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Apple developer relations boss retires ahead of Epic App Store trial

Apple’s executive in charge of App Store developer relations has quietly retired, people familiar with the matter have said, little more than a month before the store is set to go on trial for alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the United States.

Ron Okamoto was poached from Adobe by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in 2001, to become vice president of developer relations. At Apple, Okamoto helped oversee the app-review process and policies, distribution of tools to build and sell apps, forums and technical developer support, the annual WWDC conference, awards for developers, and developer communications.

The app store included on iPhones and other Apple products is under scrutiny.

The app store included on iPhones and other Apple products is under scrutiny.Credit:Bloomberg

But Okamoto’s status as a former employee was disclosed over the weekend, in a witness list provided for an upcoming trial brought by developer Epic Games, which will examine whether Apple’s policies and behaviour see it exercising monopoly power in the mobile app market. The witness list said a deposition by Okamoto may be used in the trial and that he can testify about the App Store’s policies, business model, developer tools, and agreements between Apple and third-party developers.

However he is expected to be examined for less than an hour, while App Store boss Phil Schiller may face 11 hours of questions and cross-examination.

The App Store has been under scrutiny from antitrust regulators and some developers over fees and complex rules. In mid-2020 Epic, developer of the hit game Fortnite, sued Apple alleging anti-competitive and monopolistic behaviours. Epic had insisted on allowing players to pay it directly for in-game items, avoiding the Apple-mandated payment-processing mechanism that nets the tech giant a 30 per cent cut. Apple subsequently removed the game from its store.

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Apple has since sliced its revenue share from app purchases to 15 per cent, but only for developers that make less than $1 million in annual revenue. Meanwhile Epic hs also gone on to sue Google for similar practices, and initiate legal action against both Apple and Google in Australia as well.

People familiar with the situation confirmed Okamoto’s departure and said his role had been filled by Susan Prescott, who previously oversaw marketing for Apple’s own apps and is now also responsible for education marketing.

Bloomberg, with staff reporters

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