Apple’s App Store has been in the center of some high-profile controversy and rhetoric last year when Epic Games made a bold move that, according to some sources, has been planned months ahead. An action as simple as offering a different in-app purchasing method set off a chain that now involves lawsuits filed across several countries, all of them accusing Apple and Google of monopolistic practices. Although this proposed bill in a single US state doesn’t directly reference the Apple vs. Epic Games tussle, its effects, if passed, will turn things in the game developer’s favor.
It’s hard to argue that the ripples that Epic Games started influenced North Dakota Senate Bill 2333, especially since it pretty much addresses the complaints raised by Epic and the newly-founded Coalition for App Fairness. The group bemoaned the current industry practice of locking users and developers into a platform’s app store and payment system, which often takes a hefty cut of the profits. While the complaints also include Google and its Play Store, the coalition specifically names Apple as the biggest culprit.
The bill has three main restrictions that, not by coincidence, address Epic Games’ complaints. It prohibits a “digital application distribution platform”, a.k.a. an app store, from requiring a specific, exclusive distribution platform, locking them into a single in-application payment system, and retaliating against them should they choose an alternative method. In other words, Apple would have to open up iOS to other app stores and can’t get back at developers for not choosing its own App Store.
Even if passed, the law would only be enforceable in North Dakota but it would still force Apple to make sweeping changes to iOS across the board anyway. In its testimony against the new bill, Apple’s chief privacy engineer Erik Neuenschwander warned that this could “destroy iPhone as you know it” for the simple fact that it undermines the strong privacy and security features that are built into the mobile platform.
Of course, there is also no shortage of proponents who accuse Apple of exaggerating its effects. It could take a while before North Dakota even decides on the bill and you can bet that Apple and Google will pull all influence they could muster to stop it from becoming law.