Lawsuit Seeking To Change Apple's iPhone App Policies Could Alter Risk Picture For Enterprises

The revival of an antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the company's policy of requiring iPhone apps to be sold through its App Store will be watched closely by enterprise mobility professionals.

The lawsuit by a group of consumers argued that Apple has created a monopoly with its App Store policy, which prohibits developers from selling iPhone apps on their own.

Initially filed in 2011, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2013 but has now been revived by a federal appeals court in San Francisco. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs told Bloomberg that the suit could ultimately seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Apple, Cupertino, Calif.

At Troy Mobility, an enterprise mobility solution provider based in Peabody, Mass., Chief Customer Officer Paul Troisi said the structure of Apple's App Store has "made it significantly easier for enterprises to work with their applications."

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Apple has "a proven process" for approving iPhone apps and "in general, Apple has done a really good job of making sure that the apps that are going out there are clean and have been certified to prevent any types of malicious takeovers or malware," he told CRN.

"As far as I'm concerned, with all of the vulnerabilities out there, having a closed ecosystem bodes well for enterprises," Troisi said. "The only people complaining about having a monopolistic approach to applications are the consumers."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to a recent court filing in the case, "Apple argues that it does not sell apps but rather sells 'software distribution services to developers.' In Apple's view, because it sells distribution services to app developers, it cannot simultaneously be a distributor of apps to app purchasers."

Apple "analogizes its role to the role of an owner of a shopping mall that 'leases physical space to various stores,'" the appeals court wrote in the filing. "Appleā€™s analogy is unconvincing. In the case before us, third-party developers of iPhone apps do not have their own 'stores.' Indeed, part of the anti-competitive behavior alleged by Plaintiffs is that, far from allowing iPhone app developers to sell through their own 'stores,' Apple specifically forbids them to do so, instead requiring them to sell iPhone apps only through Apple's App Store."