Former App Store Director Says Apple Uses Guidelines “As a Weapon Against Competitors”

Former App Store director Phil Shoemaker spoke to the US House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee during its antitrust investigation. While speaking to the subcommittee, Shoemaker stated that Apple uses the App Store guidelines “as a weapon against competitors”.

Following the investigation, a 450-page report was publically released. The report included the subcommittee’s suggestions on mending antitrust policies in regards to companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. It also included testimonies from individuals the committee spoke to. Business Insider picked up on Shoemaker’s testimony, which put a magnifying glass over Apple’s treatment of Apple Arcade over gaming services such as Xbox Game Pass and its subsequent cloud gaming.

In regards to Xbox Game Pass, Apple has previously stated that the service does not adhere to the App Store guidelines. Microsoft’s service is an obvious competitor to Apple Arcade. While speaking to the subcommittee, Shoemaker said that “apps that compete against Apple’s services have a track record of problems getting through the App Store’s review process.”

When speaking directly about Apple Arcade, Shoemaker said, “Apple’s gaming service, Apple Arcade, is a type of app that was ‘consistently disallowed from the store,’ when offered by third-party developers.” Shoemaker continued, “but Apple allowed its own app in the store ‘even though it violates existing guidelines.”

Services such as Xbox Game Pass, Google Stadia, and GeForce Now are blocked from appearing on the App Store, Apple has often said these services violate the App Store guidelines. However, Shoemaker argues that those very guidelines are “arbitrary”, “arguable” and that the company uses those guidelines “as a weapon against competitors.”

Apple has offered various workarounds to services such as Xbox Game Pass. As streaming apps are not barred from the App Store, Apple has noted that in the instance of Xbox Game Pass, each game within the catalogue must be submitted for approval in order to be approved. Apple treats game streaming services differently than it does Netflix or Prime video as games as interactive. That proves to be a challenge for Microsoft, who has a constantly rotating lineup of games within the catalogue.

We’ve seen recently that Amazon has used a loophole to bypass Apple’s strict game streaming guidelines. When announcing Amazon Luna‘s early access period, Amazon said that the service would be accessible on iPhone and iPad. Amazon will be utilizing a progressive web application (PWA) to get Luna on iOS devices without adhering to Apple’s policies.