An epic battle is shaping up among the tech titans and it can only add to the uncertainty already created by the ever escalating trade war between the US and China.
At the centre of one front of the battle stands Apple, who will, some say, lose about $25 billion a year from the pressures that Trump is placing on what happens between the US and China. The mess that this involves will already take years and billions of dollars to clean up.
Last week things escalated as Epic, the owner of Fortnite, decided to use a war chest it had been building to light a fire under the long rumbling issue of the commission that Apple and Google take for hosting apps on their respective stores. This tends to be between 15 and 30% and depends, to a point, on whether there is some other hook that Apple has in its developer.
Essentially, the folks at Epic decided to bait Apple by deliberately contravening the Apple and Google payment terms and wooing customers to pay for the games direct. Apple and Google immediately threw the company of their stores and all three then rang their lawyers. And that has to be a battle that will rumble on for some time. Epic is also trying to form a coalition with Spotify and Sonos to create an ‘anti-app’ campaign.
Meanwhile Facebook fired a salvo at Apple, asking the company to waive the commissions as it is planning to launch a paid for online events area on its platform. Apple refused and both companies rang their lawyers (or so we like to think).
Another ironic event in this increasingly ironic battle happened when Australia upped its demands that tech titans, particularly Google, pay news organisations for their content. Then – you are allowed to smile at this point – Google complained that the law would make it unfair for Google, who, you understand, is a champion of the little guy and is prepared to stop big old news organisation getting unfairly high rankings on the search engine.
There are other fronts too. Almost all of the tech titans have a hard time getting anywhere in China, for example. The European Union has been waging a long running fight with them on antitrust issues and the fact that they manage to avoid paying tax in many of the countries in the region.
To follow everything that is going on you would have to be a seasoned military strategist but one thing is for sure, the world is getting sick of big tech doing exactly as it likes and getting away with it. Perhaps we are now beginning to see the first sign that the walls are crumbling. In any even, it will be a complex and epic battle.