Analyst Ben Thompson believes US antitrust law could endanger the Apple ecosystem if the company is unwilling to compromise on the App Store.
The danger is that the legislature perceives the various ecosystem components as anti-competitive, but is less likely to do so without the central role of the app store …
We recently summarized the background to some of the new planned antitrust laws in the United States.
In 2019, a year-long investigation began to determine whether tech giants had engaged in anti-competitive behavior. Apple was one of the companies investigated, with Tim Cook having to testify before Congress – and was among those tech companies found to have “deeply worrying” anti-competitive behavior.
Originally, it was expected that the outcome would be a single antitrust law designed to address all issues uncovered, from tech companies like Facebook buying up rival social media platforms like Instagram to Apple, which favors its own apps over third-party ones .
However, we learned back in March that it is possible that the Democrats could instead introduce multiple antitrust laws, each addressing different issues.
One of those bills is the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, which contains the following provision:
It is unlawful for a Covered Platform Operator to own or control a business other than the Covered Platform if ownership or control of the Covered Platform in that business creates an incompatible conflict of interest.
Apple ecosystem at risk
The main threat to Apple is the way the App Store operates. However, Ben Thompson believes that any action taken could threaten the entire Apple ecosystem unless Apple offers its own compromises.
One of the central points of many who are calling for new laws in this area is to place significant restrictions on the ability of platforms to offer apps and services or to integrate them in a way that benefits their offerings.
In this potential world, it’s not only problematic that Apple is charging Spotify 30% or forcing the music streaming service to hope that users will find out how to subscribe on the web, even with Apple Music having a fully integrated login process has and does not have 30% VAT; It’s also illegal to incorporate Apple Music into SharePlay or Shared-with-you or Photos, or even use Apple Music in the most extreme versions of these proposed laws. That caveat would basically apply to any WWDC announcement: Say goodbye to Quick Note or SharePlay-as-an-exclusive-service, or any number of Apple’s built-in offers […]
Mainly because of this, Apple should rethink its approach to the App Store. The deeper the company is integrated, the more unfair its arbitrary boundaries become for competing services. Isn’t it enough that Spotify is never integrated like Apple Music, or that 1Password is not integrated like the keychain, or that SimpleNote is only ever in its sandbox while Apple Notes is ubiquitous?
He argues that steps like cutting the App Store commission and allowing alternative payment platforms for in-app purchases could be enough to keep lawmakers happy if Apple acts quickly.
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