App Store would be 'toxic' mess without control, Apple CEO says

Apple CEO Tim Cook, seen in 2019, defended the company's managing of its App Store, saying the online marketplace could become a "toxic kind of mess" if it were not allowed to review apps
Apple CEO Tim Cook, seen in 2019, defended the company's managing of its App Store, saying the online marketplace could become a "toxic kind of mess" if it were not allowed to review apps JUSTIN SULLIVAN GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
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San Francisco (AFP)

Apple's online marketplace would become a "toxic" mess if the iPhone maker were forced to allow third-party apps without reviewing them, chief executive Tim Cook said in testimony at a high-stakes trial challenging the company's tight control of its platform.

Cook, the last scheduled witness in the case brought by Fortnite maker Epic Games, delivered a strong defense of Apple's procedures for reviewing and approving all the apps it offers for iPhone and iPad users.

"We could no longer make the promise.. of privacy, safety and security," Cook said under questioning from Apple attorney Veronica Moye in federal court in California.

Cook said Apple's review process helps keep out malicious software and other problematic apps, helping create a positive place for consumers.

Without this review, the online marketplace "would become a toxic kind of mess," he said.

"It would also be terrible for the developer, because the developer depends on the store being a safe and trusted place."

Cook's testimony caps a high-profile trial which opened earlier this month in which Apple is accused of abusing a monopoly on its marketplace by creating a "walled garden" that squeezes app makers.

Epic, maker of the popular Fortnite video game, is seeking to force Apple to open up the marketplace to third parties seeking to circumvent Apple's procedures and commissions of up to 30 percent.

Apple booted Fortnite from its App Store last year after Epic dodged revenue sharing with the iPhone maker.

Apple does not allow users of its popular devices to download apps from anywhere but its App Store, and developers have to use Apple's payment system, which takes its cut.

The case before District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers comes with Apple feeling pressure from a wide range of app makers over its control of the App Store, which critics say represents monopolistic behavior.

The European Union has formally accused Apple of unfairly squeezing out music streaming rivals based on a complaint brought by Sweden-based Spotify and others, which claim the California group sets rules that favor its own Apple Music.

A recently formed Coalition for App Fairness, which includes both Spotify and Epic, have called for Apple to open up its marketplace, claiming its commission is a "tax" on rivals.