Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

U.S. State Legislators Are Pushing Bills That Would Loosen App Store Control

The bill in North Dakota that failed last month was a pebble bouncing off a windscreen. But it looks like Apple is catching up to the gravel truck and cracks are beginning to form.

Leah Nylen, Politico:

Undeterred by that loss, the developers are focusing now on bills to let app-makers choose their own payment processors. So far, that legislation has been introduced in seven states, including New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, though the Arizona bill is the farthest along.

[…]

The state legislative fights are the latest manifestation of the long-running gripes that developers such as Spotify have aired to lawmakers and antitrust regulators in both Washington, D.C., and Europe about app store policies. Epic, the creator of the popular video game Fortnite, is also waging its own court fights against Apple and Google in an attempt to defang their app policies.

These bills are a testament to Google’s increasing control and Apple’s unwillingness to make smaller meaningful changes over time. Developers have been complaining about this stuff for years, without much response from either company — but particularly from Apple. Sure, subscriptions were opened to apps of all types several years ago and Apple takes a smaller commission from recurring subscribers. And, yes, small changes were made last year under increasing antitrust scrutiny. But I have to wonder if it would have become such a significant issue as to inspire legislation if Apple had been more proactive about making incremental rule changes to loosen its control and adapt more readily to complaints.

The way I see it, Apple could have continued to run the App Store as it has done while responding to developers’ feedback; or, at the very least, it could have loosened its control on its own terms. But it overplayed its hand. If enough state legislatures pass these bills — particularly in Illinois and New York — it is going to be forced to make major changes.