Why it matters: Apple has come under criticism for its effective ban on cloud gaming apps on iPhone and the requirement that all iOS browsers must use the WebKit engine. But now the United Kingdom’s antitrust authority is bringing these policies under scrutiny along with Google’s new Play Store payment rules.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced last week that it’s investigating the effects of Apple’s web browser and cloud gaming rules on the mobile market. The CMA also released a study in which it calls Apple and Google a duopoly in the mobile space (which points out the obvious, but I digress).
The CMA found that 97 percent of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 occurred on browsers running on either Apple’s WebKit engine or Google’s Chromium. Apple forces all iOS browsers to use WebKit, which the CMA fears limits innovation in web browser apps. The European Union is already preparing legislation forcing Apple to end that requirement.
Concerns about Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming for iOS also reached the CMA. Apple has blocked companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google from releasing mobile cloud gaming apps unless they agree to deliver each streamed game as an individual app.
This would partially defeat the purpose of cloud gaming and potentially give the Cupertino giant a cut of in-game purchases, and bring the subscriptions into competition with Apple’s game subscription service. Notably, Apple enforces no such rules on video and music streaming subscriptions like Netflix or Spotify.
Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia were forced to sidestep Apple’s cloud gaming rules using web apps.
Pending the investigation, the CMA could force Apple to change its rules for both iOS web browsers and cloud gaming. The regulator is also investigating Google’s newly tightened obligation that Play Store apps use its payment processor and thus send it a share of sales revenue. The new rules have led to higher prices in South Korea and brought Google into conflict with Epic’s Bandcamp.