An epic showdown is about to begin. On the one hand: the richest man in the world. On the other: the most valuable company in the world. Elon Musk, for a few weeks not only the boss and major shareholder, or sole owner of Tesla, SpaceX, the tunnel company Boring Company and the startup Neuralink, but also the owner of the social network Twitter, says he is "going to war" against the iPhone manufacturer Apple . What is behind this conflict? How are the chances? And what is at stake for both sides?
The initial situation: what do Twitter and Apple have to do with each other?
On the one hand, Apple is one of the most important customers for Twitter. According to Bloomberg, Apple has spent well over $100 million a year advertising on Twitter. That should be more than two percent of the total advertising revenue of the short message service. Above all, Apple provides the devices and operating system that many users - including Musk himself - use to use Twitter. In this sense, Twitter is a customer or user of Apple and must comply with its terms of service. These terms include in-app content rules and a 15-30 percent commission for in-app payments on iPhones.
What points in this collaboration do Twitter and Musk cross?
All of them, at least according to Musk. On his own platform, he complained that Apple had “largely stopped” its advertising on Twitter. Apple has not yet officially commented on this, so it has not announced any possible reasons. However, it is obvious that the group does not like the changed environment on Twitter since Musk's takeover, with a significant increase in hate messages and false messages for its advertising. For this reason, other companies have also reduced their activities on Twitter. Musk formulates his guess as a question: "Do you hate free speech?" Musk also suggests that Apple, as a user of the app store, has asked Twitter to become more moderating on its network. After all, Musk does not want to give 30 percent of the possible income from the planned premium subscription Twitter Blue to Apple. That is a "tax on the Internet" that is ten times higher than justified.
What is Musk up to now?
So far, Musk has primarily scolded Apple for publicity. Most notably, he tweeted a meme depicting a car taking a freeway exit with the sign "Want to War on Apple." When asked if he could bring his own smartphone onto the market with Twitter so as not to be dependent on the duopolists Google and Apple, Musk answered succinctly "yes".
Musk has threatened to publicly slam advertisers who turn their backs on Twitter. Apparently hoping that these companies would then fall out of favor with Twitter users. And reconsider your decision. In the case of Apple, he has now carried out this threat. There is no evidence that this made any impression on the decision-makers at Apple. The threat of making oneself independent of Apple and Google with its own alternative is hardly realistic. One avenue that Musk theoretically still has is to go to court to determine whether Apple may be using a dominant position to impose its rules and payment terms on app providers. In a conditionally comparable case, the game developer Epic Games was only successful in one out of ten counts.
So can Apple just sit out Musk's "war campaign"?
Probably yes. In the conflict with Epic Games, Apple did exactly that and accepted that Fortnite, one of the most popular games for iPhone and iPad users at the time, was no longer available than making concessions to the app provider.
Can't business partners like Twitter and Apple just talk to each other and find compromises?
This is exactly what representatives of the two companies did until Musk took over Twitter. On the one hand, the App Store commission was not an issue until then, since Twitter did not have a subscription model and the app can also be used free of charge. On the other hand, at least that is what the specialist media suspect, Musk and half of the Twitter workforce probably also fired the employees responsible for the dialogue with Apple.
So is Musk powerless against Apple?
It is unlikely that he can achieve much with his public campaign alone. But he could join forces with many other companies unhappy with Apple's App Store rules. In the USA, for example, the "Coalition for App Fairness" is lobbying to limit Apple's and Google's power in this area. Politicians and competition authorities in several countries have already taken up the issue. A quick fix for Twitter, which desperately needs to boost its collapsing revenue, isn't expected.