Sundar Pichai is set to argue that Google’s payment rules indicate a competitive business, not a monopoly.
We spent five days in a San Francisco courtroom observing witness after witness in the Epic v. Google trial. Most of the discussion about Google’s app store dealings came from individuals not widely recognized by outsiders. However, on November 14th, we anticipate hearing from Google CEO Sundar Pichai as he defends Google’s Android empire against antitrust claims from the publisher of the popular game Fortnite.
The CEO of Google is About to Join the Fortnite Trial
Exactly 1,188 days ago, Epic set a legal trap, accusing both Apple and Google of establishing illegal monopolies with their app stores. This dispute has the potential to significantly influence the future of the Play Store, especially if Epic succeeds.
I’ll provide you with Pichai’s live testimony from the courtroom right here. Before it begins, here’s a brief overview of the trial so far, covering the significant themes we’ll likely witness today.
Google Presents a More Normal And Deflated Image
Epic is the first to present its case in the trial, and its attorneys have the initial opportunity to question the witnesses they summon. Usually, during this phase, Epic aims to portray Google negatively by emphasizing certain seemingly incriminating details. For example, they revealed that Google offered Epic $147 million to launch Fortnite on the Play Store due to concerns about a “contagion risk” if leading game developers switched platforms. Following this, Epic poses a series of questions to the witnesses, intending to create an impression that they are either admitting or concealing something.
When it’s Google’s lawyers’ turn, often much later, they assert that what we’re witnessing is just standard business practice. According to them, Google is a company engaged in fierce competition to develop the best app store and smartphone, not one maintaining monopoly profits and stifling competition out of apprehension. They demonstrate, at times quite effectively, that Epic selectively chose parts of the testimony to portray a more polarized picture than reality.
The contrast frequently presents Epic v. Google as a clash between simplicity and complexity. However, complexity can sometimes benefit Google, as demonstrated yesterday with the canceled OnePlus Fortnite installer deal. Initially portrayed by Epic as Google blocking the Chinese smartphone maker from preloading Fortnite effectively, it now appears that OnePlus might have chosen to forego some financial benefits and status by opting for a different tier of deal with Google.
Pichai, who recently testified in the US v. Google antitrust trial, asserted that Google is merely a competitive business. Anticipate a similar argument from him in this context.
Apple is the Magic Word
Did Google establish agreements with developers to compete against the iPhone, or were these deals made to safeguard its profits on Google Play? Google has consistently argued for the former. In its opening testimony, it stated, “You cannot separate the quality of a phone from the quality of the apps in its app store, and that means Google and Apple compete against each other.” If a jury accepts this argument, it could potentially be the decisive factor in winning an antitrust case.
However, Epic consistently highlights that Google rarely references Apple in the internal documents justifying those agreements. Conversely, Google frequently depends on witnesses directly to clarify that they were considering the iPhone even if it wasn’t explicitly documented. Anticipate Pichai continuing to mention Apple, while Epic persists in questioning why he didn’t do so more prominently before.
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