The EU Forces Open Apple’s Walled Garden

Originally published at: The EU Forces Open Apple’s Walled Garden - TidBITS

Apple is making major changes to how it distributes iOS apps in the EU due to the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act, but the company is making it clear that it’s only doing so under duress.

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Apple’s condescending and greedy management has only itself to blame for this. A spirit of compromise and adjustments to the onerous fee structure might have taken the air out of this controversy.

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Corporations exist to produce goods and profits for their shareholders…and while one ma6 not like Apple’s approach…Epic and others have zero rights to use Apple’s systems and servers without compensating Apple. They’re not a monopoly…while they make the vast majority of profit in the smartphone business they sell about 25% of all phones. Many users like and prefer the closed ecosystem…warts and all…because overall it provides more security and privacy than Android. The EU is completely wrong here…and I hope Apple sticks to their principles. This is severe overreach…just like the proposed changes in the UK Investigatory Powers Act which propose that the UK declare worldwide jurisdiction over end to end encryption. Nuts.

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I’ve never seen a company welcome regulation. I’m sure if it were up to Tim, he’d get to make his own rules. But as we all learned back when we were small children, the world doesn’t work like that. Apple wasn’t willing to compromise, so they got forced by written law. And then it’s the EU’s way or the highway. Obviously, they chose not to forgo billions in sales. That’s the way the real world works. A story as old as time.

What I’m more curious about is if they will be allowed to squeak by with what has been termed “malicious compliance” or if the EU will now tighten the vice to make sure Apple complies with the goals of their legislation (weaken gatekeepers’ restrictions on consumer choice) rather than just bare minimum.

@jcenters is absolutely right in sensing that Apple is about as public in throwing a tantrum as they could be without appearing ridiculous, but in the end that’s just posturing. It will be more interesting to see what actually happens. Will the EU allow them to force devs to choose between business as usual vs. more choice but made financially as unviable as possible? And even more interesting, what will the outcome of all this be? Will consumers actually face better conditions? Will iPhones eventually become more like Mac? Or will Apple be allowed to uphold what I’m sure they would prefer to be considered the new paradigm?

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I can see two things in effect happening:

  1. Most users won’t be interested in wasting their time with third-party “marketplaces” in the first place.

  2. Most devs (outside Epic, or a few larger game companies), won’t bother offering their apps outside Apple’s store.

The second of these two will be down to Apple’s deliberately greedy rules they’d have to follow, making doing so almost completely pointless from both a profit and additional admin point of view.

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Please don’t impugn individuals. Apple is acting rationally from its perspective and working to maximize shareholder value, etc. etc. We can disagree with or be critical of Apple’s words and actions, just as we can disagree with or be critical of the Digital Markets Act’s approach, but I don’t want discussion devolving into insult.

I think you’re spot on here, as @jcenters pointed out in the article by referencing @rmogull’s article about how Apple has brought this on itself.

It appears that Apple’s negotiating stance is usually from a position of dominance, which may work well in the business world where money talks. (Though the situation with Massimo and the blood oxygen sensor shows that it doesn’t always provide a quick or smooth resolution.) And it seems to work well enough in the courts, such as with the Epic lawsuit, though that may be more a case of Apple lawyers making sure that what the company does is legally defensible.

But I would wonder if Apple has tried to play the same level of hardball with the EU regulators and other government representatives. Particularly if the other tech giants did the same thing, that may have caused the EU to dig in its heels. And now Apple is doubling down with a set of regulations that may pass muster—the EU will presumably rule on whether they meet the letter of the law—but certainly do little to address the spirit of what the EU was trying to accomplish.

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Here is Nitrozac & Snaggy’s Joy of Tech take on this.

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Just a reminder that I’m going to continue deleting messages that try to drag the conversation off into the weeds of opinion about financial systems or forms of government. Stick to Apple, folks.

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Apple is at 25% and growing while the competition is either static or shrinking. Do you like the word “oligopoly” better? Corporations are ruthlessly rational and Apple’s behavior is exactly what I would expect. You can complain about EU excesses, but ask yourself what Apple could have done differently over the last decade to enhance shareholder value while addressing legitimate anticompetitive concerns.

@ace To be clear, I’m not impugning individuals. I’m impugning Apple Management. Big difference!

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Well, that’s just it—Apple management is composed of individuals, a few of whom I’ve known for years, and they are not greedy or condescending people. They’re acting as a group in what they believe are the best interests of the company, and individuals or factions within the group may even disagree with the eventual decision. There’s seldom unanimity in large companies.

And we can disagree with or criticize the company’s actions, but there’s no utility in being insulting about it.

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John Gruber at Daring Fireball posted this amusing snippet…

Screen Shot 1

The entire post (and it’s long) is worth reading.

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By far the best take I’ve seen on this issue is Steven Sinofsky’s very long essay:

The key here is that Sinofsky’s was at Microsoft for decades and went through this whole “product design forced by regulation” when the US Govt and the EU forced Microsoft to make changes to their product and it didn’t go well.

A great read.

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None of the possible futures I see preclude me continuing on merrily as I am.

So be it.

Not sure any party in this has behaved all that well, and to @ace’s point, it’s difficult when political/economic viewpoints color commentary.

As a loyal 40 year Apple user and happy-to-be EU citizen with US ties, I’m just curious as to the outcome.

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That’s going to be the right question.

The arguments used in these discussions is “it’s better for the consumer”. Time will tell, because one way “better for the consumer” is interpreted implies “lower pricing due to competition”. My fear is I can’t see any developer in an independent store lowering prices when they know people will pay the App Store price and pocket what they would have paid to Apple.

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Is this about how Apple charges devs or about that “other” devs want to bypass Apple’s fees? I’m all for not having “side-loading” apps because I put a reasonable trust in Apple’s platform. However, if Apple isn’t watching the store, pun?, and there are app that want to bypass Apple’s QC and control… what’s the best solution? Is the EU only looking to protect its users or is there something else? I work with some from the EU and privacy is policy…I know Apple gathers information for its own internal metrics and doesn’t resell but how this will affect apps is something to watch.

I’m also empathic to companies that code and market programs (apps) like those that used to sell software from their website (a cost) that then had to move to Apple’s store front (cost) and lower prices to move but don’t get exposure? Or that devs have to pay 33% (I’m guessing?) to Apple to have their apps there, and wait for approval, and base their exposure on reviews and such? What a rat race!

BTW, I notice that when I’m in the app store, to update apps, I have to drag down the window to see latest (within a day or so posted update) for more updates! That little red notification might show 4 but drag down the window to refresh, and you’ll see it now at 8 or more! Right? Oh and most of the apps I see pushed on the App store are games! I mean literally, games! Sorry if you play games on your iPad or iPhone, but I don’t. Oh and who else is annoyed that when there is an app update, e.g. Youtube, its information about the update is gimmicky! Not informative, but just something immature like, “We’re cleaning the pipes and freshening up things!” … Not what I call “informative”.

The description of each new version is provided entirely by the publisher. If an app (like YouTube) isn’t providing useful descriptions, you need to complain to them.

If it’s from a small publisher, they might even respond. For apps from Google or Meta or other big corporations? They probably don’t care.

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Tee hee! That’s a great exchange! I’m with Sebastiaan de With on this one.

Further, I suspect that more than 95% of IOS users won’t bother with third-party stores. And most developers, save the ones with monstrous cash flows where 1% more makes a big difference, won’t bother either.

Dave

Stale link; the permalink is The Joy of Tech comic... Apple's response to the European Union!

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Thanks for finding and updating it, Flash!

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