Apple’s App Store has been at the center of some high-profile controversies and rhetoric in the past year, when Epic Games made a bold move that, according to some sources, was planned months in advance. An action as simple as offering a different in-app purchase method has triggered a chain that now involves lawsuits filed in several countries, all accusing Apple and Google of monopoly practices. Although this proposed bill in a single U.S. state does not directly refer to the Apple vs. Epic Games, their effects, if approved, will turn things around in favor of the game developer.
It is difficult to argue that the waves that Epic Games started influenced North Dakota Senate bill 2333, especially as it addresses complaints raised by Epic and the newly founded Coalition for App Fairness. The group deplored the industry’s current practice of blocking users and developers in a platform app and payment system store, which often takes a large share of the profits. While the complaints also include Google and its Play Store, the coalition specifically cites Apple as the biggest culprit.
The project has three main restrictions that, not coincidentally, address Epic Games’ complaints. It prohibits a “digital application distribution platform”, also known as an application store, from requiring a specific and exclusive distribution platform, blocking them in a single payment system in the application and retaliating if they choose an alternative method. In other words, Apple would have to open iOS to other app stores and cannot take revenge on developers for not choosing their own App Store.
Even if passed, the law would only apply in North Dakota, but it would still force Apple to make radical changes to iOS anyway. In his testimony against the new bill, Apple’s chief privacy engineer, Erik Neuenschwander, warned that it could “destroy the iPhone as you know it” simply because it undermines the strong privacy and security features that are integrated to the mobile platform.
Of course, there are also plenty of proponents who accuse Apple of exaggerating its effects. It may take a while for North Dakota to even decide on the bill, and you can bet that Apple and Google will use whatever influence they can muster to prevent it from becoming law.