Apple’s all-powerful App Store, which determines which apps users can download to their iPhones and has been a target of criticism from everyone from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg, is giving up some of its power his.
The company is taking steps to loosen its grip on iPhone and iPad apps by allowing users in Europe to “upload” software through independent third-party app stores, according to a report from Bloomberg on Tuesday, citing anonymous sources.
The move, if Apple implements it, would mark a major change in the company’s business practices and a surprising concession to European market regulators, who have passed a raft of new laws to curb the power of tech giants like Apple. .
Just a few weeks ago, Twitter CEO Elon Musk publicly attacked Apple’s App Store policies, which give Apple exclusive control over the apps users can download to their devices (unlike Android, which allows users to download side apps) and which requires companies to pay Apple up to 30% of any revenue generated through their iPhone apps. Musk later claimed he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and cleared up a “misunderstanding” about Apple’s potential removal of Twitter from the App Store.
The potential change to Apple’s App Store rules in Europe, however, appears not to be the result of pressure from the world’s second-richest person, but from European Union authorities.
The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which comes into effect in the coming months, aims to open up digital platforms to more competition. It will give users more freedom to change default settings and, as in the case of Apple, allow in-app purchases without taking a share of the payments.
According to Bloomberg, Apple engineers and service workers are working on changes that would open up the iPhone and iPad software to apps that come from third-party app stores, with plans to roll out the changes with iOS 17 next year. It’s unclear whether the changes will only be available in the EU or whether Apple may eventually open up app store rules worldwide. Apple has long resisted allowing users to load apps onto its devices, arguing that its role as a “gatekeeper” was necessary for security.
Apple did not return Fortune’s request for comment.
Apps from Match Group’s Tinder and Hinge to Spotify are currently subject to Apple commissions. Typically, these commissions range between 15% and 30%. Last year alone, almost $10 billion in transactions were made through the App Store, according to Sensor Tower data cited by Reuters.
The EU has threatened to fine companies up to 20% of its annual global revenue for repeated violations of the DMA, which could amount to $80 billion for Apple. Companies are required to be DMA compliant by 2024.
Apple’s plans could boost app store sales for other platforms such as Microsoft, Meta Platforms and Amazon.com, which have their own versions of app stores.
Apple is reportedly working on other changes, including features on its devices that third-party apps can access to a limited capacity and functionality of its Find My network tool, according to Bloomberg.
This isn’t the first time Apple has bent its ways to follow EU laws. The company announced that it was testing the USB-C connector rather than the Lightning connector for the next generation of iPhones in 2023, also in line with EU rules.
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