When Tim Cook ascended into the chief executive officer role at Apple, plenty of naysayers doubted his ability to fill the legendary shoes left by cofounder Steve Jobs.
The jury appears to be decisively in: After Cook brought Apple to a $1 trillion market capitalization in 2018, making it the first U.S. company to do so, he took the company across a finish line 38 years in the making. On Wednesday, just two years later, he broke the $2 trillion mark — during a global pandemic that threatened its production pipeline and retail stores, no less.
That’s no small feat. During the coronavirus era specifically, which has sent world-class consumer and tech brands into crisis, the company managed to more than double its market cap.
The milestone is huge. And perhaps fraught.
The news comes as Apple faces heat from government probes in the U.S. and abroad over allegations of anticompetitive behavior toward developers. As it was, the argument was hard to counter for a company with restrictive policies and a long history of batting away complaints from app makers, who have accused the iPhone maker of banning features that compete with its own.
This issue has come to a head most recently in a dispute with Epic Games, maker of the popular Fortnite game app. According to a lawsuit filed by the developer, the app was rejected after an update brought its own direct-pay option. Apple requires that in-app transactions use its own payments system, which gives the tech giant a 30 percent cut. Now it’s planning to pull Epic Games’ developer account.
The game company calls it retaliation, but Apple frames the move as a matter of user safety.
In public comments, a spokesperson said “the App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users and a great business opportunity for all developers.…The problem that Epic has created for itself is one that can be easily remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.”
The issue looks like a David-and-Goliath situation, except that Facebook took on the same issue in a rare public rebuke last week during its Paid Online Events announcement. The fellow tech giant criticized the approach, implying that it was a money grab that lined Apple’s pockets while undermining Facebook’s attempt to help small businesses.
Now Apple has entered the $2 trillion club, and the situation could bring as many criticisms as kudos. Because in light of that gargantuan growth curve, it may be harder to counter the notion by many, including governments, that tech companies have grown too large and powerful.