Apple CEO Tim Cook has been preparing for the hearing for most of the month after reluctantly agreeing to testify before the House Antitrust Committee in early July,media reported. Cook initially expressed some reservations about appearing before the House Judiciary Committee via video conference, prompting a subpoena threat from lawmakers. On 1 July, he agreed to testify in court.
According to The Information, the Apple executive has since met several times with his government affairs team to prepare for the hearing. Cook is known for his meticulous preparation. Those who prepared for the gathering included Lisa Jackson, Apple’s senior vice president of environmental, policy and social initiatives, and Tim Powderly, Apple’s top lobbyist.
As for why Mr. Cook insisted on testifying, people familiar with the executive’s thinking said it was because he was “convinced that Apple is not part of a group that is increasingly seen as a bad actor in antitrust”. Not only that, but The Information notes that Cook has for years avoided the toxic political environment that “swallows” Apple’s tech contemporaries. Mr Cook himself has been a critic of other platforms.
The publication noted that the hearing could raise questions about Apple’s ability to continue to avoid political controversy. For example, while the hearings are about antitrust, lawmakers will be able to question CEOs on any topic they choose. One possible topic of censorship for Apple is its continued refusal to set up a backdoor for the iPhone. William Barr, the US attorney general, has repeatedly criticized Apple.
The hearing itself is part of a broader antitrust investigation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The survey is looking at the market power of big technology companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook. Alphabet’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, will also testify.
Apple has come under special scrutiny for its App Store policies, including its role as a gatekeeper and participant in the app market, and its 15 to 30 percent share of in-app purchases made through its payment platform. The tech giant has been in the spotlight in recent months for these policies, including a clash with Basecamp’s email app Hey.
In an interview with Hey Chief Technology Officer David Heinemeier Hansson, the chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee called 15 to 30 percent of App Store charges a “highway robbery.”
The U.S. House of Representatives hearing is scheduled for July 27 at 12:00 AM EST (9am Pacific Time).