As it faces a spate of probes and inquiries regarding the App Store and app distribution on its devices, Apple has told Australia’s consumer watchdog that developers have “more” ways to reach iOS users, claiming they are “far from limited” to just using theApp Store.
In a new archive (via ZDnet) in response to concerns from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that it is exploiting “alleged market power in its role as an app distributor”, Apple highlights several opportunities that developers can take to reach customers.
In particular, Apple points out that “the whole web” exists as an alternative means of distribution, and claims that the web has become a platform for itself. Apple supports this claim by noting that iOS devices have “unlimited and uncontrolled” access to the web, allowing users to download web apps.
Even if a user only owns iOS-based devices, distribution is far from limited to the Apple App Store because developers have several alternative channels to reach that user. The entire web is available to them, and iOS devices have unlimited and uncontrolled access to it. A common approach is for users to purchase and use digital content or services on a website.
Browsers are used not only as a distribution portal, but also as platforms themselves, and host “progressive web applications” (PWA) that eliminate the need to download a developer app through the App Store (or otherwise) in its entirety taken. PWA is increasingly available for and through mobile-based browsers and devices, including on iOS.
Apple says that alternative distribution methods, such as web apps and developers’ websites, pose a competitive threat to the App Store. Apple goes on to discuss other platforms, such as the Google Play Store, and notes that they are fighting “vigorously” to attract developers to create apps for their platform instead of others.
As explained below, Apple faces competition restrictions from distribution options within the iOS ecosystem (including developer sites and other outlets where consumers can obtain third-party apps and use them on their iOS devices) and outside of iOS.
In fact, Apple is competing fiercely to attract the best developers because a reduction in the quality of apps, or limited availability of popular apps in the App Store, will reduce the user experience. Any action that undermines the popularity of the App Store – including preventing developers from succeeding in the App Store – would be financially irrational, as this would destroy the value of the ecosystem to the detriment of consumers, app developers and Apple itself.
Apple’s new comments are unlikely to benefit any developers, especially Epic Games, which is pursuing a massive legal battle against Apple for being an alleged monopoly. Some developers claim that Apple has a dominant position in its devices due to the App Store, and exploits its power to limit innovation and competition.
Just this week, in a separate filing with the ACCC, Apple said it was “surprised” to hear that some developers have concerns about the review process and guidelines that apps must follow before appearing in the “App Store”. The ACCC launched the App Store survey last year and is expected to release an interim report on 31 March.
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