We’re not seeing much progress with US antitrust legislation just at present, but if the two bills do make it through the Senate, that raises the prospect of Apple default apps being banned. Which is to say, Apple could not pre-install its own stock apps on iPhones, instead having to offer customers a choice of core apps.
Above is one illustration of how Apple might respond, offering a choice of key apps during initial iPhone setup, likely with its own apps top of the lists …
We summarized the background to this earlier today:
There have been growing concerns about the power and market dominance of a small number of tech giants. Congress has been working on multiple antitrust bills, each designed to tackle different issues. Two of these have progressed to the point where they are ready for a vote:
It is this second bill that poses the greatest threat to Apple, requiring big changes to the App Store business model, including allowing third-party app stores.
Apple default apps could be banned
Another impact could be that Apple is no longer allowed to favor its stock apps over third-party ones by preinstalling them on iPhones.
This raises the question of how customers would get a properly functional iPhone straight out of the box. Bloomberg suggests one approach would be for for part of the setup process to ask users to choose core apps like web browser, music player, and maps. The above illustration gives the general idea of how this might look.
Apple might go further
However, given the highly aggressive response of the company to such measures, Apple might well do much more than put its own apps top of the list.
For example, antitrust actions have forced Apple to allow third-party payment for some in-app purchases. The iPhone maker strenuously objects to this, popping up a warning message clearly design to frighten users into rejecting this option. This is the one Netflix users see when opting for the streaming video company’s own payment service:
This is a classic example of FUD: creating Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about the action the company doesn’t want you to take. This was an approach allegedly used by IBM back in the 1970s, with the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see similar messages if you opt to install third-party apps instead of Apple’s own. For example, the company might display something like this if you select Spotify instead of Apple Music:
You are about to select an app provided by a third-party developer, instead of an Apple one.
Apple is not responsible for the privacy or security of data given to this developer.
Additionally, you will not be eligible for a free trial of Apple Music, and may have reduced functionality when using Mac, iPad, Apple Watch, and HomePods.
It wouldn’t be at all difficult for Apple to create warning messages which are technically true, but which frighten anyone who considers stepping outside of the company’s ecosystem.
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