Tim Cook to be Apple's star witness at Fortnite trial

Tim Cook to be Apple’s star witness at Fortnite trial

Apple CEO Tim Cook will take the witness stand Friday in a high-stakes courtroom battle that could change the iPhone and App Store forever.

Cook’s testimony is expected to start at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. The U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, doesn’t allow cases to be televised, or for audio to be rebroadcast, but the testimony will be available live via a phone line, and the details are here.

The trial revolves around an antitrust lawsuit filed last year by Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite. At stake are the lucrative commissions the iPhone maker has been raking in from its mobile app store and players’ access to the popular shootout game.

Epic is trying prove that commissions ranging from 15% to 30% on transactions in apps installed on iPhones, iPads and iPods are part of a monopoly that Apple has created around a fortress blocking other payment options on its mobile devices.

Antitrust expert Eleanor Fox, a professor at New York University School of Law, told CBS MoneyWatch prior to the start of the trial that Epic’s case was in line with growing concerns that a handful of large tech firms, including Apple, Facebook and Google, have de facto monopoly power over online commerce and media. Nonetheless, Fox said, it wasn’t clear Epic would be able to convince a court that Apple had broken the law.

“If all that Epic’s case is about is whether Apple charges too much, then that’s allowed under antitrust laws,” Fox said. “Antitrust laws do not block price-gouging.”

Apple has brushed off the allegations as a desperate attempt by Epic to boost its own profits by breaching a contract covering a system that requires a small portion of the 1.8 million apps in its store to pay the commissions on transactions. Apple says the commissions help it pay for the technology powering its products, including the security and privacy protections that has helped make iPhone so popular.

Cook is expected to testify as Apple prepares to wrap its case before the two sides make their closing arguments and answer U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’ questions about the evidence on Monday.

Cook has emerged as a polished, confident public speaker since inheriting his CEO job nearly a decade ago from Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs.

The specter of Jobs is likely to be raised while Cook is on the stand, based on Epic’s strategy seen in court so far. Epic lawyers have repeatedly referred back to Jobs’ initial predictions that Apple wouldn’t make much money from the app store when he unveiled it 13 years ago.

Since then, the app store has become more successful than anyone envisioned and a major contributor to the profit growth that has helped Apple achieve its current stock-market value of nearly $2.1 trillion.

Just how much money Apple makes from the app store has remained a heated point of contention during the trial, although Schiller conceded during his testimony that the Cupertino, California, company had pocketed at least $20 billion from it through June 2017, based on calculations from figures publicly released as that time.