Apple Forced to Allow Alternative App Stores

4 minute read


Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is preparing to allow alternative app stores on its iPhones and iPads, part of a sweeping overhaul aimed at complying with strict European Union requirements coming in 2024. … Apple is applying a significant amount of resources to the companywide endeavor. It hasn’t been a popular initiative within Apple, considering that the company has spent years decrying the need for “sideloading” — the process of installing software without using the official App Store. In lobbying against the new European laws, Apple has argued that sideloading could put unsafe apps on consumers’ devices and undermine privacy.

Link: Bloomberg

Apple has been under a lot of pressure from EU regulators for years. I view strong institutions that can guide corporations in the right direction as a necessity. So far, I’ve seen most of the regulations imposed on the company from California as an advantage for Apple customers and EU citizens. However, I can’t say the same about the idea of introducing alternative app stores on iOS and iPadOS.

We know introducing alternative app stores is not something that Apple wants to do. Usually, when Apple is forced to do something, it has no intention of doing, Apple does it in a way that is not beneficial to anyone. It is an act performed to solely please the regulators. Just think of the following examples: Apple introducing alternative payment methods in South Korea and the Apple Self Service program that costs as much as servicing devices in Apple Store/authorized repair service providers. Why would anyone assume that it will be different with alternative app stores?

I can see many ways in which the multiple-app-stores environment can be detrimental to users:

  • Each major company will introduce its own app store. Users need to download an app store from a particular company if they want to use their apps. This phenomenon is well-known to PC gamers that need to download many different game launchers just so they can play games from different developers/publishers. No one wants likes running multiple launchers on their PCs.
  • Security hazard. I honestly hope that alternative app stores are required to obey Apple security rules. Allowing alternative app stores opens a huge door for developers with bad intentions. Think about all the gambling apps for children that are available on the AppStore. Now think of how much harm those developers could cause if they were not obligated to comply with Apple’s rules. Running an app store is most likely as difficult as running a social network – looking at you, Elon Musk. This means that each app has to be carefully reviewed. This requires resources that only the biggest corporations can afford. Others simply can’t guarantee security and safety on a large scale.
  • The Mac did it right. What we need is a more decentralized system (that has nothing to do with blockchain). As mentioned earlier, alternative app stores would result in major players like Meta and Microsoft switching from distributing their apps through Apple AppStore to establishing their own stores. We don’t need that. The beauty of Mac is that we can buy apps directly from developers. We can go to their website and buy the license there. There is no middleman in that transaction (other than the company taking care of the payment). This is a way better solution than just letting others take the cut instead of Apple. For most PC gamers – Does it matter if you buy a new game on Steam or Epic Games Store? I doubt it.
  • No company can replicate Apple’s app design. Many will disagree but I still believe that Apple’s app design is the best in the industry. The majority of apps created by Apple provide performance that is hard to achieve for others in the tech game. Furthermore, they use the design language that is familiar to Apple users. I simply do not believe that any other third party running their app store can provide a well-crafted experience that all Apple fans love.

We should be careful what we wish for as the future is truly unpredictable.

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