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经济学人:神仙打架:苹果vsEpic(1)

日期: 来源:比比西英语网

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Business

商业版块

Epic v Apple

Epic对战苹果

Storing up trouble

埋下祸根

Let the courtroom battle commence

让法庭大战开始吧

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.

一场法律上的死亡竞赛恰好在网络上展开。9月28日,加利福尼亚的一家法院通过视频电话的形式,就苹果公司与Epic Games之间的诉讼纠纷举行了听证会。Epic Games是一款热门电子游戏“堡垒之夜”的开发商。诉讼议题是,苹果公司对智能手机上运行的软件进行严格控制的行径是否构成了垄断性的权力滥用。法院的最终裁决可能会影响到其他数字市场的有所为和有所不为。

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).

苹果公司对应用软件的严格控制行径过去也曾面临过挑战。但Epic公司挑战苹果公司的做法最为明目张胆。今年8月,Epic公司向“堡垒之夜”内购的玩家提供了20%的折扣,优惠限于直接向Epic,而不是通过苹果应用商店付费购买的苹果手机用户。苹果应用商店会从大多数交易中抽成30%。Epic的做法违反了苹果应用商店的条款,因此“堡垒之夜”被从平台上下架。已经料到如此的Epic公司以发起诉讼(以及厚颜无耻的公关活动)进行回击。

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.

此次听证会只涉及Epic公司能否在案件受理期间迫使苹果公司重新在应用商店上架“堡垒之夜”。但这一议题已经表明了双方的辩论立场。Epic认为,苹果手机上的应用软件只能通过苹果应用商店进行下载,苹果的“围墙花园”扼杀了竞争。2018年,Epic推出了一款电脑端游戏商店,收取12%的佣金。随后,主流游戏商店Stream将畅销游戏的抽成比例从30%下调至20%。Epic的老板蒂姆·斯威尼据理力争地辩称,苹果公司阻碍了在苹果手机上出现类似的竞争。

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.

苹果则进行了反驳,开发商们要是不喜欢苹果的规则,那也还有很多选择。“堡垒之夜”可以在台式电脑、游戏机和安卓系统的智能机上运行(安卓是谷歌旗下的操作系统,与苹果系统存在竞争关系)。在一份声明中,苹果公司指责Epic强迫自己采取行动,“将消费者牵扯进争斗之中”。苹果反诉Epic违反了苹果应用商店合同。

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.

福特汉姆大学的马克·帕特森认为,这与2001年微软与反垄断者的官司是类似的情况。最终判决微软这家软件巨头将网页浏览器与Windows操作系统捆绑在一起的行为属于反竞争行为。帕特森先生表示,苹果公司对苹果手机的控制力度要大于微软对Windows系统的控制力度,但苹果的智能手机市场份额却小于微软的台式电脑市场份额。

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