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Apple, Apps & Argument

In commercial conflict, information is a highly prized commodity.

Sometimes it can be ‘revealed’ or ‘concealed’ either to strengthen our side or weaken our counterparts. Other times information comes out ‘inadvertently’ leaving us at the mercy of public opinion.

Both of these events came to pass last week in the court case between Apple and Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite). In the end the court ruled that ‘Apple cannot stop app developers directing users to other third-party payment options’, but that Apple were cleared of acting as a monopoly regarding their 30% cut taken through their app store. Maybe this was a case of trying to use the first judgement to underpin the ruling on the second. Regardless, Epic has already said that it will appeal.

So, what new information did we learn? Well, firstly, it was a surprise to learn that 70% of all Apple app purchases are gaming related. Secondly, that the Apple CEO revealed that he ‘didn’t know’ how much Apple generates from the app store.

The ’surprising’ information may influence opinion and encourage other gaming related developers to support Epic’s appeal – not great news for Apple.

However, the ‘didn’t know’ information highlights the fact that if we don’t tell people information, then typically they will fill in the gaps for themselves which may or may not be even more damaging for us. Given the fact that the Apple share price fell by 3% afterwards, the markets did make their minds up. Who knows though, if there had been full disclosure from Apple, maybe it would have been even worse! There may of course be further revelations still to come…

In your commercial conflict planning, consider carefully what to disclose and what not to. Weigh up and pressure test - upsides and downsides, merits and demerits.

And if you believe some information may inadvertently come out anyway, consider whether you should seize the initiative, exerting some degree of control by disclosing it first – it may just improve your perceived credibility and integrity.

Sam Macbeth, 14th September 2021

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