UK Looks to Trigger Regulation Process to Target Apple's Cloud Gaming and Browser Engine Restrictions

The UK's competition watchdog seeks to "remedy" Apple's restrictions on browser engines in iOS and cloud gaming through the App Store via a high-level regulatory process, the organization announced today.

app store blue banner uk fixed
The announcement comes upon the publication of the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) year-long study into Apple and Google's mobile ecosystems, which finds that Apple and Google have an "effective duopoly" on mobile ecosystems that allows them to "exercise a stranglehold over these markets," including on operating systems, app stores, and web browsers. "Without interventions," the press release claims, "both companies are likely to maintain, and even strengthen, their grip over the sector, further restricting competition and limiting incentives for innovators."

The report identifies "a range of potential interventions" that could be taken to address the raised issues, but the CMA has specifically looked at ways to take "immediately targeted actions" using its current powers, including launching a wide-reaching "market investigation reference" into mobile browser engines and cloud gaming.

The study sets out concerns that Apple's ban on alternative browser engines on iOS and iPadOS "severely limits the potential for rival browsers to differentiate themselves from Safari (for example, on features such as speed and functionality) and limits Apple's incentives to invest in its browser engine." It also highlights that Apple's browser engine restriction "seriously inhibits the capability of web apps," which is said to be "depriving consumers and businesses of the full benefits of this innovative technology," and the "key advantage" that Apple and Google gain from selling devices with their own browser app pre-installed.

Overall, the evidence we have seen does not suggest that the WebKit restriction is justified by security concerns. We note that Apple benefits financially from weakening competition in browsers via the browser engine ban.

Meanwhile, in recent submissions to the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have all explicitly condemned Apple's WebKit restriction.

The CMA's report also criticizes Apple's restrictions on cloud gaming services on the ‌App Store‌. "Gaming apps are a key source of revenue for Apple and cloud gaming could pose a real threat to Apple's strong position in-app distribution. By preventing this sector from growing, Apple risks causing mobile users to miss out on the full benefits of cloud gaming," the study claims.

The CMA's proposal for a market investigation reference looks to determine what specific remedial actions can be taken to improve competition with regard to browser engines and cloud gaming on Apple platforms, potentially including orders that require Apple to make material changes to its practices. The study into mobile ecosystems is intended to serve as a basis for negotiating undertakings and imposing orders.

Market investigations are a high-level process through which the CMA can request extensive information from companies to draw conclusions and implement legally binding remedies. Market investigation references are seldom used since they are resource-intensive and impose a significant burden on companies, especially amid the threat of structural disinvestments and stringent behavioral solutions.

Separately, the CMA continues to examine Apple's ‌App Store‌ terms and conditions in a competition law investigation that started in March 2021, and the UK government is empowering its Digital Markets Unit with statutory powers to penalize companies that do not meet its rules with considerable fines.

Apple's ecosystem is increasingly coming under intense scrutiny by governments around the world, including in the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and more, with a clear appetite from global regulators to explore requirements around issues like app store policies, app sideloading, and interoperability amid concerns about competition.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

djcerla Avatar
26 months ago
Here in the EU we have the worst possibile web experience due to these endless, stupid nag screens. It’s a nightmare.

Now, let’s ruin all the rest, block by block.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
211 Avatar
26 months ago

Here in the EU we have the worst possibile web experience due to these endless, stupid nag screens. It’s a nightmare.

Now, let’s ruin all the rest, block by block.
If you mean cookie preferences, this was not the intention of the EU and websites have deliberately implemented to be compliant but still get their way (ie. "encourage" to accept all cookies). The EU didn't anticipate this but is working on an update to resolve this to make it better for the consumer.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antiprotest Avatar
26 months ago

If you mean cookie preferences, this was not the intention of the EU and websites have deliberately implemented to be compliant but still get their way (ie. "encourage" to accept all cookies). The EU didn't anticipate this but is working on an update to resolve this to make it better for the consumer.
They should start anticipating things, or they'd prove more and more that they're not qualified to make these decisions for tech users.

If they can't anticipate things and keep slapping more and more regulations on to everything it's going to ruin things for everyone, and not just in EU.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CalMin Avatar
26 months ago
I don’t get this at all.

if I build a department store. Why can’t I run that store how I like? Should I be compelled to let someone else come in and make money in my store? Vendors / Customers who aren’t happy with the way I run my store can sell / shop across the street?

Nobody is compelled to buy an iPhone so why is it considered a monopoly? People who aren’t happy can buy a different device. If nobody likes existing options then the market can be disrupted by a new entrant.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Orange Bat Avatar
26 months ago
I generally am not a bit fan of regulation, but I really dislike Apple’s policy on browser engines. I’d like to see some other browser engines brought to iOS as I think it would push innovation and give users more choice.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Orange Bat Avatar
26 months ago

I don’t get this at all.

if I build a department store. Why can’t I run that store how I like? Should I be compelled to let someone else come in and make money in my store? Vendors / Customers who aren’t happy with the way I run my store can sell / shop across the street?

Nobody is compelled to buy an iPhone so why is it considered a monopoly? People who aren’t happy can buy a different device. If nobody likes existing options then the market can be disrupted by a new entrant.
Imagine there being only 2 department stores in New York City. You can go to 1 department store or the other. However, only one department store sells shirts, and only shirts made by themselves. The other department store doesn’t have shirts, but sells their own pants brand. Each department store also requires membership and it a significant cost to join the other department store.

The problem with phones aren’t the devices themselves, but the operating systems. There are only 2 real competitors in the phone OS market and they can wield a significant amount of power over consumers and creators. For example, Apple only allows the WebKit browser engine. Why? This limits innovation and user choice If you go with Apple.

EDIT: I’m not saying I agree or disagree with government intervention. I understand it, but I don’t understand it well enough to offer a confident opinion on the matter.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)