Swense Tech

Best Solution For You

Why Is Elon Musk Picking A Fight With Apple? Can He Win?

Elon Musk is one of the largest-looming figures in tech, but he may in the midst of picking a fight he’s not quite prepared for.

In a series of tweets across Monday and Tuesday, Elon Musk went after Apple, a company which he views as actively threatening not just Twitter specifically, but the larger tech industry as a whole because of its far-reaching powers.

There are three main reasons that Elon Musk is concerned about Apple and feels the need to publicly spar with them:

The Problem: Elon says that Apple has ceased nearly all ad spending on Twitter. The issue here is that Apple is not just another advertiser, but one that has had as much as $100 million in ad spend on the platform in the past, and has been one of Twitter’s largest advertisers. This comes in the wake of a report from Platformer that Twitter ad revenues are down 49% in just a week, essentially in freefall.

The Fight: Elon has attempted to claim that Apple, and other fleeing advertisers “hate free speech,” which may rile up his fanbase, but in practical purposes, “naming and shaming” your advertisers for leaving is not really going to do anything than cement their decision to depart and cause others to do the same. And while Elon wields a large collection of devotees, they are in no way large enough where some sort of Apple boycott could make a dent in the company. Twitter needs Apple far, far more than Apple needs Twitter, and Elon’s behavior will only make things worse between the two companies.

The Problem: Elon says that Apple is now threatening to remove Twitter from the App Store, but will not tell them why. Past social media platforms like Parler have previously been banned for what Apple deemed was a lack of sufficient moderation, and Twitter has just seen its moderation teams gutted through a series of layoffs and resignations, and that seems to be the likely reason for Apple’s hesitancy to let Twitter stay in the store.

The Fight: Because Apple retains total control over its App Store, there is essentially nothing Elon can do in order to force Apple to keep listing Twitter. He can get angry on Twitter about it, but if Apple issues actual demands about content moderation and hate speech and whatever else they may have concerns about, Elon will be forced to make a choice between his dramatic devotion to free speech, or keeping Twitter on the App Store. There is unlikely to be much middleground, and again, Apple, not Twitter or Elon, has all the power in this situation.

The Problem: Elon has gone after Apple’s 30% cut from all transactions within apps in its App Store, as that would cause major problems for his grand plan to replace Twitter’s (quickly dwindling) advertising with Twitter Blue subscriptions. Blue has its own issues, like mass impersonation now that verification is being sold for $8 a month, but even in a perfect world with millions of sign-ups, Elon does not want to be paying Apple 30% of his subscription revenue through sign-ups in iOS.

The Fight: Unlike the previous two points, this is one area where Elon may have some wider support across the public and tech industry and even the government. Apple’s mandatory 30% cut (for apps above $1 million in revenue) has been scrutinized by everyone from Congress to Meta, and the highest profile fight has been a lawsuit with Epic Games, who saw Fortnite banned from the App Store after instituting a way players could pay them for in-game items and get around Apple’s 30% tax. But while Elon may have broader support here, a legal battle would be lengthy and costly, and so far, the previous case with Epic mostly did not go in their favor. If Elon can serve as a grand unifier across all of tech to get people and corporations to rally against Apple’s cut, he could make some headway there, but Elon being a bridge-builder is not exactly his persona these days. And of course, through all of this, he still has to even get people to sign up for Twitter Blue in meaningful numbers in the first place.

In two of these three cases, Apple wields all the power and Elon effectively cannot to much of anything except get very mad at them on Twitter, which will probably only make them spend even less in advertising, and more likely to remove the app from their store. The 30% cut is a broader issue, but Elon’s Twitter doesn’t even have the subscriber base right now to make that its primary concern, nor does Elon seem like he’s going to spend the next few years finding allies and building a lawsuit against Apple to change this, even if Apple may indeed need to be brought in line in this realm.

In short, it’s not much good news here, and even the richest man in the world may be somewhat powerless in the face of the totality of power of one of the biggest corporations in the world.

Follow me on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to my free weekly content round-up newsletter, God Rolls.

Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.