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Apple responds to Xbox Project xCloud absence, citing iOS policy

Tim Cook
Tim Cook (Image credit: Apple)

Tim Cook, Apple Keynote

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

While Microsoft recently outlined plans to bring its Xbox Project xCloud game-streaming tech to mobile devices, its arrival on iOS has entered a stalemate. Cloud gaming soon hits its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, scheduled to launch for Android devices on September 15, but Redmond has fallen silent on the status of its iPhone and iPad endeavors. That comes as the company wrangles App Store policies, with developer guidelines barring apps like its Xbox One streaming service from the curated digital storefront.

Project xCloud's iOS struggles fell into the spotlight on Wednesday, with Microsoft winding down public trials on the platform after three months without updates. Android testers have gained access to over 100 compatible titles in short of one year, yet its iOS counterpart featured just one playable title, while tied to 10,000 participants. The former is the result of Apple's regulations on iOS game distribution, while its small user base pushed the limits of the TestFlight developer platform.

Microsoft confirmed plans to postpone its iOS testing, and we've now seen Apple respond to mounting scrutiny. Cupertino expanded on its reasoning behind blocking Project xCloud for iOS, citing its policies and review process in a statement to Business Insider.

"The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers," an Apple representative stated. "Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers."

Project xCloud

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

"Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store."

The conflict comes at an inflection point for Microsoft's Xbox platform, establishing the foundation for its next-generation console, and an intertwined cloud gaming vision. Project xCloud wraps almost one decade of investment in its game-streaming technologies, and while still headed to other platforms, its iOS absence holds back Xbox moving forward.

Apple doesn't look set to budge, further complicated by its recent antitrust hearing, also attended by Amazon, Google, and Facebook. It saw Apple CEO Tim Cook push back on allegations of anti-competitive business practices, defending its mandatory revenue-share policy for the integrated App Store. Documents shared by the House Antitrust Subcommittee also exposed a backdoor deal between Apple and Amazon to reduce the cut, leaving Apple unlikely to let Microsoft slip by.

It leaves no clear resolution in sight, with Apple unwilling to ease its grip on the iPhone, despite continued claims of anti-competitive actions. It puts a crucial component of Microsoft's next steps for Xbox on hold, cutting off those within the four walls.

Matt Brown is a writer at Mobile Nations focusing on Xbox and desktop VR. After realizing he wasn't good at video games, he stuck to this writing thing instead. Follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • If Microsoft had grown at the rate Apple has, they would be breaking Microsoft into sub companies in a heartbeat. It's time for Apple to get some air let out of their sales! This is clearly as ridiculous as it gets!
  • Agreed. This is getting ridiculous. I will certainly be buying my first Android device come beginning of next year. I'm tired of Lightning ports, no default apps, no offline maps, etc. I sure miss my Windows Phone.
  • yes there would technically be no difference between this service Netflix hulu or amazon prime more like an interactive video stream than streaming code.
  • This is nothing more than anti-competitive practices to block out services that people would choose over Apple Arcade.
  • I know people will not agree with me, but I agree with Apple. For me, security is first. By having these services, it allows Microsoft and others to decide what goes on your device. This excludes Apple from the extensive vetting process that they do.
  • We're an all-Apple household except for gaming systems. They're not putting anything on your device besides the app. It's streaming the game from the Azure cloud. It's not really any different than Twitch or YouTube, which have far more objectionable content but aren't getting banned because Apple doesn't compete in that space. It doesn't compete in this one either except in their own minds (Apple Arcade is not an alternative to Xbox or PlayStation).
  • I agree with teslacorg. There is language in Apples rules about remote operation, but that doesn't seem to have stopped MS Remote Desktop, Citrix, SplashTop, and the like. That is what XCloud is essentially, it is a 'remote control' app that operates a game running in the cloud, not on your device. Microsoft isn't putting anything on your iPhone beyond the app and Apple is free to assess that. Apple's own Arcade is very different, as it requires you download and install each game you want to play. These of course are the same games you could already buy, so have already been scrutinized. I don't quite understand why Apple would be concerned about this competing with Arcade. The types of gamers and games are very different. That perceived competition is however the only reasonable explanation and a bad one, considering the current anti-trust scrutiny. I get consistent application of rules, but Apple would be much better of announcing a review of their rules in view of these new game streaming capabilities to ensure they don't impede progress, implementing rules the technology has surpassed.