After it looked like Apple might no-show, the company has committed to sending a representative to a Senate antitrust hearing on app store competition later this month.
Last week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) put public pressure on the company to attend the hearing, which will be held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. Klobuchar chairs that subcommittee and has turned her focus toward antitrust worries about the tech industry’s most dominant players.
The hearing, which Google will also attend, will delve into Apple and Google’s control over “the cost, distribution, and availability of mobile applications on consumers, app developers, and competition.”
App stores are one corner of tech that looks the most like a duopoly, a perception that Apple’s high-profile battle with Fortnite-maker Epic is only elevating. Meanwhile, with a number of state-level tech regulation efforts brewing, Arizona is looking to relieve developers from Apple and Google’s hefty cut of app store profits.
In a letter last week, Klobuchar and Lee, the subcommittee’s ranking member, accused Apple of “abruptly” deciding that it wouldn’t send a witness to the hearing, which is set for April 21.
“Apple’s sudden change in course to refuse to provide a witness to testify before the subcommittee on app store competition issues in April, when the company is clearly willing to discuss them in other public forums, is unacceptable,” the lawmakers wrote.
By Monday, that pressure had apparently done its work, with Apple agreeing to attend the hearing. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.
While the lawmakers are counting Apple’s acquiescence as a win, that doesn’t mean they’ll be sending their chief executive. Major tech CEOs have been called before Congress more often over the last few years, but those appearances might have diminishing returns.
Tech CEOs, Apple’s Tim Cook included, are thoroughly trained in the art of saying little when pressed by lawmakers. Dragging in a CEO might work as a show of force, but tech execs generally reveal little over the course of their lengthy testimonies, particularly when a hearing isn’t accompanied by a deeper investigation.