Our benevolent overlords at MacRumors have published an article talking about a lawsuit alleging the App Store is a monopoly due to the inability to purchase apps outside of the App Store. The lawsuit is a few years old, but an appeals court has allowed the lawsuit to go forward. If the plaintiffs win, one of their attorneys said to Reuters that “the obvious solution is to compel Apple to let people shop for applications wherever they want, which would open the market and help lower prices."
Now, while “lower prices" would be unlikely because the sheer amount of mobile competition has driven prices low enough as it is for paid apps, and free-to-play apps work because they form their own self-contained economy, what would be interesting would be a situation where Apple would have to allow sideloading similar to Android. You might not be able to get emulators through the App Store the way you can through Google Play, but there could conceivably be fewer hoops to jump through. What’s interesting is that this idea picked up a bit of steam recently in an interview that Epic’s Tim Sweeney did with Glixel where he mentions the App Store’s monopoly in the context of Oculus trying to drive people to only the Oculus store.
I think it’s ludicrous that they’re not prosecuting more of the tech companies right now for their practices. There’s a lot going on that’s wrong. Apple has a monopoly on iOS hardware. That’s fine. But they shouldn’t be able to tie that market to a monopoly on distributing software, on collecting in-app revenue from software. I should be able to go to a web page and download a new Epic game to my phone without Apple’s approval. I should be able to use Confederate flags, if that was our design choice, in our product.
Now, it’s worth noting that on Android, few developers are going outside the preinstalled store. Mobile is all about convenience, and there are few developers or publishers that could get away with not being on the main storefront. The lost downloads might not be worth whatever they get back in the 30% cut they wouldn’t lose to Apple any more. Amazon has made their app unavailable on Google Play, requiring you to download it to use Amazon Video, also with access to Amazon Appstore, Amazon Underground, and various Amazon services.
But how much of this is due to the App Store making people used to going to the preinstalled store for their apps? Considering this lawsuit went through a multiple-year appeal process just to get to the point where it could go forward, don’t expect to be installing emulators without jailbreak or third-party app install services any time soon, or that this wouldn’t wind up getting settled at some point, but at least there’s a fight out there to open up iOS devices.