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Apple has no excuses, App Store exclusivity needs to end

App Store on iPad
App Store on iPad (Image credit: iMore)

By restricting app installations on the iPhone and iPad to only those titles offered on the App Store, Apple controls the entire mobile experience. The company has long argued this exclusivity brings order and security to our beloved mobile devices. Apple is almost certainly correct on both points. And yet, the time has come for this monopoly to end.

This week, Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with the heads of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, were grilled by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. The hearing wasn't designed to address problems or provide solutions to any one issue. Instead, it allowed politicians on both sides of the aisle to go before the cameras and look tough against tech company heads just weeks before a general election.

And yet, there was a least one part of the hearing that's worth discussing further. It's when Cook was asked whether his company's App Store practices were fair to stakeholders.

App Store Controversary

In recent years, Apple has been increasingly playing defense when it comes to its long-running digital golden goose. One criticism has been its sometimes confusing commission practices that tend to award more prominent app developers while hurting everyone else. The company has also been forced to explain why the App Store should continue to be the only game in town for developers to sell mobile apps.

At this week's hearing, Cook told elected officials Apple's "open" and "transparent" App Store policies and rules apply to all developers. The CEO also made a note to explain why the App Store was created in the first place, saying:

"When the App Store was created, the prevailing distribution options available to software developers at the time did not work well. Brick-and-mortar stores charged high fees and had limited reach. Physical media like CDs had to be shipped and were hard to update."

Apple has never admitted playing favorites and probably never will despite proof to the contrary. If every developer is the same, why does Apple only charge Amazon 15% of revenue from Prime Video subscriptions made on iOS, versus the 30% nearly everyone else is forced to take?

Forbes says Cook's comments to Congress about the early days of the App Store and the reasons behind it is "closest to offering outright alternative facts." It takes issue with Cook's assessment that other app marketplaces were poorly designed and didn't work well.

I'd second this assessment and, regardless, have no doubt that whatever third-party app stores were created back in 2008 would look much different in 2020. The App Store itself, the only marketplace we currently have, proves this with each new update, no?

The elephant in the room isn't a Republican

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper (Image credit: Apple)

If the politicians at this week's hearing spent less time trying to upstage one another and the other party, they would have asked Cook about the Mac App Store and question why it's any different than the App Store.

Launched less than three years after the App Store for iPhone (and later iPad), the Mac App Store is a lot like its predecessor except for one crucial difference. The store isn't the only place you can find or purchase macOS apps. You can also find them on the web.

But what about protecting the security of Mac users? Apple still does this but in another way.

The built-in Gatekeeper on your Mac automatically checks internet-based apps for malware before you run them for the first time. When malicious code is found, macOS can stop new installations and also block the app from launching again.

Moving forward

App Store July 2020

App Store July 2020 (Image credit: iMore)

The App Stores for iPhone and iPad are beautifully designed and take the guesswork out of finding high-quality content for those devices. Better still, as a consumer, you always have access to the most updated version of a software title.

For mobile developers, Apple requires no overhead costs. However, you must accept the commission rates and lengthy set of rules. Otherwise, you can't sell your app for installation.

Developers are provided the same tools to create products for sale in the Mac App Store. However, if they so choose, developers can bypass Apple's store and sell items online without giving the company part of the cut.

Because the Mac App Store launched after other software distribution channels, there was no way Apple could somehow restrict installation to only apps from that store.

Or as tech influencer Rene Ritchie explains:

"Because the Mac was always an open computing platform, it would have been impossible to take that away without a large scale mutiny by the user base. IOW: The iOS App Store was the first, and hence could be the only way. The Mac App Store was decades late, and so had to be an option.

The reason Apple continues to run the mobile App Store as it does has little to do with quality control, security, or anything else an executive might say in public. Instead, it's because, like any good monopoly, the App Store makes the company billions each year.

Twelve years in, it's time governments begin forcing Apple to end the App Store monopoly. By doing so, developers will be given more flexibility and independence. At the same time, Apple can turn up its creative juices and give developers reasons to stick around the App Store ecosystem, just like it does for Mac software. And yes, it should also add Gatekeeper to iOS and iPadOS!

Otherwise, a large scale mutiny will eventually come. However, instead of users fighting Apple, it will be the developers who have grown tired of the company's antics. That's a fight where there are no winners, except for Android.

What say you?

Should Apple make it possible to install apps outside the App Store on iPhone and iPad? Let us know your thoughts below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

50 Comments
  • While the criteria for discounted fees like Amazon got should be transparently available to all meeting the same terms and volumes, Apple may have had valid reason for cutting Amazon's fees. Amazon could (and still can) deliver it's Prime Video content entirely through a web browser, including Safari on iOS/iPadOS instead of through a built-in app and totally cut Apple out of the loop. Apple probably figured 15% of something is better than 30% of nothing.
  • There are no "technical" downsides to side-loading that couldn't be solved with a little engineering. My concern would be new, groundbreaking apps could then fall into the problem we have on macOS and Windows, where we have to find the webpage, give out our information and buy the app through a payment system we may or may not trust, get an access key, download the app, paste the key in, blah blah blah. We go to reinstall, we have to dig up our key, and the cycle continues. It's not a great experience, we've just became used to it on the PC/Mac side. I suppose an alternative App Store could then pop up, more like a "Package Manager" of sorts, to collect all of these apps and distribute them with negligible cost. Feels like most of the side-loading and alternative App Store things would still be quite niche though. For example, I would fully expect my parents would continue to use the App Store because it's already there, which means if developers want that sweet, sweet "not-tech-savvy user" money, they'll still have to contend with the App Store...and under that assumption, maybe Apple should just fix the complaints with the App Store and keep the status quo otherwise?
  • So everyone’s issue with the App Store seems to be the fees. Getting rid of the App Store will only do one thing and that is allow dangerous and poorly made apps onto our mobile devices - something that Apple has always prided itself on above the other competitors. End to end production, keeping control the hardware, operating system and quality of apps is what gives us a seamless and reliable user experience. Something I definitely wouldn’t want them to give up.
  • The openness of the Mac hasn't hurt it from a security or privacy standpoint, so why would it hurt iOS or iPadOS. On the Mac, you can download apps from the MAS or you can turn on GateKeeper if you want to sideload apps in a secure manner. There isn't any technical reason that this cannot be implemented on iOS.
  • The Mac is demonstrably less secure and safe than iOS, and that's a good thing, because users get a choice to what freedom/safety tradeoffs they wish to make. Let's not try to make iOS/iPadOS be like MacOS - they each have their place.
  • I’m not sure if you could be any more wrong. Do you not remember Handango? It was the defacto App Store for smartphones before the iPhone existed, and they took up to 50% of revenue from developers on sales from their site. It was highway robbery. They also charged hosting fees on top of that. Apple blew that up, charged zero hosting fees, took zero revenue from free apps (which make up more than 80% according to Apple), and only took a 30% cut from paid apps. They saved the developers a TON compared to services before the iPhone. Not to mention half the stuff in those stores were untested bloat and spyware that crashed your devices. It’s easy to complain nowadays, since everyone just expects Apple to host their apps and not charge them as much to do so. But Apple’s solution is light years better than what existed before.
  • Please just go buy an android phone (They really are popular) and leave iOS out of this. I don’t want to have to worry about malware and viruses and scams populating my phone like a Windows computer.
  • Thanks for the comment. As I explained, however, Apple could still do this and provide security
  • Sincerely, Bryan. Your 'explanation' does not wash. Any attempt to sidestep Apple's app store review process is going to provide another opening for the bad guys - they're knocking at the gates already - despite Apple's best efforts, and onerous control of the app review process, malware still gets in. Any sideloading scheme is going to be no more secure than the Mac itself is, where users are more exposed than on iOS. I mean.....you can't have freedom without responsibility and cost. Some of us want a safe place. Android is what you want. It's a great platform.
  • The openness of the Mac hasn't hurt it from a security or privacy standpoint, so why would it hurt iOS or iPadOS. On the Mac, you can download apps from the MAS or you can turn on GateKeeper if you want to sideload apps in a secure manner. There isn't any technical reason that this cannot be implemented on iOS
  • Good grief. I have bought any number of Android devices since 2011 and the next malware or virus that I get will be the first. Such issues affect a few million of the OVER THREE BILLION Android devices and are almost always due to sideloading apps that didn't originate from any of the well known app stores (i.e. Google Play, Amazon AppStore, Samsung AppStore, AppToide, AppBrain, APKMirror, F-Droid). The main people who complain about "all the problems" with Android devices never use them. It is as if you think that the 50% of US consumers and 85% of global customers who use Android devices are numbskulls are something.
  • Please, just keep on using Android, but stay in your lane. Let iOS be iOS. I use Android, too; it's a different set of tradeoffs.
  • One of the reasons I switched to the Apple ecosystem was the value I perceive from Apples app store. Just like I don't have to subscribe to Apple, developers don't have to pay the percentage fee. I know that I pay a premium on the apps I purchase because that service provided by apple to ensure my privacy is protected and my device continues to work.
  • Only an ***** would want an insecure side loading flea market app store - that's what Android is for. EVERY STORE in the world adds a cost to the retail price they sell items at. NO OTHER STORE lets you get shelf space for FREE as Apple does. But if you want to use the registers at the front of the store, you pay the sticker price. It's called shopping! Otherwise, it's just shoplifting. Not sure why that's hard to grasp?? Maybe 30 years ago, you could claim that a big player could lock up physical distribution (as MS pleaded guilty to) but BTW, we have a thing called THE INTERNET that lets your users pay for you directly there and skip the Apple checkout (AND they still let you display your wares FREE) You should actually understand how FAIR and EQUITABLE that is - ONLY Apple allows every competitor in.
  • Thanks for your comment. I think we are headed to more competition regardless. I like you will avoid the flea market regardless.
  • Man, the government has a role to play in allowing competition. I wish they'd exercise it with the wireless carriers. It's absurd to say that 4 or 5 carriers is enough competition. But there are exceptions: 0) Microsoft's 'monopoly' on web browsers. Ok, that was ridiculous.
    1) AT&T breakup into Baby Bells. This caused more harm than good. OTOH, I completely support breaking up Google's monopoly on the web. The very existence of the notion of SEO (search engine optimization) where companies jump through crazy hoops to try to game Google's algorithms to get better search placement, and therefore more revenue, this is evidence Google has a stranglehold on web commerce. But making alternatives to the iOS App Store? Who does this benefit to weaken the security of iPhones? Users? Or....indie developers, who resent the 30% cut? I'm writing my representatives right now, to ask them to leave the iOS app store alone.
  • The openness of the Mac hasn't hurt it from a security or privacy standpoint, so why would it hurt iOS or iPadOS. On the Mac, you can download apps from the MAS or you can turn on GateKeeper if you want to sideload apps in a secure manner. There isn't any technical reason that this cannot be implemented on iOS.
  • You keep repeating this over and over. The iPhone is not a Mac. I don’t want maware and crap apps on a device so small and coveted, and so easily stolen. There is no good argument for alternative installations to the secure App Store for iPhone. Case in point: Audacity open source audio editing software. Remember the problem Audacity had with its’ partner download site, “Fosshub”? My iPhone is used for a lot of personal stuff. I don’t want my phone, that I use for contactless payment, ApplePay, in this time of pandemic, comprised by malware and viruses. I explain it like this: what difference does it make if you buy your new game cartridge from Walmart or Best Buy or GameStop. It is the same dang cartridge. So why not just save the trip And hassle and use the built in AppStore. The AppStore is just so much more easy and safer. By the way. You can’t get Audacity from the Mac App Store, and Audacity and Fosshub have addressed the malware issue and is safe to download from Audacity’s official site. Just Google or Bing the number of alternative 3rd party sites that offer Audacity as a download. Which do you trust?
  • It is disingenuous to claim that the Mac is as secure or private as iOS devices are. It is not. iOS devices are not completely immune from malware and risk. This is a spectrum of tradeoffs, with the Mac being more free and insecure than iOS devices, which fall in a different place on the freedom/security spectrum of tradeoffs. Attempts to 'open it up' are also going to make it less secure; I don't see how you can argue otherwise. I think the unspoken assumption is that things will be 'secure enough', similar to Macs, if this is allowed. And that's a value judgment that I disagree with. Users need the secure alternative. This is freedom - there is no way some scheme to allow sideloading without jailbreaking is not going to have unintended consequences, and mostly to the less technical/savvy users. I'm going to bring up my 91 year old mother again. There are people actively targeting seniors, and I can give her an iPad with some sense of security that Apple's precautions can't be easily bypassed. Trust me, bad actors have gotten onto her Mac. And her bank accounts have been compromised, and...it's been a nightmare. I've tried to convince her not to let anyone claiming to be Microsoft or Apple or anything to get into her computer.....and it keeps happening. We've not yet had a problem with the iPad. Leave iOS alone, will you? Android is there for you, Linux is there for you on the desktop. Pure freedom. Enjoy.
  • Yes, the App Store makes Apple a LOT of money. You think if the they had to open up their platform they would just walk away from all that money? No. What will happen is the cost will go somewhere else. And the Mac App Store is not great. Finding software is a freaking pain sometimes. It isn't a great user experience. We don't burn down the house because a flashlight app got ****** off people didn't want to download their app that had ads in it when Apple decided to integrate that feature.
  • The Mac App Store is a horrible user experience, because it doesn't have most of the apps. It's extremely frustrating. The iOS App Store is an amazing user experience, because it's exclusive. Want an app? It's there, guaranteed. Please, please don't throw us back to Windows 98 times, will you?
  • This is one of the most ridiculous posts I’ve seen.
    Want an app it it’s guaranteed?
    Really?
    Think of the logic behind it for two seconds.
    Store A has a limited market.
    Store B has apps from everywhere. Which has more choice?
  • I couldn't disagree more. Breaking the walled garden of iOS leaves us with a second android-style sub-par experience. Why is the Mac App Store useless? Because developers have no compelling reason to use it. Why is the iOS App Store such a great user experience? Because it has ALL the apps, guaranteed, and they are all checked. Maybe the App Store rules should change, maybe the fees should change, fine. But don't take away a key part of the iOS user experience just for the sake of a flawed competition concept.
  • Fail. Plenty of apps in the store are crap and have been pretty much universally panned as such.
    Plenty have fallen through the cracks.
    The idea that Apple ‘curates’ apps is hogwash.
    It’s a terrible user experience.
  • My answer to your question is “NO!”
  • I agree with those who are in favor of the closed App Store - if you want the wild west option use Android, I have in the past and the overall experience and security on iOS devices is far superior. While I understand the Apple should be more open and transparent about the App Store rules, the idea that developers are being overcharged is ridiculous. The idea that all software should be free (which many developers disdain) is not different than the ideas that the “store owner” should allow goods to be sold without covering their costs or even making a profit. Leave the App Store as is and let those that are unhappy try another platform.
  • The idea that all software should be free?
    What stupidness, nobody really thinks that. Unless you do.
    It’s something people love to quote though.
    Software is getting cheaper, it’s the race to the bottom. Guess what we’re all complicit. You, I, Apple and the next guy.
    Always looking for a way to get it cheaper or sell for more.
    Well the buck has now stopped and some people have caught up with it.
  • Happy to see more NOs than YESs to Mr. Wolfe’s editorial diatribe. I too scoff at the idea that the App Store needs to have “competition”. What competition? How could developers offer more security with their own “stores”? Mr. Wolfe, why can't you and Congress just leave we iOS users alone. The vast majority of us are perfectly happy with the walled garden ecosystem. And here’s another tidbit. If an iPhone user installs an app from an alternative “store” and it blows up his iPhone, who do you think that user will blame? Apple always gets the blame when things go wrong.
  • The only diatrabe is your blind fanboyism to the point of being a borderline Apple fetish. You should get serious help with that.
  • All OSs are walled in gardens. It’s not like I can install any Debian app for Linux on my Android phone out of the box or install an Android APK on iOS out of the box. That the Facebook App for Android looks mighty similar or even exactly the same as the iOS app, is pure illusion. Facebook intended this.
  • https://blog.adioma.com/how-to-argue-pg-hierarchy-of-disagreement/ Can you spell 'ad hominem'?
  • Gotta agree with this.
    Open competition. If they can do it with the Mac they can do it with iOS.
  • And honestly, this was my bottom line. Cream rises to the top. If the best place to sell apps is the App Store (and I assume it always will be), then that's where most app developers will go. On the other hand, if for whatever the reason, some app developers wish to go it alone, they should be allowed to do so.
  • No, no, no, no a thousand times no. We have plenty of 'open' and 'free' platforms for people to choose from. There needs to be ONE platform where I can safely give the device to my 91 year old mother, and trust that she won't get into trouble. The iOS app store is that platform. She has an iMac also, that I VERY carefully set up for her, and she calls me and say, "I had a virus the other day. It popped up on the screen, and said it was Apple, and I needed to call them. So I did, and they helped me remove the virus." (head pounding table in despair) Man, my mother is a very smart woman, who survived the Great Depression, the Midwest Dust Bowl years, WW II, and had a long and successful career as an executive at a Kansas City life insurance company. But even the Mac, it's just too much chaos to leave her with. But she does great with her iPad. She can download apps, facetime me (we're thousands of miles apart), browse the web, read the news, all of that, she can do safely, because Apple has an iron grip on the content that runs on this thing. Please, consumers have MANY other choices (hello, Android???, Fire tablets??). We need one choice that eschews freedom and flexibility for sanity. Just one. So what if Apple gets rich from it? I don't care. We (the public) need this one resource available to us, and if you take control of it away from Apple, you take safety away from my mom. Just leave well enough alone, alright? What problem does this solve? More markets for app developers (just build an Android app, OK)? A better cut (again, build Android apps, and get your users to side load them). Just stay out of this one safe place, OK?
  • "We need one choice that eschews freedom and flexibility for sanity." Freedom & flexibility is sanity.
  • with respect, I think that’s simplistic to the point of being reductive. There are tradeoffs for freedom. Android embraces that. That’s the big differentiator between Android vs. iOS - one has a walled garden, the other is open and a mostly-beneficent anarchy. There are pros and cons to both, the only way to preserve that balance is for iOS/iPadOS to continue to be what it is, not to become Android, which is a great alternative. The other salient difference is the way Android runs on the ‘protected’ JVM (which certainly doesn’t really protect anything), and iOS runs right down to the native metal. I am an iOS developer, and I can live with Apple’s App Store rules, and I’m tired of people trying to subvert them who aren’t really stakeholders in any real sense. Users have choice. There is no monopoly here. Let Apple be free to be who they are, and you are free to buy any of the marvellous Android devices out there (and there are many great choices, and a ton of great Android apps).
  • Yeesh. You are an iOS developer? I am not a developer at all (anymore) and my responses are as follows. 1. Android DOES NOT run on a JVM. The JVM runs on top of the NDK - which is C/C++ - which in turn runs on a custom Linux kernel (also C/C++). 2. iOS "runs on bare metal"? Yeah ... words mean things. Or I should say that iOS runs on bare metal in the sense that all operating systems - including Android - do. Meaning ... that it doesn't. Instead iOS has an application layer (Cocoa) just like Android's JVM. And iOS also runs on top of a kernel (XNU, similar to FreeBSD UNIX). 3. Java ... is actually inherently more secure than the C/C++ that dominates the iOS stack. It's primary purpose, granted, was a write once run anywhere language designed to give the web a common platform that would keep it from fragmenting by vendor stack and would require expensive slow middleware to intercommunicate. But its secondary purpose was to address the main security issue with C/C++ by removing explicit pointers and runtime dynamic memory allocation. 4. Which means ... the only real security advantage that iOS actually has over Android is that iOS sandboxes their apps and Android doesn't. (ChromeOS follows the iOS example and sandboxes its apps. Windows 10X, which will debut next year, will also sandbox its apps.) 5. Which means ... that all Apple would need to do is sandbox apps that come from third party sources also. Now again I am not a programmer (anymore) so things like sandboxed apps - instead of compiling and linking C and Assembler executables that run directly on the OS - is something that I know little about. But I think that if it is something that is actively enabled it would be possible by borrowing yet another idea from Samsung. You see, about 7-8 years ago Google was still in their immature "maximum openness" phase with Android, but Samsung - being a hardware company - was serious about actual sales of expensive devices and was trying to get the purchasing departments of large enterprises and government agencies to buy their phones. They responded: no encryption or sandboxing, no deal. So to address those concerns, Samsung created Knox, which was a resizable portion of the device storage that was sandboxed from the rest of the OS and encrypted. One could then store files/data and even install entire apps to the Knox portion. (Google later adopted it in mainline Android - most of the improvements to Android over the years have come from Samsung and other OEMs actually trying to sell devices - with the moniker "Secure Folder".) Apple could implement the same concept. All sideloaded apps would go to the "secure folder" where they would be sandboxed away from the rest of the device. As for the third party apps installed in the secure folder ... it could be a wild-wild west. They could share data, have increased permissions etc. but only within that partition. It would be sealed off from the rest of the device where Apple Pay and the rest are stored. And best of all ... using it would be totally voluntary. People who want the "secure" Apple experience would be free to not use it. It would even be disabled by default, just as the ability to sideload apps is off by default on Android. (The Amazon AppStore even explicitly tells you that you need to disable this feature on non-Fire devices that you install it on, for example.) And that is the way that it would be for 90 year old grandmothers. But for people who wish to incur the risks - and benefits - on the devices that they buy with their own money, the option would be there. And that is all that it would take.
  • "Yeesh. You are an iOS developer?" Well yes, as of the last 5.5 years. I'm a 24 year software veteran, ten years at Microsoft doing C/C++, years of doing backend work using C# / Java, etc., mostly on Ubuntu (surprise!). Words do matter, your'e right. And I was speaking imprecisely, so let me correct that here. iOS/iPadOS and Android (and most OS's) are compiled programs that run on the native hardware using the native instruction set. You're correct about that. Android apps (for the most part, there are no doubt exceptions using the NDK, but these are effectively a rounding error, albeit still significant since they provide necessary functionality for developers to provide benefit), are written using Java (ugh) or Kotlin (very nice). They compile to bytecodes, and are executed by the JVM, which as I'm sure you'll point out, using JIT compilation and other optimization to try to equal the performance of native apps (like iOS apps) that compile directly to the device's instruction set before even uploading to the store. I've seen many, many claims over the years about how Sun's/Oracle's/Google's JVM achieves performance equivalent to purely compiled native code. Always, always, it's in some boundary or edge case. This is the same issue with Microsoft .NET. There are benefits and drawbacks. It's the way of things. iOS takes a particular approach, that has its own benefits and tradeoffs, but bottom line, as a developer, I vastly prefer working with the lldb debugger and native code on iOS than dealing with Java/Kotlin in Android Studio. I could go over the reasons, but that's irrelevant to you or any other readers here. There's no denying native code runs fast, though. And there's no denying that the JVM/.NET runtime approach yields security benefits. And what you say about the sandboxing being an important part of how Apple make iOS 'safer' (it is emphatically not perfectly safe, there is malware on the App Store, and malicious software, just...a lot less of it than the Play Store). But there's another piece to the security story that you don't mention. It's the combination of automated scanning of my app, plus human curation, where real human beings, with real eyes, and real brains, actually poke and prod my app, and examines in ways that none of us know, in order to assure that users are protected from bad actors. Your proposal to allow third party sandboxing....I mean it is disingenuous to claim that no bad actor will never be able to leverage the ability to do this to get on your device and do something bad that sandboxing doesn't prevent. The bottom line, the signing of app bundles, and the combination of automated and human scanning of your app...is undoubtedly safer. "But for people who wish to incur the risks - and benefits - on the devices that they buy with their own money, the option would be there." The option is there today. Jailbreak your iPhone. Or just don't buy an iphone. What is the risk/benefit tradeoff here? Who are these purported benefits benefitting, and what are their numbers, compared to the people who are benefitting currently from Apple's draconian stances on this? Everything is a tradeoff, and it's all a spectrum of tradeoffs. But I have to say....I was at Microsoft in the 90s when some fellow from the Free Software Foundation made his pitch directly to developers. I didn't understand it then, and I don't now. I use Ubuntu, I've written and deployed production code for it. My open source code powers Sports Illustrated branded websites, running on Ubuntu. I have a Google Pixel 3XL. I have no issue with the existence of open source alternatives for people who want that. I've been doing computers since 1983ish, since long before I got my computer science degree (1991). I know what kind of freedom I want. I'm not entirely opposed to your 'sandboxing-side-loaded apps'.....but I remain unconvinced that the benefits/tradeoffs are worth it. I find the statement 'But for people who wish to incur the risks - and benefits - on the devices that they buy with their own money', to be utterly unconvincing. You own the hardware, but not the OS that runs on it. I've never agreed with the proposition that 'software needs to be free'. I don't even understand why people think this; I've read FSF's manifestos, listened to Stallman, I just don't think any of it makes any sense. I say this as someone who thinks Linux (and especially Ubuntu and Mint) are very cool; and I have a Thinkpad around here somewhere running Ubuntu, and I occasionally do server work on an Ubuntu VM running on VMWare Fusion on my Mac Pro (as little as I can get away with, but still). I just don't understand when people promote the whole 'freedom' thing as a zero-sum game. I don't believe that all software needs to be open source, and I don't believe that buying an iPhone entitles you to dictate how Apple should do the software and practices that run on it. You're free to jailbreak it, and install some alternative OS (surely someone out there has built a distro of Android, or some other OS to run on Apple hardware). But most of all, you're free to buy an Android phone. iPhones are a plurality, maybe, of the phones out there, but they're still a minority. There's a lot of freedom and choice available....why do you insist on doing things that are going to inevitably make things worse, to some degree, for users that make a different choice? iOS security is anything but ironclad - it's a slippery slope, Apple has to fight this fight with every release, every exploit, every app that gets uploaded, in order to defend the things *they* care about:
    0) their brand
    1) their users
    3) their 30% The needs of the very small population of users that want to sideload apps, please weigh these next to the needs of people who just need the silly device to work without fuss. And please, please don't conflate all this with the Mac. Apple is not going to lock down the Mac to only using the App Store. Listen to https://daringfireball.net/2020/06/the_talk_show_wwdc_2020. iOS and iPadOS need to remain an alternative model to the Mac, which has much more of the freedom you crave. Heck, you can run Ubuntu on a Mac (on x86, and no doubt someone will figure out how to make ARM Ubuntu work on Apple silicon when the need arises). Knock yourself out. Your freedom to swing your fist stops at my mother's jaw, though.
  • Perhaps Apple should lower their fees. They should certainly not have two developers being charged at different rates (15% for Amazon, 30% for others). I understand their reasons for doing this but it’s still not fair. However... I do not want the same experience on my iPhone that is offered on Android. The reason I buy an iPhone is so that I can get access to apps that have been thoughtfully curated and that will not brick my phone. I take Bryan’s point that the Mac App Store is not the only place that you can buy apps for the Mac—But does Gatekeeper really keep a Mac totally safe from malware? No. Just as I suspect a Gatekeeper for iOS, wouldn’t keep iPhones and iPads totally safe from it. When you open a window (no pun intended) the fresh air does flow in, but also unfortunately so do the bugs. And flies. And whatever other gross things there are out there.
  • Good grief, have you actually owned an Android device? Even better: go a web search. You can even choose Bing, Yahoo or GoDuckGo if you would accuse Google of filtering it for their economic reasons. Search "Android phone bricked by app." You won't find it. You might find "Android app bricked by cheap charger." Or "Android phone bricked by attempt to root it and install alternate Android version." But "Android phone bricked by app"? Not so many results. "Android phone bricked by app downloaded from Google Play Store"? Virtually nonexistent. Also, you do not seem to be aware that the ability to install apps from places other than the Google Play Store is disabled on Android phones by the default. You have to enable it yourself. People who do so are willing to live with the risks. And even 95% of those do so to enable a reputable alternate app store - like the Amazon AppStore - instead of random apps downloaded from websites.
  • If you are going to advise using the Google PlayStore as the best way to keep your Android phone from being bricked by downloaded apps, then what is the point of even allowing 3rd party repositories? You are shooting yourself in the foot. And by the way, Android OS doesn't use a Java Virtual Machine. It uses Android Runtime in a virtual machine to convert Java byte code to Dex byte code, when an app is installed. The drawback is that it takes longer to install apps and they will take up more space since the app will also need to keep the complied machine code in storage along with the original app.
  • I think the doors will be less open on Macs with Apple Sillicon. Developers that already have apps for iPad and iPhone will immediately make the apps available for Mac on the *unified" App Store thanks to universal purchase, which should have been made avalable in the first place. There's no point to distribute the apps via another marketplace so Mac users have to purchase again because universal purchase has been there.
  • If Apple disallows the ability to bypass the App Store on Macs, developers, IT workers and lots of other professionals will avoid Macs like the plague. Do you think that Java, Python, node.js or the countless open-source tools will ever be in the App Store? Or Linux utilities (again open source)? Even people who use Macs for the video, audio and graphics stuff but use a mixture of commercial tools like the Adobe suite and open source tools - and trust me there are LOTS of such people - would find Macs useless for their workflows. Apple locking down Macs would be a clear signal that they are giving up a big chunk of their productivity users in favor of chasing more casual/consumer users who want the same experience that they get on their iPhones and iPads on their desktops. It might actually increase Apple's market share from the 5 that it has historically been (save peaks of about 15% and valleys of under 3%) but I don't see why they would bother to continue to offer Mac Pros, and I even wonder how many iMacs or MacBook Pros they would sell because it would mean that the vast majority of the customer base for such machines wouldn't be able to install the software that they need to do their work.
  • There are plenty of really good apps that are not available in the Mac App Store. The problem is that there are some developers that have apps available in the Mac App Store and on their own official website, yet the version of their app on the Mac App Store is an older version compared to their own official website, which leads to fragmentation and confusion. I think that the App Store is horrible for the Mac, since there is far too much crap-ware on the Mac App store. Apps such as disk clean up tools and memory/system cleaners, battery diagnostic apps, etc. And these apps charge 2-3 dollars or more for the crap app. Unfortunately I remember the days where it was hard to find Mac software at the big box retailers, before the Mac App Store.
  • I don't count Java, Python, Node, Brew, Pod as apps. They are not .app bundle. In fact, they're installed via a PKG and they act like developer tools and environment. If one day Apple decided to prevent developers from installing them, there will be countless Macs thrown in trash within an hour. But for apps like Adobe apps, Adobe just simply make them available on Mac App Store just like ones for iPad and iPhone. I somehow think macOS marketshare will increase, for a simple reason: Apple Sillicon chips must be cheaper than ones from Intel, which makes Mac cheaper, so there will be more consumers to buy Mac.
  • Apple is not going to require the App Store on Macs. Really. This is a non-issue, they couldn't have been more clear and consistent about their intent for Macs. https://daringfireball.net/2020/06/the_talk_show_wwdc_2020 Federighi talks about this very thing with Gruber. The Mac App Store (and I prefer to get my Mac software that way), is mostly a failure. Very few developers use it, and that's going to continue. I am forced to get most of my Mac software from other places, even developer tools like sketch, paintcode, reveal, etc. I mean, it's just not going to happen. iOS/iPadOS and MacOS are completely different propositions, despite having common OS roots. Macs are really pretty open and free, very similar to Windows, somewhat more locked down (because of GateKeeper) than Linux distros, (because they need to be; Linux users tend to me more savvy, and more of a minority, and therefore are both a less desirable target and a more challenging target for malware authors). But just...don't conflate the iOS App Store model with the MacOS App Store. Or the Windows Store, or the Google Play Store, or Amazon's app stores. They all are somewhat different, each with its own sets of pros/cons. Attempts to compare them, make them the same, are reductive. Just....this is just speculative, and the speculation runs contrary to all the evidence we have. Apple is pretty opaque, but not about this.
  • Apple doesn’t even need excuses. If an app developer doesn’t like App Store guidelines, or wants to distribute their app outside the App Store, they can always create a “web app”. Web apps display and behave just like a regular app on an iPhone. For example, I use Facebook as a web app. It doesn’t have all the features that Facebook’s native app, but that is fine for me. I have quite a few web apps, and I forget they are even web apps, they are that good.
  • Doesn’t a web app require an active internet connection?
    Fail.
  • Don’t you need an active internet connection to use the App Store? What is the point of owning a smartphone if you aren’t going to use internet data? Get an Alcatel flip phone and go off the grid. Where are you going to get that third party app you want to side load? There is nothing stopping you from writing your own native app and downloading XCODE to your Mac and side loading your native app to your phone. Just don’t distribute your native app without a developer license.