Apple Cloud gaming and mobile browser antitrust investigation


Apple’s mobile browsers and cloud gaming policies are under investigation again in the UK, following a public consultation on the topics.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has already investigated both cases, finding Apple and Google guilty of anti-competitive conduct, but says the public wants a “fuller” investigation…

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One of the limitations of the App Store gaming apps is that cloud gaming apps are banned. This means that a developer cannot offer an application that provides access to multiple games played through cloud servers. It is suggested that the company’s goal here is to protect its share of the revenue per game, and to prevent competition for its Apple Arcade subscription game service.

Additionally, while Apple allows any developer to create their own web browser, and serve it through the App Store, the Cupertino company only approves browsers that use its WebKit rendering engine. This makes it impossible for a developer to, for example, build a browser app that’s faster than Safari — and Apple also blocks access to some Safari features, such as Apple Pay integration.

The UK’s antitrust regulator, the Capital Markets Authority, earlier conducted a year-long investigation into these antitrust cases, finding that the two companies “exercise tight control over these markets”.

Apple has blocked cloud gaming services from appearing in its App Store. Like web apps, cloud gaming services are an evolving innovation, providing mobile access to high-quality games that can be streamed rather than downloaded individually.

Gaming apps are a major source of revenue for Apple, and cloud gaming can be 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 […]

apple [also] prohibits alternatives to its browser engine on its mobile devices; A limitation unique to Apple. The CMA is concerned that this severely limits competing browsers’ ability to differentiate itself from Safari (for example, in features such as speed and functionality) and limits Apple’s incentives to invest in its own browser engine.

Apple Cloud and WebKit games are under investigation again

The Capital Markets Authority says it is launching a second, “more complete” investigation today. While the claim was described as public consultation, most of the response, as expected, came from the developers.

Responses to the advisory, published today, reveal significant support for a fuller investigation into the way Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store. Many of those have come from browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers who say the status quo is hurting their businesses, stifling innovation, and adding unnecessary costs.

Web developers have complained that Apple’s limitations, combined with a proposed lack of investment in its browser technology, lead to increased costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages, and have no choice but to build custom mobile apps when a site exists. Web may suffice.

It is unclear what the second investigation will add to the current findings. We have reached out to the Capital Market Authority for comment, and will update with any response.

It is still not clear if CMA teeth will be given

At the moment, the CMA can only report its findings to the government, and it will be up to Parliament to decide what action, if any, to take.

In the summer of 2021, the government proposed that the Capital Markets Authority be given legal powers to impose fines and other measures directly, without the need for parliamentary approval. (Technically, the powers were to be given to the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) — but that’s part of the CMA.)

However, that plan was abandoned earlier this year.

That the government put the plan on hold at the time doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen — it is likely that the initiative will be revived at a later date. This seems particularly likely if a Labor government wins the next general election, but that may not happen until 2025.

Photo: Pandhuya Niking/Unsplash

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