Bloomberg: Apple to Permit Third-Party App Stores in Europe

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is preparing to allow alternative app stores on its iPhones and iPads, part of a sweeping overhaul aimed at complying with strict European Union requirements coming in 2024.


If similar laws are passed in additional countries, Apple’s project could lay the groundwork for other regions, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the work is private. But the company’s changes are designed initially to just go into effect in Europe.

The headline in the <title> element of the page, which you can see in the tab or window chrome, is phrased as a question: “Will Apple Allow Users to Install Third-Party App Stores, Sideload in Europe?” Gurman’s reporting, though, matches the more definitive tone of the headline on the page, “Apple to Allow Outside App Stores in Overhaul Spurred by EU Laws”. It also matches the company’s legal requirements.

It will be interesting to see how Apple frames this shift for its European customers. It has spent years claiming its first-party App Store policies are a reason why people buy iPhones. While it can continue to promote its own App Store as the best option, it would look silly if it created the impression of reducing security for European users while rolling this out. The same is true of its privacy stance if, as also reported by Gurman, it makes its Find My network more permissive to third-party trackers. Apple may also want to preserve its existing strategy wherever regulators do not require its software and services to be more interoperable, but that could make it look like European customers have more choices than users in, say, the United States — which they probably will.

This seems like a welcome shift for the iPhone and iPad to behave more like general purpose computers instead of native applications being more tightly controlled. It could — it should — also mean Apple can be more selective about what it permits in its own marketplace. What would an App Store look like if it had to compete with other stores offering other software? We might get to find out.