Apple’s ‘Building a Trusted Ecosystem’ Argument

Katie Canales, Insider:

In a sweeping post published Wednesday, Apple warned allowing users to sideload — or download apps onto their smartphones from outside the App Store — would open the doors to cybercriminals, malware, and scammers. That reality would also put children at risk, Apple says, since apps from outside its App Store wouldn’t have parental controls.

“Allowing sideloading would degrade the security of the iOS platform and expose users to serious security risks not only on third-party app stores, but also on the App Store,” Apple said.

I am not sure I would call a sixteen-page white paper (PDF) a “post”. This is a full-throated argument by Apple against any intervention in its platform policies. The message that the company is trying to get across is simple:

Would allowing sideloading from websites and third-party app stores on iPhone threaten users who only download apps from the App Store?

Yes. […]

There’s more, but that’s the argument in a nutshell. Allowing apps to be delivered through mediums other than Apple’s App Store is, in the company’s view, a nonstarter and a massive security threat. That is not exactly true. But it is hard to see how Apple did not create this situation for itself through years of control — specifically, over in-app purchases. The company’s anti-steering rules prohibit developers from mentioning the rules themselves, let alone any other purchasing options, and it has hell-bent on enforcing those rules in particular. It gambled that regulators would continue to treat app marketplaces as private entities in little need of regulatory oversight, and it bet big.

In a parallel universe — one in which Apple cut its commission over a period of several years, as Phil Schiller suggested, and where it was not so prohibitive with its anti-steering rules — would it be getting sued by developers over its App Store rules, investigated by governments around the world, and be facing a battery of proposed legislation that would, if passed, eliminate the most compelling qualities of its products? I cannot imagine the situation would be this heated. But we do not live in that universe; in this one, that is the gamble Apple is making, and customers and developers are left hanging in the balance.

Also — and this is a little thing — but the repeated use of the “locked Apple” privacy graphic in that report is, I think, maybe not the greatest way of disabusing people of the notion that Apple’s ecosystem is so closed-off that it entraps users.