Here's why Apple says Microsoft's xCloud game streaming isn't on the iPhone

Apple executive Phil Schiller defends the company's App Store policies treating games differently than movies.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read

Microsoft's criticized Apple's approach to game streaming.

Angela Lang/CNET

Game streaming is pitched as the future of games, a nirvana-like union of powerful computer servers, super fast networks. It can seem like magic, allowing anyone to play visually complex and demanding video games on a low-power device, using technology similar to watching movies on Netflix. But Apple says game streaming needs to follow its rules if it's going to be made available on its App Store. And now, after criticism particularly from Microsoft's Xbox gaming group and Fortnite maker Epic Games, it's defending that position in court.

Watch this: Epic v. Apple trial recap, what's next

Apple Fellow Phil Schiller, who led the company's worldwide marketing for three decades before being named head of the App Store last year, testified in an Oakland, California, courtroom Monday that his company's approach is consistent and thoughtful, despite criticism.

Apple requires game-streaming services to submit individual apps to its App Store for review, even if they're part of a streaming catalog of hundreds of titles. The reason, he said, is that when people look for a game in the App Store, Apple wants to provide an age rating, parental controls, a product page and privacy policies to users in the same way it does for other apps on its store, regardless of how it's delivered. 

"As a store, we want to provide that information to our users," he said. Microsoft has vociferously disagreed in the past, saying the process creates a bad experience for users searching through its catalog of games. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Schiller's latest statements.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers also focused on a frequent argument against Apple, asking why the company treats game streaming differently than Netflix.


Epic and Apple have been fighting over Fornite and the App Store since August of last year.


Schiller said that in addition to the reasons he described above, Netflix has one account and privacy policy. People don't sign in to individual movies to watch in the same way they might sign into the latest Assassin's Creed historic fiction adventure game from Ubisoft to keep track of their progress and connect with friends. "These are interactive games," Schiller said. "It's something that requires you they do much more than just play video."

Schiller's defense underscores the complexity of the rules Apple's constructed around its App Store and how even a federal court judge struggles to understand them sometimes. Apple's known for its tight control over the App Store and the guideline rules it's set for apps to be accepted into it. And since the App Store is the only way to install apps on the iPhone, developers have to play by Apple's rules.

Fortnite maker Epic is asking Rogers to force change to Apple's approach, potentially upending the way we get and pay for apps forever

In the meantime though, Schiller sees a distinction between a movie-streaming app and a game-streaming service. "The App Store is not a movie store," he added. "It isn't about movies. It's an apps and games store. And so when you bring in games in a different way, that no longer works as designed in the game store."