Apple’s on shaky ground
The timing was perfect. Apple had just made a stern defence against the EU’s new twin antitrust probes into the App Store and Apple when a case hit the news that highlighted exactly one of the problems the EU seeks to investigate.
“Apple sets the rules for the distribution of apps to users of iPhones and iPads,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “It appears that Apple obtained a ‘gatekeeper’ role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple’s popular devices.
“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books.”
Apple’s response? “We follow the law in everything we do and we embrace competition at every stage because we believe it pushes us to deliver even better results.”
But later in the day, Basecamp went public with the troubles it’s been having over the iOS app for its new email service, Hey. I won’t go into all the details here (you can read them in Protocol’s report
and this Twitter thread
) but the gist is that Apple inconsistently applies its rules, and inconsistently turns a blind eye to people who break those rules.
This inconsistency, coupled with the fat 30% cut Apple takes from the transactions on most iOS apps, certainly feels unfair to me. Developers have a choice — they can go to Android instead — but they only have one way of accessing the many millions of iOS users around the world, whereas there are several competing Android app stores.
I don’t claim to know in detail whether this counts as antitrust in the EU’s eyes, but when even Apple-fan-in-chief John Gruber thinks Basecamp has been treated unfairly
, it’s clear Apple needs to clean up its act.