Microsoft slams Apple over unfair App Store policy as antitrust looms large

(Image credit: Al Sacco | iMore)

iPhone X

Source: Al Sacco | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Al Sacco | Windows Central)

Microsoft has spoken out against challenges facing Project xCloud for iOS, criticizing Apple over its handling of its integrated App Store, and stringent regulations on content. It comes as the Xbox streaming service eyes its Android debut on September 15, joining its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, bundling over 100 titles included within its library. Microsoft's comments provide a direct response to Apple's recent decision to double down on its own policies this Wednesday.

The spotlight falls on Apple after several stagnant months for Project xCloud iOS, with restrictions hindering Microsoft from delivering its cloud-powered streaming tech to iPhone and iPad. Developer guidelines saw Redmond unable to iterate, tied up with just one playable game, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, while locked down to just 10,000 participants. Microsoft recently confirmed plans to halt testing, pushing ahead on its Android debut instead.

Apple spoke out on Wednesday, upholding its App Store policies with Microsoft's new cloud streaming endeavor. The company's primary concern centers around its inability to review Project xCloud content, mandating that Microsoft lists all Xbox One games individually, with a manual review process for approval. That conflicts with the nature of any on-demand streaming platform and established non-gaming subscriptions like Netflix or Spotify.

Xbox Project xCloud

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft issued a response hours later, calling out Apple for its gatekeeping on App Store content. The company claims "no path" to bring Project xCloud to one of the world's top portable platforms, despite consumer demand.

"Our testing period for the Project xCloud preview app for iOS has expired. Unfortunately, we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store," Microsoft tells Windows Central. "Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content."

"Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass." — Microsoft spokesperson

"All games available in the Xbox Game Pass catalog are rated for content by independent industry ratings bodies such as the ESRB and regional equivalents. We are committed to finding a path to bring cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to the iOS platform. We believe that the customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience and gamers tell us they want to play, connect and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree."

Microsoft's hard-hitting statement comes mere days after a recent antitrust hearing, which saw CEOs from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google questioned over alleged anti-competitive business practices. For Apple, that included questioning over the App Store and its policies. Microsoft's concerns raise similar discussions around Apple's role in what makes it to the storefront.

Microsoft isn't happy and Apple is unwilling to compromise — exacerbated by documents detailing its Amazon deal in 2016. Cupertino is under close watch and it's unlikely to change without major App Store reforms. Until then, xCloud for iOS isn't looking healthy.

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.

  • Regardless of what you think of Apple’s App Store policies, Apple isn’t doing anything wrong legally.
  • I don't think anybody cares about legal issues here. Neither does Nintendo Switch or my sewing machine when it does not support xCloud. It's no legal issue for iOS to be on the same level as my sewing machine.
  • While technically true today, Apple's decision (and others) may lead to legislation which makes doing this illegal in the future. Congress is after Apple and Big Tech, and looking for things EXACTLY LIKE THIS to justify passing new legislation so that the Big 4 can't use their dominant platforms to curb competition. I don't particularly agree with a lot of what Congress is trying to do, but this sure looks a LOT like what it is they are raging about. Just a silly decision by Apple, at a time when their decisions are being scrutinized heavily.
  • I don't think the EU is going to see it that way. Apple is part of a duopoly and they own more than 2/3 of the mobile app market. Government regulators don't take kindly to companies using their power to engage in rent-seeking.