Apple has connected iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch users to millions of apps over the years through its App Store. It's a curation of software that meets Apple's strict security standards, which of course only exist to benefit the end user. Or do they?
According to the European Union (EU), not entirely. Which is why, as part of the recently passed Digital Markets Act (DMA), Apple has had to make some changes to the way the App Store does business to avoid stifling innovation and competition. And, judging by Apple's reaction, it's none too pleased about it.
While developers see these changes, which will no doubt spread stateside eventually, as a new chapter in mobile app freedom, Apple sees it as a serious threat to its status quo. As a result, Apple has hit back — but not at the EU. Instead, the brand is targeting the developers who made the App Store what it is today.
Getting up to speed
The EU's new regulations state that Apple (among others) has to make its platform open to third-party stores and third-party payment processors. While this could be a fantastic moment for mobile app users, Apple isn't keen on giving up its stringent gatekeeping for iOS/iPadOS, and has proposed that any developer seeking to use these new avenues of distribution and payment will have to pay for it.
Even a trillion-dollar company like Apple knows that fighting the EU's decision is a losing battle. This is likely why your iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro/Pro Max now have a USB-C port. That was also to comply with EU regulations. Because of that, Apple appears to be taking out its frustrations on developers.
The new App Store rules propose a Core Technology Fee for apps on third-party app stores, forcing developers to pay-per-install on any app downloaded over one million times and still give Apple a 17% cut on all purchases made through third-party payment processors.
While Apple is capitulating to the EU's regulations, and opening up its platform to other competition, it's effectively punishing any developer who chooses to make use of it — causing a backlash from companies and developers, with Spotify openly calling Apple's actions an "abuse of power."
Apple needs developers on its side now, more than ever
Apple's actions couldn't have come at a worse time. Apple needs developers on its side now, more than ever. Why? The Vision Pro.
The recent launch of the Apple Vision Pro hasn't quite been everything it was hyped up to be. While it's a game-changer for Apple, many have found this 'new era' of spatial computing to be a synonym for 'AR/VR headset standard fare.'
While the Vision Pro reportedly launched with over 600 optimized apps few of them truly make use of the full potential of Apple's latest product. While Vision Pro's App Store is compatible with an extensive library of software ported from the iPhone and iPad, apps that truly take advantage of the powerful hardware available to the headset are few and far between.
At a time when Apple should be encouraging innovation and creativity within its developers, it's instead cracking the whip and making sure that anybody with ideas beyond the confines of the Apple walled garden is crushed into submission.
Apple is its own worst enemy, at least when it comes to defending the position of its gatekeeper status for iOS and iPadOS.
Even if Apple disagreed with the EU's claims, its actions after the fact have only proven them right. Apple's strong-arming and nickel-and-diming of developers is both a bad look and as Microsoft also claimed "A step in the wrong direction."
Developers are now pushing back against Apple at a time when they need them on its side most — rejecting Apple's claims that the new rules are meant for "creating safeguards to protect" and instead seeing them as "extortion."
Apple's actions could have serious knock on effects with the developers it typically courts, and hamper Vision Pro support. But worst of all, its actions could see the EU being weaponized by these developers into taking further action against the company.
For now, a March 7 deadline remains in place for Apple to take adequate action in adherence to the DMA. Should that date come and go with these new App Store rules in place, then Apple may be leaving itself wide open for another round of EU targeting.
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.