Epic v. Apple turns into Windows v. Xbox


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Is an iPhone more like a PC or an Xbox?

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© Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

That question was asked — implicitly and explicitly — over and over on the third day of Epic v. Apple testimony. The antitrust trial started on Monday with some heady pronunciations about Fortnite, the game and/or metaverse at the heart of the case. Yesterday, both sides argued about whether iPhones and iPads were truly locked down. And today, Apple and Epic delved into one of the biggest questions of the trial: whether saying iOS violates antitrust law would make every major game console an unlawful monopoly too.


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Apple says if Epic wins, ‘other ecosystems will fall’

Apple’s attorneys issued a dire warning to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft during its opening statement, saying that their business models were all fundamentally similar. “If Epic prevails, other ecosystems will fall too,” they warned. But today, Epic called up Microsoft’s Xbox business development head Lori Wright as a sympathetic witness. In response to a line of questioning, Wright divided computing devices into “special-purpose” and “general-purpose” devices — in a way that clearly defined iPhones as the latter.

The Xbox, as Wright describes it, is a special-purpose device. “You are basically building a piece of hardware to do a specific thing,” she told a judge. “The Xbox is designed to give you a gaming experience. People buy an Xbox because they want to play games.” As a result, Microsoft keeps tight control of what content users can access — it’s a “curated, custom-built hardware/software experience.” The market is also much smaller: tens or hundreds of millions sold, compared to “billions” of Windows devices. Later in the day, Epic engineering fellow Andrew Grant gave his own, similar definition of gaming consoles in general, calling a console “a single-purpose device for entertainment.”

“It can do a bunch of things already, and it has the aperture to do a bunch more”

Windows computers, according to Wright, are “general-purpose” devices. “You’re buying it to do a wide variety of things, and that changes every day as new ideas are getting…