'I'm glad Elon is in the fight': Tech CEOs battling Apple's 30% App Store fee get unexpected ammo from Musk

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images, Steve Granitz/WireImage
Elon Musk has fueled a protracted battle between Apple and app developers over app store fees.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney and Spotify boss Daniel Ek supported Musk's criticism of Apple.
A CEO who predicted trouble when Musk bought Twitter said the billionaire would draw attention to a niche problem.
Elon Musk has become embroiled in a long-running dispute between Apple and some of its biggest developers.
Twitter's new owner on Monday declared war on one of the tech industry's most powerful companies, claiming it had committed three crimes: halting ad spending on Twitter; apparently threatened to "withhold Twitter from the App Store"; and for charging a 30% fee on content transacted through the App Store.
The latter has wowed developers and tech CEOs who rely on the App Store's massive reach. Apple controls app distribution for iPhone and iPad, and takes up to 30% cutbacks on some digital purchases made through iOS apps above a certain size - think in-game purchases. It mostly mandates that developers use its native in-app payment system, which often means a significant revenue discount, although it's slightly toned down that requirement for certain apps like Netflix and Spotify.
While many developers resent the fees, few are willing to speak out and jeopardize access to a massive user base.
For the exceptions, Musk is a welcome ally.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of "Fortnite" maker Epic Games, appeared to support Musk on Monday, saying in a tweet that the iPhone maker is "a threat to global freedom."
Epic Games launched its own payment mechanism to avoid Apple's fees, got booted from the App Store, and sued Apple on antitrust grounds in 2020. A judge in the case issued a ruling in 2021. Apple called the verdict a "resounding victory," but still appealed part of the verdict. Epic also appealed.
"They maintain an illegal monopoly on app distribution, they use it to control American discourse, and they endanger protesters in China by storing sensitive customer data in a government data center," Sweeney continued, linking to an article in the Daily Mail.
In a separate tweet, Sweeney pointed out that Apple has banned "Fortnite" from the App Store.
“Would they destroy Twitter? Spotify? Facebook? Netflix? At what point does the whole rotten structure collapse?” he said.
Epic didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also tacitly supported Musk. The Swedish entrepreneur retweeted Musk's tweets criticizing Apple, but didn't comment further.
Spotify filed a complaint with European antitrust authorities over Apple's levy in 2019, but the EU has yet to make a final decision. The streaming app remains available through the App Store.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek retweeted Elon Musk's criticism of Apple.Twitter/Insider
An entrepreneur predicted shortly after Musk's takeover of Twitter that Musk would run afoul of Apple.
"I look forward to @elonmusk realizing that Apple's outrageous 30% App Store tax will seek to take $2.40 off every $8 Twitter Blue subscription and join the fight to open the App Stores,” Christian Owens tweeted Nov. 3.
Owens is the CEO and founder of the billing startup Paddle. In October 2021, Paddle was one of the first companies to target Apple's native in-app payment (IAP) system - and its fee - with a new offering called Paddle IAP. The payment mechanism is still being tested with developers, and its launch depends on the outcome of Apple's ongoing regulatory and legal battles.
"I wasn't exactly surprised since the only way to pay for Twitter Blue is through the in-app purchase on iOS," Owens told Insider. “It shows how outrageous the 30% fee is. I'm glad Elon is in the fight. The best thing that can happen is that it creates widespread consumer awareness.”
Musk may not prove to be a reliable ally.
For example, Apple charges some developers 15% for the first year instead of the full 30%. And should Apple and Twitter settle their current dispute, Musk could back down. He has already deleted a belligerent tweet showing a highway sign and two options: "pay 30%" or "go to war" with a car speeding down the "go to war" path.
Elon Musk tweeted this meme on Monday and then deleted it.Elon Musk
"This is one of those scenarios where I think love him or hate him - and he's a divisive character - he tends to have a knack for getting things done, whether it's trying to open up public discourse about something." amplify or make something happen," Owens said, suggesting that Musk's commercial space company, SpaceX, is breaking defense monopolies.
"It's about finding the right balance," he added. “Apple has created a great ecosystem around the iPhone, but now it's abusing its position as the leader of that ecosystem because it's so big. We're just looking for a sustainable way forward.”
Insider reached out to Apple for comment.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Elon Musk
CEO of SpaceX

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