Antitrust push against Apple is not a bad thing… mostly

There's one area where Apple doesn't want users to have a choice.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Yesterday evening, the Apple-watching tech press went into overdrive following a Bloomberg report claiming that Apple would be forced by new antitrust regulations to ship iPhones without any pre-installed apps. 

Turns out, that wasn't exactly what was being proposed after all, and after Bloomberg tweaked its report, things became a little clearer.

Note: You can still see the original gist of the report from the URL that remains: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-16/apple-pre-installed-apps-would-be-banned-under-antitrust-package [emphasis added]

Rather than blocking Apple from installing any apps -- which quite frankly is so ridiculous that even politicians couldn't seriously suggest it (and, so ridiculous that people perhaps should have been a bit more skeptical -- the proposals would prohibit Apple "giving its own apps an advantage by preventing users from removing them."

In other words, an end to those apps that you can't uninstall.

And that's not a bad thing.

Must read: Apple will finally give iPhone and iPad users an important choice to make

I'm no fan of applications that can't be uninstalled or that are difficult to remove, whether it be in laptops, smartphones, or whatever. There's little to no reason that users shouldn't be able to uninstall things installed on the smartphones and computers they buy.

Bloatware, lameware, crapware -- these are the names old-timers like myself used to use.

But there's a but…

Apple already allows you to uninstall a whole bunch of pre-installed apps from iDevices. In fact, there are only a few apps that aren't on that list. Things like the Clock app, Photos app, Messages, oh, and Safari and the App Store.

I doubt that this is a fight about third-party clock apps (as nice as some of them are).

There are three paragraphs in the updated Bloomberg report that are worthy of some deeper scrutiny.

The bill contains a provision that would prohibit Apple, for example, from restricting or impeding iPhone users from uninstalling apps that have been pre-installed. Still, this provision doesn't prohibit Apple from pre-installing apps in the first place.

OK, Apple has mostly achieved that.

The bill would also prevent platforms from changing default settings that direct users to products offered by the platform, according to text of the legislation.

I'm not aware of having seen this happen on Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS in a long time. Sure, there are annoying popups in macOS, but I doubt they are what this legislation is targeting.

Then there's this quote, attributed to Rhode Island Democratic Representative David Cicilline:

"You can't make it impossible for people to use other services that are the same. You can't exclude other people, so you only are left that one," Cicilline said.

Hmmm, it doesn't feel to me like any services are being excluded from me on my iPhone or iPad. Does this, perhaps, relate to the App Store or the payment mechanisms for in-app purchases where apple takers a cut?

Is this politician-speak for users should be able to download apps for the services they use and not have Apple in the middle taking a cut?

I'm a fan of the App Store, but I can also see where a system that takes a big cut of payments would not be popular with developers and content makers. Yes, the Apple App Store is a store with an enormous volume of footfall, but even so, Apple's take does seem high.

I believe that we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the dominance of the App Store. And this will no doubt harm Apple's bottom line.

That said, though, unless there's some setup process that asks users which app store they'd want to use, I think most users will default to using whatever is easiest, or they are familiar with.

Which is Apple's App Store.

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