but it means he’s going to line up people who will listen, not take it down like Phil Schiller would … so he can there would be the slightest crack on the very outer surface of the many feet of ice covering the frozen lake that is Apple’s store. “
Six years later, the ice is yet to melt.