Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken out against proposed tech regulation that would leave iPhone owners able to install apps from outside of the App Store, as the Cupertino firm comes under increasing pressure around its vice grip on smartphone software. The proposed law, known as DMA, would force companies with big platforms – like Apple, Amazon, and Google – to open up more for European customers.
The Digital Markets Act was proposed earlier this year, by the European Union. Alongside the Digital Services Act, it would bring legal powers to weigh on companies with outsized user-bases and which have dominance in their sectors. Think Apple, iOS and the iPhone, and Google’s Android.
While Android users can sideload apps to their phones and tablets, Apple has long prevented such activities on iPhone and iPad. Its longstanding argument is that the decision is grounded in security, and that one of the inherent protections for iOS and iPadOS users is that they can be confident that Apple has vetted the contents of the official App Store. However that approach has some significant side effects.
For developers, it leaves Apple as the gatekeeper to new functionality. It also forces them to pay the so-called “Apple tax” on in-app purchases and subscriptions, which the Cupertino firm levies in return for its handiwork on the App Store infrastructure and, it argues, for providing a user-base to sell to. We’ve already seen Epic Games take Apple to court over that in the US.
In Europe, meanwhile, regulators are currently investigating Apple over potential antitrust behavior, after Spotify filed a complaint.
Speaking via video call as part of the VivaTech conference in France, Tim Cook pushed back against the proposed DMA. “I look at the tech regulation that’s being discussed, I think there are good parts of it,” he conceded, CNBC reports. “And I think there are parts of it that are not in the best interests of the user.”
Sideloading is his primary concern. “If you take an example of where I don’t think it’s in the best interest, that the current DMA language that is being discussed, would force sideloading on the iPhone,” Cook highlighted. “And so this would be an alternate way of getting apps onto the iPhone, as we look at that, that would destroy the security of the iPhone.”
Far from being a dominant platform, Cook argued, iPhone market share in France is currently 23-percent. He also pointed to a greater propensity toward malware on Android devices, where sideloading has been possible from the start.