That question was asked — implicitly and explicitly — over and over on the third day of Epic v. Apple testimony. The antitrust trial started on Monday with some heady pronunciations about Fortnite, the game and/or metaverse at the heart of the case. Yesterday, both sides argued about whether iPhones and iPads were truly locked down. And today, Apple and Epic delved into one of the biggest questions of the trial: whether saying iOS violates antitrust law would make every major game console an unlawful monopoly too.
Apple lawyers issued a disastrous warning to Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft during its opening statement, saying their business models are all fundamentally similar. “If Epic wins, other ecosystems will fall as well,” they warned. But today, Epic called Lori Wright, Microsoft’s Xbox Business Development Manager, as a sympathetic witness. In response to a series of questions, Wright divided computing devices into “special purpose” and “general purpose” devices – in a way that clearly defined iPhones as these.
The Xbox, as Wright describes it, is a special-purpose device. “You’re basically building a piece of equipment to do a specific thing,” she told a judge. “Xbox is designed to give you a gaming experience. People buy Xbox because they want to play games. As a result, Microsoft maintains strict control over what content users can access – it’s an “organized and personalized hardware / software experience.” The market is also much smaller: tens or hundreds of millions sold, compared to “billions” of Windows devices. Later that day, Andrew Grant, engineer at Epic, gave his own similar definition of gaming consoles in general, calling a console “a single-use device for entertainment.”