Avoid the App Store, Apple Suggests, to iOS Developers

Apple has responded to an Australian antitrust complaint stating that it is already possible for iOS developers to bypass the App Store.

The company says that developers can use the web to sell services as subscriptions. Interestingly, the company continues to suggest that progressive web apps are a viable alternative to iOS apps …

Apple had already called for an Australian lawsuit to be stopped on a technicality.

The Epic Games vs. Apple feud isn’t the David vs. Goliath battle that the game’s developer wants people to believe, the Cupertino company said: instead, it’s a two-Goliath battle.

Apple asked an Australian court to rule against a lawsuit in the country, arguing that Epic agreed to terms that clearly state that any legal challenge must take place in California.

ZDNet spotted an additional filing, in which Apple made a much more substantive defense.

Apple has further responded to the Australian consumer watchdog’s investigation of the app markets, this time rejecting the characterization that the Apple App Store is the most dominant app market and saying there are other options for iOS users, such as go to a website.

“Apple perceives and treats other application vendors, for platforms other than iOS, as major competitors whose pricing and policies limit Apple’s ability to exercise power over developers,” the iPhone maker said in a presentation. [PDF] to the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC)

“Apple is in no position to ignore the environment in which its application market operates and does not accept the Commission’s characterization of Apple’s App Store as ‘the most dominant application market by a wide margin.'”

In it, Apple suggests that developers who want apps to be available to iPhone owners can do so by creating what’s known as progressive web apps (PWAs).

Web browsers are used not only as a distribution portal, but also as platforms themselves, hosting “progressive web applications” (PWAs) that eliminate the need to download a developer application through the App Store (or other media).

PWAs are increasingly available to and across browsers and mobile devices, including on iOS. PWAs are applications that are created using common web technology such as HTML 5, but have the look, feel, and functionality of a native application. They may even have an app icon that resides on the device’s home screen.

Web applications are becoming more and more popular. Companies like Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Pinterest, Uber and FT use web applications. Amazon, for example, just launched its Luna mobile gaming service as a web app. Microsoft and Google are also releasing game apps on iOS through web apps. The developer of the Telegram messaging app has also recently stated that it is working on a rich web app for iOS devices.

This is somewhat ironic, since the reason for the creation of the App Store was that native applications provide a much superior experience than web applications. At the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs initially envisioned that developers would create web applications, but he quickly changed his mind, and the App Store launched the following year.

As we explained in our antitrust guide, the central issue in the dispute is the definition of the iOS app market.

Apple argues that it does not have a dominant position in this market, as it considers the relevant market to be “smartphones” or “applications”. Given that the company has a minority share of the smartphone market in most of the countries in which it operates, it believes that it cannot be considered to have a dominant position.

Competition regulators tend to view the relevant market as “iOS apps”, and here Apple has a 100% monopoly on their sale and distribution. Extreme cases aside, a developer cannot bring an iOS app to market without selling it through the App Store.

Apple faces antitrust pressure around the world over the App Store, including the US federal government, several individual US states, the UK, and several other European countries.

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash

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