Another day, another small and independent developer wishing to earn a living on Apple’s lucrative App Store is accusing the trillion dollar company of anti-competitive behavior.
And when we say “accusing,” we mean literally – with a lawsuit filed before the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara.
This time it was a pair behind the FlickType app that’s meant to facilitate visually impaired Apple customers use their iPhones, and Apple Watch keyboards by swiping across them.
Kosta and Ashley Eleftheriou, who developed the app, and sued as their business entity called KRAW, explained that Apple at first accepted FlickType into its store, after due review.
A year went by though, and reports say that at that point, Apple’s Text Input Special Projects team lead Randy Marsden (the guy previously behind Swype) became aware of the apparently nifty piece of software.
But his idea, according to this, may not have been to further promote the app on App Store, but to – to use fellow tech giant vernacular from the Bill Gates era – “embrace, extend, extinguish” competition, big and small alike – in other words acquire the app, and not for a lot of money, either.
It’s easy to see why Apple would be sorely interested in buying software that lets vision impaired – and not only – users use their small form-factor devices more efficiently. In fact, Marsden reportedly said that FlickType could become “a key feature” for Apple Watch.
From the filing, it appears that after taking a meeting in 2018 with those behind FlickType and praising it, showing Apple understood the potential massive value of their work – the company decided to power along and marginalize this app, in favor of what the plaintiff said were copycats.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.
Marsden appears to be no more than (a qualified) messenger here, because after he told his superiors about how the meeting went – FlickType simply got removed from the App Store “for being a keyboard for Apple Watch” – something that the “copycats” are still free to offer on the same store.
“Evidently, Apple thought plaintiff would simply give up and sell its application to Apple at a discount. Instead, plaintiff drove on,” the lawsuit said.
A fascinating for sure example of how Apple treats small and independent developers, and what “job security” or just fairness they can expect from it.
Now the court will have its say.