Apple and Google urge UK antitrust watchdog to leave them alone • The Register

Apple and Google urge UK antitrust watchdog to leave them alone • The Register

Apple and Google have defended their business practices in letters to the UK Competition and Markets Authority, while rival firms and third-party developers continue to push for mobile market reforms.

The UK CMA, in the middle of its mobile ecosystem market survey, on Friday published comments the agency had requested its interim report [PDF]published on December 14, 2021.

CMA last june investigated whether Apple and Google’s control over mobile operating systems, app stores and web browsers distorts the mobile market and harms competition. The agency also conducts more targeted surveys of Apple App Store and Google Privacy Sandbox – a set of technologies intended to protect privacy to replace invasive third-party cookies.

The competition watchdog’s preliminary findings, detailed in its interim report, suggest the CMA believes market interventions are needed to reduce Apple and Google’s power over their respective ecosystems.

Solutions being considered include: APIs to facilitate device switching; support required for sideloading, third-party payment systems, and third-party app stores; allow third-party browser engines on iOS; make certain private APIs public; and application review transparency requirements, to name just a few of the possibilities.

Apple and Google would prefer to carry on business as usual and said so in their respective letters to AMC.

Apples 47 page letter [PDF] argues that the remedies proposed in the Interim Report (IR) are premature and ill-founded, risk doing more harm to competition than good, and are disproportionate to the actual harm caused by the company’s conduct.

The iBiz, which generated approximately $85.1 billion in revenue of its App Store in 2021, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower, is demanding that the CMA give more weight to its positive evidence than the negative rebukes of its rivals.

“With so much at stake, the final market research report must go beyond accepting at face value the often self-serving complaints of a limited number of the largest market players,” argued Apple’s law firm, Gibson Dunn.

“It needs to hear more from consumers about why they continue to choose Apple devices. The final report cannot be based on hypothetical considerations excluding positive evidence submitted by Apple, app developers and other interested parties.And it should contain a more in-depth discussion of the implications of the interventions it proposes.

Google offers a slightly less fiery defense where its practices – like sideloading support and distribution of third-party browser engines – already align with remedies considered by the CMA [PDF]. But he also insists that there’s plenty of competition and there’s really no reason to meddle with in-app billing.

Rivals like Epic Games, Microsoft and Mozilla argue that more needs to be done to force Apple and Google to loosen their “grip”, as CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said when releasing the report. intermediate.

epic games [PDF], currently in the midst of a legal battle with Apple and Google over in-app payment limitations, has endorsed CMA’s proposed solutions and argued for alternative payment and app distribution mechanisms. in the app. The game maker’s letter goes on to claim that Apple’s security concerns are pretense and self-serving.

“Apple has always represented the Mac as safe and immune to malware, and there is no credible argument to suggest that the alternative application distribution would be less secure on an iPhone than on a Mac,” Epic said. .

Microsoft [PDF] wants Apple and Google to be required to allow developers to use the payment processing service of their choice; to allow third-party app stores; to allow side loading; to improve web application support; and to allow native cloud gaming apps. He also argues that the security concerns raised by Apple are “exaggerated”.

MozillaComment [PDF] makes a case for CMA’s intervention in the mobile browser market, which is to be expected given how restrictions from Apple’s iOS browser engine have limited Firefox on Apple’s mobile devices. It also defends the deprecation of third-party cookies that Google’s Privacy Sandbox intends to replace.

The recently formed Open Web Advocacy Group argues that gatekeepers should be required to provide browser vendors with all functionality available for any application or service provided by the gatekeeper or their business partners; to support third-party browser engines on iOS; and to provide web application support in mobile operating systems.

The group points to Apple’s “complete disregard” for Dutch regulators – who have demanded that Apple support third-party payment systems and repeatedly fined it for not doing so – as proof that regulatory remedies must anticipate behavior in bad faith.

Many other organizations weighed in, as did individual web developers.

For example, Alistair Shepherd, UK-based front-end developer for London-based web agency Series Eight, said he agreed with the CMA’s interim report on the impact of iOS browser limitations on ‘Apple.

“Although we build for all modern browsers, a significant amount of time in site development is spent restoring and fixing bugs specifically caused by Safari on iOS,” claimed shepherd [PDF]. “Each client we build a site for will pay about a full-time work week for testing and bug fixing, and typically about 75-80% of that is spent on iOS web bugs. The current state of Safari Directly costs Series Eight time and money for each project, exacerbated by poor documentation, update logs, and private bugfix boards for Safari.”

Kimberly Blessing, chief technology officer for Glasgow-based Dog Digital Ltd, offers a similar assessment of Apple’s browser rules. “From a business perspective, web product development is more expensive due to Apple’s practices,” she said. wrote [PDF]. “Their Safari browser lags behind other software products, both in terms of unresolved bugs and support for common features available on other platforms.”

But not everyone thinks Apple’s browser rules should be questioned. Chris Jones, who works for Red Hat in the UK and contributes to open source projects, insists that Apple’s WebKit requirement is actually the only thing stopping Google’s Chromium (based on a WebKit fork called Blink) to take over the entire browser market.

“As much as my FOSS gut tells me that iOS should allow competing browser engines, I think the bigger picture here is that if [Apple is] forced to do so, Google will quickly capitalize on the opportunity to drive [its] browser market share closer to 100%”, Jones wrote [PDF].

The CMA’s final report is due out on June 14. The report’s findings won’t necessarily change anything, but will provide the newly formed UK Digital Markets Unit and other interested legislators with regulatory advice. Maybe something will come out of it. ®