Apple Must Allow App Sideloading on iPads Within 6 Months, EU Rules

Apple must allow iPad users the option of sideloading apps outside the confines of the App Store's walled garden within six months or face potentially heavy fines, according to the findings of an investigation by the European Commission.

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Last September, the Commission designated Apple as a gatekeeper for its iOS iPhone operating system, its web browser Safari, and its App Store. To be classified as a "gatekeeper" under the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA), a company must fulfill certain criteria, including having sales across the EU of at least €7.5 billion, or a market capitalization of €75 billion or above.

On the same day, the Commission also opened a market investigation into iPadOS to assess whether it too constitutes an important gateway for business users to reach end users. That investigation has now ended, and according to its conclusions, published by the EU on April 29, Apple "presents the features of a gatekeeper in relation to iPadOS," the iPad's operating system.

"Apple now has six months to ensure full compliance of iPadOS with the DMA obligations," reads the EU's press release outlining the change."

That means users should expect changes such as user access to alternative app marketplaces, web distribution, alternative browsers, and more that were applied in iOS across EU member states to come to iPadOS in a future software update.

Google, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft were all designated gatekeepers by the Commission, and had to fully comply with all DMA obligations by March 7.

Companies that do not adhere to the new regulations risk facing EU investigations, substantial fines, and the imposition of "behavioral or structural remedies." The fines can amount to 10 percent of a company's global revenue, with a 20 percent penalty for repeat violations.

Key parts of Apple's compliance with the DMA are already being investigated by European regulators based on developer feedback. Apple also has a new fee structure as part of the change that has already come under fire from several developers and EU associations.

Apple's app ecosystem changes in the European Union went into effect with the launch of iOS 17.4 on March 6. Apple has since been tweaking the app ecosystem rules that it introduced based on developer feedback and discussions with EU regulators.

For example, third-party app stores are now able to offer apps directly from their own catalog, and developers can distribute apps directly from their websites as long as they meet Apple's requirements. Apple says it is also working out a solution that would prevent its 0.50 euro Core Technology Fee (CTF) from bankrupting developers if their free app goes viral.

Related Roundups: iOS 17, iPadOS 17
Related Forums: iOS 17, iPadOS 17

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