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The UK antitrust authority’s bid to investigate Apple’s browser dominance on iOS was stopped before it really got going – but not for the merits of Apple’s case.
This has been announced by the British Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). in November that it would examine Apple and Google’s dominance of the mobile browser market, with a focus on mobile gaming. Specifically, the CMA wanted to investigate Apple’s decision to restrict cloud gaming apps on the App Store.
Apple said in its appeal that because the CMA was too late to launch the investigation, it lacked the authority to proceed. Timothy Otty, the company’s attorney, argued that the investigation should have taken place in June 2022 when the CMA published a report on mobile ecosystems, showing that the two tech giants had an “effective duopoly”.
On Friday, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) have a date with Apple’s argument, saying “You could very well say the CMA made a mistake in the law” when it took no action after the June report.
Apple bans cloud streaming apps from the App Store unless each game has a separate app for content review. So developers can create an app to help users sign up for their service and find games, but they can’t include the games in one app.
The CMA also cited “suggested underinvestment in its browser technology” in its conclusion as another factor driving up costs for developers making mobile apps instead of streaming cloud games in Safari.
However, Apple does not restrict cloud gaming within Safari and only imposes restrictions on the App Store.
Apple’s hand can be forced
But despite Apple’s victory, the European Union’s Digital Markets Act will make major changes in March 2024, including requiring companies like Apple to open their platforms to allow third-party app stores. The Digital Markets Act entered into force in November 2022 and will apply on May 2, 2023.
Many companies had supported the CMA research, including DuckDuckGo, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Meta, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Vodaphone. Microsoft is planning for example, a mobile game store for its Xbox Game Pass service.
The company hopes to challenge Apple and Google with its game store and series of commitments that would make its mobile store more open than the App Store. The commitments include granting all developers access to the store and offering their payment systems to users, which is also prohibited by App Store rules.
Apple says not allowing rival app stores on its operating systems is due to security and privacy concerns. At the Viva Tech conference in Europe in June 2021, Tim Cook discussed different subjectsincluding customer safety.
“I mean, you look at malware as an example, and Android has 47 times more malware than iOS,” he said. “Why is that? It’s because we designed iOS to have one App Store and all apps are reviewed before they go to the store.”