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Apple facing more MASSIVE changes to their no. 1 App Store

More legislation changes heading Apple’s way from the EU

Apple's App Store and Sideloading

Change is coming

Apple probably thought they had faced enough wrath from the EU legislators over the past months, as they conceded to the changes over charging ports on mobile devices.

As I have covered in recent stories, come 28th December 2024, all mobile phones, tablets, cameras, and portable electronic devices will have to be charged via a USB-C port, if they use wired charging, that is.

That one simple, seemingly small law change, has costly, and far-reaching effects for the Cupertino tech giant.

Not only will Apple have to source millions of USB-C ports for their iPhones, but all ports will have to change on their products that currently charge via their proprietary lightning cable. That includes the magic keyboard, magic mouse, and, all AirPods.

Although they are still playing their cards close to their chest as to how, or when, they will make those changes, we know the apple-cart (pun intended) is about to be disrupted. They could, of course, decide to swap out lightning for MagSafe, and effectively stick two fingers up at the European Union. The next few months will prove, very revealing, but, the enforced changes are not stopping there.

Time to open up

As with nearly all changes that Apple make, rarely, are they altruistic, or made solely for our benefit. Although, when I checked in with the Apple Pressroom earlier, no official statement has yet been made, we heard yesterday, that finally Apple will have to open up their App Store, and various other integral apps as well.

With mounting pressure coming not only from the European Union, but also from other governments from around the world, it looks as if Apple will be forced to make deep-seated changes. Safari, iOS, and the app store, too, are all liable to have changes made to them in order that come in line with these regulation changes.

The changes stem from new directives contained within the EU’s Digital Markets Act. It came in to effect on 1st November, and requires gatekeeper companies to “open up their services and platforms.”

The act applies to companies who provide browsers, messaging services, or social media to at least 45 million monthly end users in the EU. They must also have 10,000 annual business users, and a market cap of at least 75 billion euros ($82 billion) or a yearly turnover of 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion).

How the EU will finally define which companies are gatekeepers, has yet to be clarified, but, given the size of Apple, it would seem more than likely, that they will fall in to this category.

Fines for not complying, are hugely prohibitive. The EU will fine any company not toeing the line, 20% of its global turnover. For Apple, that could be as much as $80 billion. The changes will need to be in place by 6th March 2024.

What will change?

Quite a lot! The implications go further than just the App Store – changes to FaceTime, Messages and Siri could be on the cards as well. And, Apple seems to be taking seriously too. Bloomberg report that Apple are using “significant amount of resources” in readiness for the change. Andreas Wendker, a VP reporting to Craig Federighi, as well as engineering manager Jeff Robbin who reports to Eddy Cue, are reportedly already involved in the programme.

They also go on to mention that application programming interfaces (API’s) will need to open up, as too will WebKit, the engine upon which Safari runs, and which every app must currently be built.

There is a very real possibility that shifting attention to this law change could hamper development in other key OS developments. The current plan is to have the changes made by WWDC next June, ahead of the release of iOS 17.

The big headline, of course, is that of Sideloading. The law change would mean customers would have a choice within iOS of where they download apps from. Currently, developers have to pay between 15%-30% for their apps to be in Apple’s App Store.

Apple has long defended their stance of having to use the App Store, as, in their mind, not doing so would “undermine the privacy and security protections”.

There’s more

Of course, in opening up other app stores, it will mean that Apple will also have to open up payments within iOS to third parties too. iPhones NFC system will now have to allow other wallet apps and payment systems, which will be competing directly with Apple Pay.

The changes also mention that Apple will no longer be allowed to give preferential treatment over others, to their own apps such as Apple Music, or Apple Arcade in the App Store. More, and greater access to some camera functions will also be on the cards.

Apple is undecided on how the Messages app might be made available to third-party services, as the DMA requires interoperability between messaging platforms.

So what about Messages?

This term interoperable keeps raising its head, and that pertains directly to Messages. The DMA wants to see changes in cross-platform messaging services.

Apple could decide to adopt the rich communication services, or RCS, standard supported by Google and other platforms, but that “isn’t currently something we are considering” Apple said this week. Engineers at the company believe that such a change could hurt end-to-end encryption and other privacy features offered by iMessage.

Although Apple will likely fight these requirements, they know that not complying, is not an option either politically, or financially.

Wrapping up

Writing this on the day that iOS 16.2 has been made available, with the Advanced Data Protection feature in place, seems almost an ironic twist of fate.

I guess Apple is almost becoming a victim of its success. The fact they have become such a massive, global player and influencer, in so many walks of our everyday lives, means they have become the focus of international legislators.

2023 and beyond looks very much as if the walled garden that Apple have built up over so many years is up for a little redesigning!

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