'Brutal Battle' Expected as Regulators Close in on Apple Around the World

Experts anticipate a "brutal battle" between Apple and global regulators amid concerns about how the company may "exaggerate" its privacy and security claims for commercial gain and curtail interoperability to keep users locked into a "walled garden."

aapl logo banner
Global experts and leaders of competition policy convened at the Data, Technology, and Analytics Conference 2022 last week, hosted by the UK's Competition and Market Authority (CMA). The CMA's event came just weeks after it published its year-long study into Apple and Google's mobile ecosystems, which found 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 regulator subsequently sought to launch a wide-reaching "market investigation reference" into restrictions on mobile browser engines and cloud gaming on Apple's platforms.

Apple was represented at the conference by Chief Privacy Officer Jane Horvath, who discussed the importance of privacy in the context of competition and how privacy is a "cross-functional pursuit" at the company. She discussed examples of how privacy was a vital consideration when developing the Health app and the Apple Watch years before they debuted, as well as the journey toward App Tracking Transparency. Horvath also responded to the argument that Apple's privacy efforts may conveniently protect the position of a powerful incumbent.

Competition law Professor Dr. Damien Geradin of Tilburg University and Geradin Partners talked about the balance and understandings required when enforcing competition rules. With reference to the CMA's recently published Market Study, he said Apple often uses privacy and security "to justify the status quo and resist regulatory intervention, even when needed."

He explained that it is right for companies to protect the quality of their platforms, but that this can overstep the mark where there are conflicts of interest. Geradin concluded that it is vital regulators "distinguish between legitimate privacy and security claims and those that are pretextual or simply exaggerated."

Geradin went on to outline his expectations for how disputes between companies and regulators will pan out in the coming years as regulators around the world prepare to enforce unprecedented new rules for big tech companies. He was highly skeptical that there will be amicable collaboration between regulators and companies:

It will not go smoothly... I've seen studies commissioned by gatekeepers that were truly mindboggling... I think also that the DMA will trigger litigation, designation will trigger litigation, the DMU regime – tonnes of litigation. So I like the idea of [collaboration]... but in practice this will be a brutal battle. I'm betting on it. And if things can be done in a nice and smooth manner, I love it, but my prediction... is that this will be very, very challenging if you look at the rules in the DMA about the App Store – each and every of them will be challenged. There will be resistance to implement.

And I think it's legitimate in a way, if you disagree with a regulation, to challenge it and to push your view point, at the same time, I think there comes a moment where you need to implement and we're not there yet.

Writer and activist Cory Doctorow discussed how companies like Apple become both "durable and very big" with regards to competition. He used the example of how in the early 2000s Apple was forced to use interoperability to innovate and break Microsoft's dominance, when Steve Jobs ensured that Apple reverse-engineered Microsoft file formats to create the iWork Suite and allow Macs to proliferate in Microsoft-dominated networks.

What had been a walled garden had now become a feed-lot where Apple could go and gorge itself on Microsoft's formerly pent-up customers and that was a turning point for the Mac... and once you've got off the ladder you pull it up behind you and so... it's now very important that Apple stop anyone from doing unto Apple as Apple did unto Microsoft because Apple is the good kind of trillion-dollar cuddly company and Microsoft was the bad kind of trillion-dollar cuddly company. And it's true, it's often the case that Apple has your interests at heart, but sometimes they don't and one of the ways to make sure that they do is to have the option to leave.

Doctorow said that upholding interoperability is therefore vital to encourage companies to act in the interests of users and prevent abuses of market power.

Click to skip directly to Cory Doctorow.

Apple's ecosystem is increasingly coming under intense scrutiny by governments around the world, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, 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.

Top Rated Comments

I7guy Avatar
22 months ago
The death of privacy will be bureaucrats regulating privacy.
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
now i see it Avatar
22 months ago
“Lock-in” has become a meme. Countless people switch back & forth between Android & iOS all the time. There’s no lock-in, just laziness.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jav6454 Avatar
22 months ago
Of course such battle will come in the form of lawsuits against government by companies other than just Apple. Everyone aiming for a piece of the pie.

The pie here is data collection, money and dominance of the market. No, no government official cares about the people; otherwise, they'd actually engage local constituents on a way forward.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
incoherent_1 Avatar
22 months ago
A viable competitor against Apple and Google in the smartphone field would be great. Lower prices, better features, and less lock-in. I'd probably still stick with Apple, but we'd all benefit.

That said, the way to get there is not through regulations drafted by government bureaucrats.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chaos215bar2 Avatar
22 months ago

A viable competitor against Apple and Google in the smartphone field would be great. Lower prices, better features, and less lock-in. I'd probably still stick with Apple, but we'd all benefit.

That said, the way to get there is not through regulations drafted by government bureaucrats.
Then what, pray tell, is the way to get there, if not through regulation?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antnythr Avatar
22 months ago

may "exaggerate" its privacy and security claims for commercial gain and curtail interoperability to keep users locked into a "walled garden."
Of course this is what Apple is going to do. It's not that the claims that all their lock-in have no merit, it's that they are highly exaggerated. That's always been the issue. The world gets along just fine on MacOS, but all of a sudden it's an issue on the phone (where coincidentally they just so happen to have billions of dollars on the line from their lock on the garden doors).
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

10 New Things Your iPhone Can Do in Next Week's iOS 17.4 Update

Friday March 1, 2024 1:30 am PST by
Apple will this month release iOS 17.4, its biggest iPhone software update of the year so far, featuring a number of features and changes that users have been anticipating for quite a while. Below, we've listed 10 new things that your iPhone will be able to do after you've installed the update, which is projected to arrive by March 7. When the day arrives, be sure to check Settings ➝...
Google maps feaure

Google Maps Finally Rolls Out Glanceable Directions

Wednesday February 28, 2024 2:07 am PST by
After more than a year since announcing the feature, Google Maps is finally rolling out glanceable directions on Android and iOS (via Android Police). The feature allows users to view turn-by-turn directions and a live ETA directly from their device's lock screen – information that was previously only visible when a phone was unlocked. Glanceable directions also work on the app's route...
iOS 18 Mock iPhone 16 Feature Gray

iOS 18 Rumored to Be Compatible With These iPhone Models

Tuesday February 27, 2024 6:31 am PST by
iOS 18 will be compatible with the iPhone XR, and thereby also the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models with the same A12 Bionic chip, according to a post on X today from a private account with a proven track record of sharing build numbers for upcoming iOS updates. The post was spotted by MacRumors contributor Aaron Perris, and it has since been deleted. However, this was likely because the...
M3 MacBook Air Feature

New MacBook Air Models Launching This March: 5 Features to Expect

Wednesday February 28, 2024 1:50 am PST by
The existing 15-inch MacBook Air arrived in June 2023, which is not that long ago in terms of Mac update cycles. However, Apple released the current 13-inch ‌MacBook Air back in June 2022. It is now the oldest Mac in Apple's current crop, having not been updated in 600 days. But rumors suggest that is unlikely to be the case for much longer. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple has...
iPad Pro OLED Feature 2

OLED iPad Pro's Thin Design Highlighted in CAD Drawings

Wednesday February 28, 2024 1:22 pm PST by
Apple is working on a new version of the iPad Pro that is set to launch as soon as March, and the refresh will mark the biggest design update to the Pro lineup since 2018. Apple is transitioning to OLED displays, and the swap will allow for a major change to the overall thickness of the device. CAD drawings of the upcoming ~11-inch and ~13-inch iPad Pro models give us some insight into just...
Apple Maps vs Google Maps Feature

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: Which Is Better?

Friday March 1, 2024 7:10 am PST by
Apple Maps has been providing navigational guidance to Apple users for almost 13 and a half years now, and much has changed about the app in that time. However, according to data from Canalys, the overwhelming majority of iPhones in the U.S. still have Google Maps downloaded as an alternative to Apple Maps, which comes preinstalled on all iPhones. We want to hear from MacRumors readers. Which do...
airpods pro 2 pink

Apple Releases New Beta Firmware for AirPods Pro 2

Thursday February 29, 2024 11:41 am PST by
Apple today introduced a new beta firmware update for the AirPods Pro 2, both the USB-C and Lightning versions. The new firmware is version 6E188, up from the prior 6B34 firmware released in December. Apple does not often provide details or notes on what features might be included in the refreshed firmware, so it is unclear what's new. Note that this software is limited to developers at the...