Microsoft just turned the screw on Apple and its App Store by not only allowing developers in the new Windows 11 app store to use third-party commerce methods, but also by charging 0% commission to those who do.
Compare and contrast that with the current state of play in the App Store. Every app must use Apple's payment system and, for the initial purchase and in-app purchases, hand over 30% of the fee – unless they rake in less than $1 million per year in which case it's 15%. Whether Apple would still charge any commission for apps that use third-party commerce or not, we don't know. Because it doesn't happen.
Microsoft, with Windows 11, is doing things differently.
While none of that really matters to users in the Apple world and a ton of developers won't be switching to Windows development just yet, it does show that allowing third-party commerce is possible without the sky falling in. In fact, it seems to be something Microsoft is happy about – but that might just be because it knows it's putting pressure on Apple.
Some commentators are already calling Microsoft's moves today as it trying to portray itself as the "anti-Apple," which is almost poetic. Apple grew up being the company that was the anti-IBM and later, the anti-Microsoft. The thought that it could now be the one that others see as the big baddie to be toppled is an interesting one. But it's where we are today and in many ways Apple only has itself to blame.
Apple is already in the middle of various nasty-looking legal situations around the globe thanks to its App Store business practices, and it just got done with the most Epic of them all – and that one very much revolved around payment processing.
Ultimately I feel that Apple will be forced to make changes to the way the App Store works, if only to allow third-party payment processing. It might need more changes depending on which side of the App Store review fence you're sitting on, but payments are – obviously enough – where the money is. And that's likely to be where the first strike is made.
If Microsoft can help make it happen there'll be giggles in Redmond and beyond.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.