In response to an antitrust complaint, Apple says Spotify “wants all the benefits of a free app without being free”

Apple today released a very interesting statement, in a response to an antitrust complaint in Europe made by Spotify. In the statement, Apple said Spotify “wants all the benefits of a free app without being free”.

On Wednesday, Spotify filed an antitrust complaint in Europe claiming that Apple’s App Store policies give Apple an unfair advantage in favour of Apple’s own music streaming service, Apple Music. Spotify argues that Apple’s policies deprived customers of choice.

To educate the public on the matter, Spotify has created a website called timetoplayfair.com, in which it presents its case on why it thinks Apple is not playing nice.

“Apple shouldn’t be able to use their power to give themselves an unfair advantage – harming fans like you and companies like us,” Spotify said.

Spotify claims Apple imposes a discriminatory tax and rejects Spotify’s submission for app enhancements simultaneously depriving users of improved app features.

Spotify also claims that Apple’s would not let iPhone users play music from Spotify using Siri and that Apple had declined to let Spotify launch an app on the Apple Watch.

Apple, however, disagrees.

“We want more app businesses to thrive — including the ones that compete with some aspect of our business, because they drive us to be better,” Apple said in its statement.

“What Spotify is demanding is something very different. After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem — including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers — without making any contributions to that marketplace.”

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Additionally, Apple said it had approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app.

“The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.

“Spotify is free to build apps for — and compete on — our products and platforms, and we hope they do,” Apple added.

On Spotify’s claim about Siri, Apple said, “when we reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 support on several occasions, they’ve told us they’re working on it, and we stand ready to help them where we can.”

Apple released the “SiriKit” together with iOS 12. The kit allows third-party app developers to build features that work with Siri. However, it’s worth pointing out that the kit does not support third-party audio app integration which explains why you can’t tell Siri to play your music on Spotify.

On Spotify’s claim that Apple imposes a “30% discriminatory tax”, Apple notes that a large portion of Spotify users are on the free version of the app and that many of its premium subscribers come from partnerships with telco. This, Apple claims, makes no money for Apple.

Apple said that “only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.”

“Apple connects Spotify to our users. We provide the platform by which users download and update their app. We share critical software development tools to support Spotify’s app building. And we built a secure payment system — no small undertaking — which allows users to have faith in in-app transactions. Spotify is asking to keep all those benefits while also retaining 100 percent of the revenue.

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“Spotify wouldn’t be the business they are today without the App Store ecosystem, but now they’re leveraging their scale to avoid contributing to maintaining that ecosystem for the next generation of app entrepreneurs. We think that’s wrong.”

It’s very rare for Apple to make such a direct response to claims from what can be considered as a competitor but with Apple moving closer and closer to a digital services business model, it would seem like the company wants to start things off on the right foot. In any case, what is set to unfold after this will certainly be very interesting.

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