Apple to celebrate developers while under fire for how it treats them


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Apple Inc. is heading into its biggest developer event of the year as tensions with the developers who build apps for its App Store continue to simmer.

For more: The (predicted) verdict is in for Epic vs. Apple

Apple’s sprawling mobile ecosystem relies on third-party developers who build apps for devices like the iPhone and iPad, and Apple takes a cut of purchases made through these apps in what’s become a lucrative business of still-unknown size. Epic contends that Apple’s fee structure, which can run as high as 30% of in-app purchases, is monopolistic, while Apple argues that the market for app distribution is competitive.

Though a decision in the Apple-Epic case isn’t expected until late summer, the lingering legal battle will be the elephant in the room once again when Apple virtually addresses developers and unveils new features for its various operating systems. Experts doubt that the judge will plainly rule Apple a monopoly in the Epic case, but she could ask for changes to the company’s App Store purchase model, such as an additional payment option beyond Apple Pay.

See also: As Epic fight puts all eyes on App Store revenue, Apple offers numbers that aim much larger

Controversy over the App Store loomed during last year’s event as well, in the wake of a dispute between Apple and the developers behind the Hey email app, who took issue with App Store fees and rules. Back then, Apple executives avoided talk of App Store policies in their keynote address, though the company then quietly announced that it planned to create a way for developers to challenge App Store guidelines.

The Epic trial represents just one challenge to the App Store notes Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, who pointed to “impending regulatory antitrust swirls” in a recent note to clients. European Union antitrust regulators are taking aim at App Store rules following a complaint from Spotify Inc. which competes against Apple in streaming music and but relies on the App Store for distribution.

Undertones of other Big Tech battles will be on display as well during the WWDC virtual event. Apple has criticized Facebook Inc.’s data-tracking efforts and introduced a way for users to control…