The European Commission has designated the companies and services it says are “gatekeepers” under the Digital Markets Act — iOS, the App Store and Safari are all on the list. These offerings from Apple will be subject to strict new regulations from early 2024. These will require at least one major change, and possibly many more.
Also on the EU gatekeeper list are Windows, Android OS, Google Play, Chrome, Facebook, YouTube and many more offerings from US Big Tech companies.
DMA brings massive change to the App Store
Gatekeepers “serve as an important gateway for business users to reach their end users,” according to the European Commission. “The Digital Markets Act aims to prevent gatekeepers from imposing unfair terms on businesses and end-users and to ensure the openness of key digital services.”
New DMA regulations will bring dramatic changes to the iPhone. Most notably, it will force Apple to allow iPhone users to download apps from the web and third-party app marketplaces. That means the end of the App Store as the only option.
Apple has reportedly already started enabling sideloading of applications on iPhone and iPad. However, it is not yet clear whether Apple will only make the feature available in the European Union or whether it will be a global change.
The DMA also prevents companies from requiring developers to use a specific browser engine. Apple currently requires all iOS browsers to use its WebKit platform.
Other changes are also possible. The DMA requires companies to provide the ability to use a third-party voice assistant. So, in the future, an iPhone could be controlled by Google Voice instead of Siri.
iMessage and iPad not (yet) included
At the moment, iPadOS is not yet labeled a gatekeeper, but the EC is investigating the possibility, according to it Bloomberg.
The EC is also investigating whether iMessage is a gatekeeper. If so, Apple’s messaging service will need to be fully compatible with its rivals.
That means iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook and more may be needed to exchange messages and transfer files. Apple may need to add Rich Communication Services support to iMessage, which may mean the end of the blue bubbles versus the green bubbles.
The Digital Markets Act is sweeping legislation. Expect to hear from it for years to come. Especially in March 2024 when the DMA comes into full effect.