We don’t see much progress with US antitrust law right now, but if the two bills pass the Senate, there’s a chance that Apple’s default apps will be banned. That is, Apple couldn’t pre-install its own stock apps on iPhones, but had to offer customers a choice of core apps.
Above is an illustration of how Apple might respond, offering a choice of key apps during the initial iPhone install, likely with its own apps at the top of the lists…
We summarized the background to this earlier today:
There are growing concerns about the power and market dominance of a small number of tech giants. Congress has been working on multiple antitrust laws, each designed to address different issues. Two of these have progressed so far that they are ready for voting:
It is this second law that poses the greatest threat to Apple, requiring major changes to the App Store business model, including allowing third-party app stores.
Apple’s default apps may be banned
Another impact could be that Apple may no longer favor its stock apps over third-party apps by pre-installing them on iPhones.
This begs the question of how customers would get a properly working iPhone right out of the box. Bloomberg suggests that one approach would be to ask users to choose core apps such as web browser, music player, and maps as part of the installation process. The image above gives a general idea of what this might look like.
Apple might go further
However, given the company’s very aggressive response to such measures, Apple could do a lot more than put its own apps at the top of the list.
For example, antitrust actions have forced Apple to allow third-party payment for some in-app purchases. The iPhone maker strongly objects to this and displays a warning message clearly designed to scare users into declining this option. Here’s what Netflix users see when they choose 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 reportedly used by IBM in the 1970s, with the phrase “No one has ever been fired for buying IBM.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if you see similar messages if you choose to install third-party apps instead of Apple’s. For example, the company may 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 app.
Apple is not responsible for the privacy or security of any data provided to this developer.
In addition, you are not eligible for a free trial of Apple Music and you may have reduced functionality when using Mac, iPad, Apple Watch and HomePods.
It wouldn’t be hard at all for Apple to create warning messages that are technically true, but scare anyone considering stepping outside the company’s ecosystem.
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