Downloads from websites in Europe will be allowed by Apple

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IPhone users in the European Union will be able to download apps from websites, instead of through the App Store or a competing app store app, Apple said, in the the latest change forced by the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act.
The company has for years fought against web downloads of iPhone software — often called sideloading — citing security issues and Apple’s right to dictate its user experience.
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest example of the Digital Markets Act forcing Apple to make long-resisted changes to its App Store business processes.
The DMA is designed to compel “gatekeepers” — big tech companies including Apple — to open their platforms to smaller rivals.
The web download program will start later this spring and requires developers to meet “specific criteria,” such as having an app with over 1 million downloads in Europe.
Apple said companies can also offer an app store for iPhones in Europe, so long as it only offers access to one company’s apps.
Under the DMA, Apple has been forced to allow third-party app stores in Europe, has reinstated antitrust adversary Epic Games’ developer account amid a legal dispute, and has backtracked on banning web app shortcuts on the main iPhone screen.
Apple still plans to charge a fee of fifty Euro cents for app downloads outside of its App Store, including web app downloads.
Apple’s App Store fees are a profit center for the company, reported in the company’s services business, which delivered $78 billion in sales in the company’s fiscal 2023, including subscriptions and other items.
The company has said Europe represents about 7% of Apple’s App Store revenue.

In the newest move mandated by the Digital Markets Act of the European Commission, Apple announced that iPhone users in the EU would now be able to download apps directly from websites rather than via the App Store or a rival app store.

This is a significant turnabout for Apple. The company has long opposed sideloading, or downloading iPhone software from the internet, citing security concerns and Apple’s ownership of the user interface.

The announcement made on Tuesday is just one more instance of how the Digital Markets Act is pressuring Apple to alter long-resisted procedures related to the App Store. The DMA aims to force “gatekeepers”—large tech firms like Apple—to allow smaller competitors access to their platforms.

Developers must fulfill “specific criteria,” such as having an app with over a million downloads in Europe, in order to be eligible for the web download program, which is set to launch later this spring. It stated that Apple will continue to get payment.

According to Apple, businesses can also provide an app store for iPhones in Europe, but only if it allows users to download apps from a single developer.

“It takes accountability and control over the user experience to distribute apps straight from a website, including managing apps, offering refunds and customer service,” Apple stated on a support page on Tuesday. “Apple will grant developers authorization only if they fulfill certain requirements and agree to continue adhering to user protection measures. ****.

In response to legal challenges, Apple was compelled by the DMA to permit third-party app stores in Europe, and it reverted its earlier decision to prohibit web app shortcuts on the primary iPhone screen. Additionally, the developer account of antitrust rival Epic Games was restored. By threatening fines and other consequences for non-compliance, Apple’s actions imply that the European Commission will be able to successfully regulate Apple in the area.

In order to ensure that Apple’s new policies adhere to the letter of the law, European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said the Commission was confirming with Apple’s competitors, including Spotify, which backed Apple’s recent $1.95 billion EU fine over a related app store practice called steering.

“We’ll be interested in hearing from outside sources,” Vestager stated to CNBC on Monday. “Do they get an open market, which is what the DMA is supposed to give them?”.

Apple still intends to charge 50 Euro cents for the download of apps—including web apps—that are not obtained through its App Store. Apple’s services division, which generated $78 billion in revenue in the company’s fiscal year 2023 from subscriptions and other products, includes the App Store fees as a profit center for the company.

Europe, according to the company, accounts for 7% of Apple’s App Store sales.

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