UK Confirms Antitrust Probe Of AndroidiOS ‘mobile Duopoly Focused On Browsers And Cloud Gaming

UK Confirms Antitrust Probe Of AndroidiOS ‘mobile Duopoly Focused On Browsers And Cloud Gaming

Britain's antitrust watchdog has begun tightening its grip on the mobile duopoly of Apple and Google, launching an in-depth investigation into the pair's dominant element in the mobile ecosystem, examining their approach to rival browser services. mobile and cloud gaming. . Restrict competition and harm consumers.

The move follows last year's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) market review, which produced a report late this summer that concluded there were serious competition concerns; regulators found the tech giants to have an "effective duopoly." about the ecosystem.” Mobile devices that allow you to control your mobile operating systems, app stores, and web browsers.

At the same time, the CMA proposed to carry out what is known as Reference Market Research (MIR) with two approaches. one looking at the market power of Apple and Google in mobile browsers; and another that explores Apple's restrictions on cloud gaming with its own App Store.

This MIR proposal started the standard consultation process in which regulators seek feedback on the scope of the proposed investigation and today confirmed the decision to conduct a market investigation, opening what is called a "phase 2" (in depth). which may be necessary. . up to 18 months to complete...

Research will focus on the provision of mobile browsers and browsing engines; and distribution of cloud gaming services through app stores on mobile devices, the Capital Markets Authority said today.

In a press release announcing the launch of the in-depth investigation, the CMA said responses to the inquiry showed "substantial" support for a fuller investigation into how Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple " restricts cloud gaming through its app." . stores".

His PR emphasized the strategic importance of mobile browsers, noting that the "majority" of people use mobile browsers at least daily to access online content, adding that 97% of mobile web browsing in the UK last year past took place in browsers. fed by one From Apple. Google's browser hardware or engine gives these partners enormous power over the user experience.

As for cloud gaming services, the regulator is concerned that restrictions on mobile platforms could stifle growth in the growing sector, resulting in what it says is a "loss" of UK players.

Web developers complain that Apple's restrictions, combined with the proposed lack of investment in browser technology, add to the cost and frustration of having to deal with websites and glitches and they have no choice but to create custom mobile apps. when the site can do it. enough," he wrote in a press release.

Ultimately, these restrictions limit choice and can make it more difficult for innovative new apps to reach the hands of UK consumers. Meanwhile, Apple and Google argue that the restrictions are necessary to protect users. The CMA's market investigation will take this matter into account and consider whether new rules are needed to achieve better results."

Sarah Cardell, acting chief executive of the Capital Markets Authority, added in a statement:

“We want to make sure UK consumers get the best new mobile data services and UK developers can invest in innovative new apps.

Many UK companies and web developers tell us they feel constrained by the restrictions imposed by Apple and Google. When a new digital marketplace system is implemented, this type of problem is more likely to be overcome. At the same time, we use our existing strengths to solve problems where possible. We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to increase competition and innovation in the sector."

If the CMA in its investigation discovers a characteristic that has an "adverse effect on competition", the CMA can apply measures directly to the company and can also make recommendations to other government bodies (for example, industry or government regulatory bodies). . if you assess the need for new legislation to combat dangerous activities.

Apple and Google have responded

In a 15-page response to advice released today by the CMA, Apple opposes opening up MIR to mobile browsers or cloud gaming; denying that its activities around mobile browsers involve competition restriction and manipulation, claiming that WebKit's browser engine development "enables security and privacy, as well as device performance," while warning about the "extreme risk" of rival browsers releasing new features without a "deep evaluation of their security and privacy implications."

As for cloud gaming, it also denies anti-competitive behavior, claiming that it does not prevent cloud gaming apps from appearing on the App Store, and further states that it is not trying to prevent cloud gaming apps from appearing on the App Store. cloud while reiterating the claims. concern for consumer protection.

"Apple's approach offers users a valuable choice between ecosystems focused on security, privacy, and performance," the iPhone maker also wrote in response, emphasizing claims that its approach to security and privacy "offers consumers an alternative to the obvious Android system. it gives them a real choice in the main competition of these standards”; And one more caveat. “The potential solutions that the CMA is considering risk removing this choice and thus effectively limiting competition at the ecosystem level. Any action that leads to a loss of consumer choice and of competition must be avoided."

In its 10-page response to the warning, Google praised Android's "openness," arguing that its smartphone platform offers "more choice for users and businesses than any other."

It also claims that the key issues identified by the CMA at the time were not found in its own mobile ecosystem, further suggesting that the restrictive behavior that many regulators are interested in enforcing applies to Apple's iOS, not Apple's iOS. Android, seeks to deviate from the organization. control. competition. .

Google also believes that the therapies proposed by the CMA (such as the architecture of choice) would be better suited for "iterative development and collaborative discussions" between the industry and the special unit of the CMA that focuses on Big Tech (i.e., the Digital Markets unit (DMU): not 'fitting' for consideration or application in a market research context' - seen as an attempt to direct/delay CMA intervention (as the DMU has not been activated because the government UK has delayed introducing the necessary legislation - the unit may have to wait until they can undertake role formation for many years together).

Providing a summary of responses to the consultation, the CMA said it had received 31 (out of 43) in support of moving forward (6 more to support and push for more coverage); And only 5 are against it. Apple provides what it describes as the strongest opposition.

He added that the favorable response included 22 web developers, software engineers and various browser vendors, as well as individuals and advocacy groups, who said "most of them are critical of Apple's limitations in this area."

"While we understand the reasons of some stakeholders to expand coverage to additional areas, including, for example, desktop and general search, we have decided to maintain the previous intent," the CMA continued in a note on the objectives of the MIR. This is because a targeted investigation will be easier to achieve timely results. However, we are aware of the trade-offs between browsers and search services, both from a user experience and financial perspective, which we will discuss. account when evaluating competition in browser and mobile phone service. Energy":

Regarding cloud gaming, the focus of this research is solely on the availability of these services in mobile app stores. As such, the investigation will not further analyze the market for cloud gaming services, the strength of competition among cloud gaming providers, or more specifically, gaming competition.

Apple and Google have been contacted to respond to recent investigations by the Capital Markets Authority into their business practices.

An Apple spokesperson sent us the following statement.

“Apple believes in a dynamic and competitive marketplace where innovation can thrive. Through the App Store, we've helped millions of developers turn their best ideas into world-changing apps, powering an app economy that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world. UK We will continue to engage constructively with competition and market authorities to explain how our approach improves competition and choice, while ensuring that consumer privacy and security are always protected."

Google's representative also issued a statement.

“Android offers people more app choices and app stores than any other mobile platform. It allows developers to choose the browser engine they want and has become the platform for running millions of applications. We are committed to building an open and thriving platform that empowers consumers. and helps developers build successful businesses."

The CMA conducted an open investigation into Apple's app store, which launched in March 2021, looking into Cupertino's T&C payments to third-party developers who want to distribute mobile apps on iOS. This investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, in May this year, it launched a formal investigation into Google's adtech suite, months after announcing it would investigate allegations of collusion between Google and Facebook over ad bidding (known as the "Jedi Blue" allegations). Both were still on the train.

The Capital Markets Authority previously conducted an in-depth study of online advertising that raised a number of competition concerns and convinced it of the need to reform the Digital Competition Law. (although the latter is still being implemented under the current British administration).

UK competition regulators also continue to closely monitor Google's online advertising offerings to end support for third-party tracking files in its Chrome browser and to introduce various ad-targeting techniques (also known as ad-sandboxes). privacy), a final exit that seems likely. They can contribute to the creation of the Adtech group as a major alternative (meaning it can have a significant impact on the future of the ad-supported web), although it will probably slow down the evolution of this migration, as Google, for example, should do more consulting. Good job with industry players to ensure they meet their regulatory obligations to capital market authorities.

So regulators have an increasing variety of investigations and other actions aimed at addressing the market power of Apple and Google, which seems to be blowing more of their mobile ecosystems out of the water.

UK passes antitrust probe into Android and iOS 'mobile duopoly' focused on browser and cloud gaming By Natasha Lomas Originally posted on TechCrunch

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