Apple may enable sideloading in Europe ‘in the coming weeks’

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Apple is reportedly planning to allow iPhone and iPad users in Europe to install apps from third-party app stores—potentially within a matter of weeks. 

The move from Apple comes in response to mounting regulatory pressure from European lawmakers demanding more competition in the app ecosystem.  

According to Apple insider Mark Gurman in Bloomberg’s “Power On” newsletter, Apple engineers are racing to launch support for app sideloading on European iOS devices to comply with the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA aims to limit the power of so-called Big Tech “gatekeepers” like Apple and Google.  

Gurman reports that Apple plans to enable sideloading “in the coming weeks” to avoid massive DMA penalties, which could include fines of up to 10 percent of annual revenue. However, the sideloading capability would only apply to European iOS users while iPhones and iPads sold elsewhere would retain Apple’s strict control over apps.

Additionally, Apple would split the iOS App Store into two separate versions – one for EU member states, covered by the DMA, and one for the rest of the world. Presumably this split would allow Apple to take a more open approach in Europe while preserving its customary restrictions on sideloading in other markets.

The move would represent a dramatic shift for Apple, which has vigorously fought legislation mandating sideloading support as a security risk for users. Just last November, Apple filed a legal challenge to the DMA requirement.

In a letter in 2022 to lawmakers, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier said that Apple’s concerns about sideloading were “unfounded” and that it’s “simply not true” that legislation such as the EU’s puts user privacy and security at risk.

“It’s fairer to say that this legislation puts those companies’ extractive business models at risk. Their claims about risks to privacy and security are both false and disingenuous and motivated by their own self-interest and not the public interest,” wrote Schneier.

With DMA deadlines approaching, Apple may have decided acquiescence is the wisest course for its European business.

Meanwhile, across the pond, Jonathan Kanter – head of the US Department of Justice’s antitrust unit – has stated the agency’s investigation into Apple’s practices is now “firing on all cylinders.”

(Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash)

See also: Open source wins concessions in new EU cyber law

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