Sunday, August 23, 2020

Microsoft supports Epic Games' quest for temporary restraining order against Apple, stresses importance of Unreal Engine

After Apple filed its opposition to Epic Games' motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the App Store antitrust dispute in the Northern District of California, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers allowed the Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker to file a reply brief of up to 10 pages by 9 AM Pacific Time today.

The very first document Epic's lawyers filed in this context is a declaration by Kevin Gammill, General Manager of Microsoft's Gaming Developer Experience division, supporting Epic against Apple by stressing the relevance of the Unreal Engine to Microsoft (this post continues below the document):

20-08-23_doc40 Cv5640 MSFT ... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

I don't doubt that Microsoft and other companies consider the Unreal Engine useful. My own app development company prefers Unity for our specific purposes, but we are fully aware of how powerful and versatile the Unreal Engineis.

However, what Mr. Gammill's declaration doesn't explain is why Epic couldn't live and comply with the Apple Developer Agreement it had been gladly and (very) profitably honoring for years. In that case, Epic's Apple Developer Agreement wouldn't be terminated, and the further development of the Unreal Engine wouldn't be affected by the ongoing litigation.

While Microsoft's Xbox division reportedly keeps the same 30% commission of app revenues as Apple, I already wrote last week that Microsoft presumably hates having to give 30% of its Office revenues on mobile platforms to Apple and Google.

If Apple hadn't revolutionized mobile computing with the iPhone, with Google then being a fast follower (they had the Android mobile operating system in the works, but it would have been more BlackBerry-like and then they changed direction when they saw iOS), Microsoft would still be the dominant operating system company. It wouldn't have to worry about Apple or Google getting a 30% cut. In the old computing world, Microsoft could simply have told Apple and Google that it just wouldn't make Office available on their platforms if it didn't get a better deal. Microsoft has meanwhile found opportunities in other areas, such as cloud computing, but may bear a grudge against Apple and Google because they simply displaced Windows on mobile devices.

Based on today's declaration it's clear where Microsoft stands, and it's not hard to figure out why, but the above declaration really doesn't strengthen Epic's case for a TRO. The key issue is still the one of "self-inflicted wounds," which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit doesn't accept as a pretext for seeking a TRO.

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