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經濟學人:神仙打架:蘋果vsEpic(1)

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Epic v Apple
Epic對戰蘋果
Storing up trouble
埋下禍根
Let the courtroom battle commence
讓法庭大戰開始吧
Fittingly, the legal deathmatch is happening online. On September 28th a court in California heard arguments, via video call, in a case that pits Apple against Epic Games, the maker of “Fortnite”, a hit video game. At issue is whether the tight control Apple exerts over the software that can run on its smartphones amounts to a monopolistic abuse of power. The verdict, when it comes, may determine what other digital marketplaces can and cannot do.
一場法律上的死亡競賽恰好在網絡上展開。9月28日,加利福尼亞的一家法院通過視頻電話的形式,就蘋果公司與Epic Games之間的訴訟糾紛舉行了聽證會。Epic Games是一款熱門電子遊戲“堡壘之夜”的開發商。訴訟議題是,蘋果公司對智能手機上運行的軟件進行嚴格控制的行徑是否構成了壟斷性的權力濫用。法院的最終裁決可能會影響到其他數字市場的有所為和有所不為。
Apple’s software practices have seen challenges before. But Epic’s is the most brazen. In August Epic offered “Fortnite” players 20% off ingame purchases on iPhones if they paid Epic directly, not via Apple’s App Store, which takes a 30% cut on most transactions made in apps. This violated App Store terms; “Fortnite” was booted from the platform. Expecting this, Epic responded with the lawsuit (and a cheeky PR campaign).
蘋果公司對應用軟件的嚴格控制行徑過去也曾面臨過挑戰。但Epic公司挑戰蘋果公司的做法最為明目張膽。今年8月,Epic公司向“堡壘之夜”內購的玩家提供了20%的折扣,優惠限於直接向Epic,而不是通過蘋果應用商店付費購買的蘋果手機用户。蘋果應用商店會從大多數交易中抽成30%。Epic的做法違反了蘋果應用商店的條款,因此“堡壘之夜”被從平台上下架。已經料到如此的Epic公司以發起訴訟(以及厚顏無恥的公關活動)進行回擊。

Epic-Games-Apple-10-08-2020.jpg

The hearing concerned the narrow question of whether Epic could force Apple to return “Fortnite” to the App Store while the case proceeds. But it offered a preview of both sides’ arguments. Epic contends that Apple’s “walled garden”—in which iPhone software can be downloaded only via the App Store—stifles competition. In 2018 Epic launched a PC games store, charging a 12% commission. Steam, the dominant store, then dropped its cut from 30% to 20% for top-selling games. Tim Sweeney, Epic’s feisty boss, argues that Apple prevents something similar on iPhones.

此次聽證會只涉及Epic公司能否在案件受理期間迫使蘋果公司重新在應用商店上架“堡壘之夜”。但這一議題已經表明了雙方的辯論立場。Epic認為,蘋果手機上的應用軟件只能通過蘋果應用商店進行下載,蘋果的“圍牆花園”扼殺了競爭。2018年,Epic推出了一款電腦端遊戲商店,收取12%的佣金。隨後,主流遊戲商店Stream將暢銷遊戲的抽成比例從30%下調至20%。Epic的老闆蒂姆·斯威尼據理力爭地辯稱,蘋果公司阻礙了在蘋果手機上出現類似的競爭。
Apple retorts that those who dislike its rules have plenty of alternatives. “Fortnite” is available on desktop PCs, games consoles and smartphones that run on Android, a rival operating system made by Google. In a statement, Apple accused Epic of forcing its hand and “putting customers in the middle of their fight”. It has countersued Epic for breaching its App Store contract.
蘋果則進行了反駁,開發商們要是不喜歡蘋果的規則,那也還有很多選擇。“堡壘之夜”可以在台式電腦、遊戲機和安卓系統的智能機上運行(安卓是谷歌旗下的操作系統,與蘋果系統存在競爭關係)。在一份聲明中,蘋果公司指責Epic強迫自己採取行動,“將消費者牽扯進爭鬥之中”。蘋果反訴Epic違反了蘋果應用商店合同。
Mark Patterson of Fordham University sees parallels with Microsoft’s run-in with trustbusters in 2001. The software giant’s bundling of a web browser with its Windows operating system was eventually found to be anticompetitive. Apple exerts more power over iPhones than Microsoft did over Windows PCs, Mr Patterson says. But its market share in smartphones is smaller than Microsoft’s was in desktops.
福特漢姆大學的馬克·帕特森認為,這與2001年微軟與反壟斷者的官司是類似的情況。最終判決微軟這家軟件巨頭將網頁瀏覽器與Windows操作系統捆綁在一起的行為屬於反競爭行為。帕特森先生表示,蘋果公司對蘋果手機的控制力度要大於微軟對Windows系統的控制力度,但蘋果的智能手機市場份額卻小於微軟的台式電腦市場份額。

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