The European Union has moved one step closer to enacting legislation that would force Apple to allow app downloads from third-party sources.
The European Union has moved one step closer to enacting legislation that would force Apple to allow app downloads from third-party sources on iPhone and iPad. The proposed legislation comes a couple of months after Apple said it would allow third-party payment options in South Korea to comply with a new law in that country. The legislation, which was enacted last year, requires app store operators like Apple and Google to offer third-party payment processing options to developers in a move that is aimed at putting an end to the so-called Apple tax.
Apple has often treated the prospect of third-party app stores as an existential threat, even describing them as a major risk to the safety and security of iPhone and iPad users. Apple’s walled ecosystem that forces users to stick to the company’s own App Store for app downloads has often faced massive criticism from observers and advocacy groups for stifling competition. The system has made Apple one of the most valuable companies on the planet with a market cap of over $2 trillion, but things could change if EU lawmakers have their way.
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Called the Digital Markets Act, or DMA, the proposed legislation by the European Parliament includes a number of provisions to prevent monopolistic trade practices and improve competition. It also has a critical provision that would force Apple to allow iPhone and iPad users to download apps from any source they want through a process known as ‘sideloading.’ Android users already have the ability to sideload apps, enabling them to download and install applications on their phones and tablets from just about anywhere. The legislation would also facilitate the formation of third-party app repositories for iPhone and iPad, along the lines of F-Droid or Aptoide for Android.
Apple’s Walled Garden
Confirming the new developments to The Verge, European Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke said that the legislation, once enacted, would allow users to select alternative sources of apps on their iPhone. According to Bahrke, the legislation would ensure that users will have access to the safe and secure default app store on their phones, as well as third-party marketplaces if they choose to access them. While the legislation is yet to be enacted, it is expected to be passed into law by October 2022, which could deal a crushing blow to Apple’s walled garden ecosystem.
Apple’s App Store currently doesn’t allow content that it deems unfit for families. The DMA could not only enable users to access such apps and services, it could also enable developers to advertise their software at a lower cost from third-party sources. While Apple will likely lobby hard against the bill, citing the security and privacy of users, proponents of the law could point out that the Mac ecosystem already allows the sideloading of apps from third-party sources. Despite that, Apple routinely claims that the Mac is more secure when compared to Windows PCs.
So if the DMA is enacted, Apple could easily go down the Mac route and apply the same third-party app certification to iOS and iPadOS apps. This would offer a relatively safe experience for iPhone and iPad users without infringing on the ability of users to pick and choose their preferred app download platform. It remains to be seen how Apple handles the impending legislation in Europe, especially as the company is also facing similar antitrust legislation in the U.S. that seeks to address anti-competitive conduct by major tech companies. The proposed U.S. legislation is expected to affect companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, among others.
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Source: European Parliament, The Verge
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