Jonathan Kanter, the head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust unit, is intensifying the case against Apple over its App Store policies.
According to the Financial Times, Kanter – who assumed the role in November 2021 – has stated that the investigation is now “firing on all cylinders.”
For years, regulators, businesses, and enforcers have sought to dismantle Apple’s tightly integrated iOS ecosystem. Despite Apple’s staunch defence, recent developments indicate a potential shift.
In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple acknowledged the necessity of adapting its App Store in compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets Act—which imposes a March deadline on tech companies for legal adjustments.
Under the Digital Markets Act, Apple will be forced to allow third-party app stores to be “sideloaded” on its devices. Microsoft is already making preparations to launch its own third-party mobile app store on iOS and Android after the EU’s law comes into effect.
Apple has previously resisted calls to allow sideloading over claims that it endangers users.
In a letter in 2022 to lawmakers, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier said that Apple’s concerns about sideloading were “unfounded” and that it’s “simply not true” that legislation such as the EU’s puts user privacy and security at risk.
“It’s fairer to say that this legislation puts those companies’ extractive business models at risk. Their claims about risks to privacy and security are both false and disingenuous and motivated by their own self-interest and not the public interest,” wrote Schneier.
Nevertheless, Apple is now preparing to permit “sideloading” in the EU.
The introduction of sideloading raises concerns about the impact on the App Store’s revenue model. Google’s Play Store is also under scrutiny following its loss to Epic Games in a landmark trial in California in December.
Apple’s App Store commission fees globally amount to an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion each quarter, according to Sensor Tower estimates.
While Epic Games faced setbacks in a lower court judgement against Apple in 2021, a California judge’s injunction against restrictive App Store rules – upheld by an appeals court – indicates potential shifts in the regulatory landscape. The US Supreme Court is set to review the case next year, adding further uncertainty to Apple’s legal battle.
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