Apple might win its battle with Epic, but it'll lose its relationship with developers

App Store
App Store (Image credit: iMore)

As the seemingly never-ending spat between Apple and Epic Games begins to wind its way to a conclusion, most people seem to be of the opinion that there is only likely to be one winner. It isn't thought that Epic has done a particularly good job in court and, as a result, Apple will be the victor. But not in the eyes of developers who have spent the last couple of weeks being told how they owe everything to Apple, the iPhone, and the App Store.

Some developers have long had a feeling of unease with the way Apple talks about – or more accurately, down to – them and those in their line of work. Apple often shares press releases with huge numbers in them, pointing out that it has paid unimaginable sums to developers by way of App Store fees. Seemingly forgetting the fact it's not giving those developers anything – they're being paid for their apps, in-app purchases, and subscriptions.

That feeling of unease hasn't been helped by various emails coming out of the court case that makes Apple look pretty poor in terms of the way it thinks about developers. And then things really went downhill when CEO Tim Cook told everyone that he would expect developers to pay their way for access to the App Store even if payments weren't handled by its own system.

Also, we would have to come up with an alternate way of collecting our commission. We would then have to figure out how to track what's going on and invoice it and then chase the developers, it seems like a process that doesn't need to exist.

Protocol's Nick Stat hits the nail on the head with a tweet from earlier today.

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Apple sees everything in the App Store as its domain. Apps created by developers – both big and small – are all there thanks to Apple and those developers should be eternally grateful for that. I'd wager Apple would do well to remember that the App Store wouldn't exist without developers and their apps, too.

The relationship between the App Store and developers is a symbiotic one. You can't have one without the other. Arguments about 30% commission, 15% commission, and third-party payment systems are all a sideshow to the real problem here – Apple sees developers as customers at best and a necessary evil at worst. And it's that attitude that runs the risk of alienating some of the very best developers on the planet.

On the eve of another WWDC where we expect some big changes to iOS and iPadOS, that's a very bad thing indeed.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.