Apple and Google App Stores are Losing the Monopoly Battle to Third-Party Apps!
Apple and Google app stores are set to lose the undivided attention of modern app developers
In what is a classic case of monopoly till now Apple and Google app stores have always had leverage over the app distribution domain. The app developers, who are entering into bleeding-edge competition in these stores to get their respective apps distributed and to earn a profit have no level playing field vis-à-vis the stores. But things may soon change. It is due to the gradual but steady rise of third-party apps in recent times and their legal and policy recognition.
The monopoly of Apple and Google in this sector has faced challenges. Thus, Apple was charged with pursuing monopolistic practices by Epic Games in 2020, in a court case. Even if Epic Games lost the case it led to the reduction of the commission for app distribution by half, to 15%, for small business entrepreneurs and independent app developers. Epic Games is not sparing Google App either as it plans to initiate legal proceedings against the tech giant by next year. Apple has also received a stricture from the European Commission for stifling the growth of the app industry.
Another important issue is playing a vital role in threatening the monopolistic control of apps by Apple and Google. Both Apple and Google App, by virtue of their authoritative control of the app developers, set rules regarding privacy and security and even go beyond to stipulate what kind of apps are to be developed. There is no other option for the app developers but to follow such rules because otherwise, their apps will not ever get the platform for distribution. The rules, however convenient for the giant duo and inconvenient for the app developers, are to be confirmed also because there was no viable alternative platform to go. With the emergence of third-party apps, the battle for distribution is no longer one-sided. With competition brewing, the app developers now have a choice and the opportunity to be associated with third-party stores which offer fewer rigid rules.
There is an allegation by the independent app developers that often they find that some key features of their apps are silently incorporated into the systems of both Apple and Google apps. This leaves the app developers in a hopeless condition as their apps are no longer valued. Google in particular has been accused of removing apps without any information provided to the concerned developers. This indeed comes as a blow to the small and independent app developers as developing apps, even with minimum viability, is both time-consuming (some even take nearly a year) and very costly.
To redress the situation, the European Union’s Digital Markets Act is seeking to ensure the availability of alternative stores from which apps can be installed. It is also asking for measures to prevent the mainstream app stores from manipulating conditions against the third-party developers. The US is also not far behind in bringing in such controls.
There is optimism that the greater role of the third-party apps may ensure the much-needed transparency and accountability, and it will also contribute to the protection of the privacy of the users. However, to challenge the monopoly of two of the world’s most powerful tech companies— Apple and Google– the formulation of policies has to be backed up by effective implementation.