Apple's new policy is a step in the wrong direction" — Microsoft's Xbox chief slams new App Store changes coming to the EU

iPhone 14 with the App Store
(Image credit: Future)

Following Apple’s major EU App Store overhaul announced last week, Microsoft has become the latest company to speak out against the new measures. 

Apple announced last week that it would shake up its App Store in the EU to comply with the new Digital Markets Act, ahead of the March 7 compliance deadline. The biggest changes include functionality for alternative browser engines and alternative options for processing app payments and distributing apps. 

While Apple has made some hefty concessions to the EU and developers, not everyone thinks the changes have been made in good faith, criticizing Apple for following the letter of the law but not the spirit. That now includes Xbox president Sarah Bond, who took to X Monday, stating: “We believe constructive conversations drive change and progress towards open platforms and greater competition. Apple's new policy is a step in the wrong direction. We hope they listen to feedback on their proposed plan and work towards a more inclusive future for all.”

Continued outcry against Apple’s App Store changes

Bond positioned her comments in support of Spotify’s Daniel Ek, reposting his response, which called the new changes “vague and misleading,” and stated that while Apple “has behaved badly for years,” the announcement “represents a new low, even for them.” 

Apple’s new App Store changes will introduce tools enabling developers “to offer their iOS apps for download from alternative marketplaces,” as well as tools for creating alternative app marketplaces with functionality including the installation and update of apps on behalf of developers. Both of these measures should pave the way for companies like Epic Games and Microsoft to introduce their own storefronts to Apple’s iPhone, giving users an avenue to download apps and pay for digital goods and services outside the App Store.  

So why are larger companies in particular upset about the move? Last week, Spotify noted several objections that are likely on Microsoft’s radar, too. Notably, Apple is set to impose a new 0.50 cent Euro fee per download on apps distributed from the App Store and/or an alternative marketplace per year, over a 1 million download threshold. Apple notes that fewer than 1% of developers will pay this, but it is definitely aimed at large companies like Spotify, Meta, and Epic Games. Spotify says, “This is extortion, plain and simple,” and Ek further noted the new terms were designed to force developers to stick with the status quo.

In a statement of response, Apple said it was "happy to support the success of all developers — including Spotify, which has the most successful music streaming app in the world." Furthermore, Apple says "The changes we’re sharing for apps in the European Union give developers choice — with new options to distribute iOS apps and process payments. Every developer can choose to stay on the same terms in place today. And under the new terms, more than 99% of developers would pay the same or less to Apple.”

As noted, Bond’s comments fall in with objections from Spotify, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney (who called the measures “hot garbage”), and Firefox developer Mozilla, which branded Apple’s policy “as painful as policy.” Microsoft is not without its critics, however. In the original Epic Games App Store lawsuit ruling, Judge Gonzalez Rogers stated the court had “never been satisfied” that Epic Games’ arguments against Apple’s App Store business model would not also apply to Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. Both Xbox and PlayStation operate models identical to Apple’s in terms of app distribution and payment processing on their respective consoles. While there’s an obvious difference in the utility of each, the court noted the distinction between “general purpose” devices (phones)  and “special purpose” devices (game consoles) has “no basis in current antitrust law” and that “Presumably, the factors would be applied in the same fashion.” 

Apple’s App Store changes will take effect in the EU from March and were supposed to mark an end to at least some of its antitrust woes. However, it seems clear its application of the rules hasn’t washed with rivals who stand to benefit from a loosening of Apple’s tight grip on the iPhone. The more pertinent question is whether the EU agrees.

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9