Plus, an interview with Roma Agrawal about her work on infrastructure
Apple has been vindicated (for a brief moment anyway) in its long-standing dispute with Qualcomm. From Stephen Nellis at Reuters:
A U.S. federal judge has issued a preliminary ruling that Qualcomm Inc owes Apple Inc nearly $1 billion in patent royalty rebate payments, though the decision is unlikely to result in Qualcomm writing a check to Apple because of other developments in the dispute.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Thursday ruled that Qualcomm, the world’s biggest supplier of mobile phone chips, was obligated to pay nearly $1 billion in rebate payments to Apple, which for years used Qualcomm’s modem chips to connect iPhones to wireless data networks.
We have chronicled Qualcomm’s challenges for some time. This long simmering dispute is complicated since Qualcomm needs the revenues from its patents, while not pissing off its arguably most important customer. The sooner the situation is settled and the parties move on (regardless of financial outcome), the better.
Meanwhile, Spotify and Apple has been the big antitrust story this week. TechCrunch’s news editor Ingrid Lunden covered the latest turns in the saga:
In a lengthy statement on its site called “Addressing Spotify’s Claims”, Apple walks through and dismantles some of the key parts of Spotify’s accusations about how the App Store works, covering app store approval times, Spotify’s actual cut on subscription revenues, and Spotify’s rise as a result of its presence on iOS.
At the same time, Apple carefully sidesteps addressing any of Spotify’s demands: Spotify has filed a case with the European Commission to investigate the company over anticompetitive practices and specifically to consider the relationship between Apple and Spotify (and by association any app maker) in terms of whether it is really providing a level playing field, specifically in the context of building and expanding Apple Music, its own product that competes directly with Spotify on the platform that Apple owns.
2019 is the year that most of the app stores are going to break on their revenue models. And it isn’t just limited to Apple — Steam is also facing huge challenges in the gaming market. As Chris Morris wrote for Extra Crunch a few weeks ago:
So what’s the draw for game makers to sell via the Epic Games store? It is, of course, a combination of factors, but chief among those is financial. To convince publishers and developers to utilize their system, Epic only takes a 12 percent cut of game-sale revenues. That’s significantly lower than the 30 percent taken by Valve on Steam (or the amounts taken by Apple or Google in their app stores).
According to Morris, Epic learned that it can be profitable at 12% based on its own experience with Fortnite, and therefore it wanted to rejigger the standard economics of game stores. Apple has a monopoly with its App Store on its own devices though, and so this sort of competition isn’t available. Given that Apple wants to increase services revenues in its financial model going forward, this is an important battle to watch.