Apple Booted Microsoft’s Shadow From App Store in xCloud Row

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Apple’s iOS walled garden is facing its most serious assault yet in the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial. Microsoft exec Lori Wright told the court yesterday that Microsoft engaged with Apple to understand why the xCloud game streaming client wasn’t permitted in the App Store, The Verge reports. To illustrate its argument, Microsoft used its Shadow streaming platform, which Apple has allowed in the store. According to Wright, Apple then went and pulled Shadow instead of admitting it was applying the rules arbitrarily.

The trial is centered on Apple’s decision to remove Fortnite from the App Store, an action that Epic openly invited when it added a direct purchase option for the game’s V-bucks virtual currency. This runs afoul of Apple’s developer policy, which requires apps to use its payment platform, thereby guaranteeing Apple a 30 percent cut of all sales. This has been a thorn in the side of developers for years, but Epic is the first developer with enough cash and power to fight back (thanks to the incredible success of Fortnite). 

While Epic was bickering with Apple, Microsoft was having a parallel disagreement with Apple about its xCloud game streaming service. As Epic is out to prove Apple is behaving in an anti-competitive manner, Microsoft became a natural ally. Google encountered the same iOS roadblocks with Stadia, but Epic is also embroiled in a legal battle over the Play Store. It’s not surprising the company’s lawyers turned to Microsoft to help make its case instead of Google. 

Wright explained that Microsoft appealed Apple’s decision to block xCloud by pointing out that Netflix and Microsoft’s own Shadow have similar business models, and yet both of those apps were allowed in the App Store. In the case of Shadow, users can run a virtual desktop with a high-end PC capable of game streaming. As a result, Apple pulled the Shadow app from its store. Wright insists it wasn’t Microsoft’s intention to tattle on Shadow, and they had no expectation Apple would react the way it did. 

Shadow was able to get reinstated to the App Store by framing it as a full virtual PC. While Shadow is capable of playing games, it doesn’t sell any directly. The iPhone maker eventually added clear rules about game streaming platforms on the App Store, but the restrictions would hobble a service like xCloud. Microsoft decided instead to rebuild the service for the browser and skip the App Store entirely. Airing Apple’s dirty laundry probably won’t change how it operates, but it could well turn the case in Epic’s favor.

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