Finally, the United States government is taking some actions against the tech companies that have stifled innovation in their own industries for decades, in addition to holding far too much control over governance over that industry and too large a piece of the American economy.
The bills coming from the House are:
- The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act
- The Ending Platform Monopolies Act
- The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act
- The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act
- The American Innovation and Choice Online Act
From my layman’s glance at these, I’m in support of all of them. Meanwhile, our friends in the EU are ramping up a similar set of laws under the Digital Service Act.
MacRumors focused on Tim Cook’s thoughts on the laws that would require Apple to allow its users to be able to acquire apps for their iPhones and iPads from other sources:
Current Digital Services Act language that is being discussed would force sideloading on the iPhone. This would be an alternate way of getting apps onto the iPhone. As we look at that, that would destroy the security of the iPhone and a lot of the privacy initiatives that we’ve built into the App Store, where we have privacy nutrition labels and App Tracking Transparency that forces people to get permission to track across apps. These things would not exist anymore, except in people that stuck with our ecosystem, and so I worry deeply about privacy and security. What we’re going to do is constructively take part in the debate and hope that we can find a way forward. As I said, there are good parts of the regulation… like there are parts of the DSA that are right on. I think it’s just one of those areas where we have the responsibility to say when it’s not in the best interest of our user, that it’s not.
I have three takes on this:
- Tim Cook is right. While working for Apple, I did service many phones that had been jailbroken, and the reason that they were being serviced is because of software or security issues resulting from apps downloaded from other app repositories. One would presume that the overwhelming majority of people with the technical savvy to jailbreak an iPhone (it’t not hard, but, last I checked, it’s not trivial) when they’d mess up their jailbroken phone, they’d know how to recover from it, but not everyone.
- Tim Cook is wrong. Android phones have been able to get apps from where ever for years. The bad old days did seem like they had some serious issues that came from garbage that was able to be easily loaded onto an Android device. But times have changed and they’re doing much better with that. One of the reasons is that the Android operating system puts more speed bumps in front of people who really should be staying in the walled garden. Furthermore, Apple has allowed “sideloading” apps on its non-iOS operating systems for its entire existence. Mac OS 9 was a firestorm of malware. MacOS 10 and beyond has been incredibly secure for the end user, and gets better all the time. Tim Cook is saying that Apple cannot do for iOS/iPadOS what it has been doing for MacOS devices for years. In this scenario, Tim Cook is only thinking of the decline in revenue that would be coming through the App Store and on its way into the pockets of shareholders.
- Tim Cook is protecting the Apple brand, which I won’t weigh in on a right or wrong on this - but the situation in the future where someone downloads a pirated copy of Candy Crush from a 3rd party app repository that also includes malware, that person is not going to take to Twitter and say “I am responsible for downloading pirated software and now my phone is messed up, because of what I did,” they’re going to tweet: “My iPhone got hacked!” Omitting that that would have never happened had they stayed in Apple’s walled garden or had had some sort of restraint or understanding of the responsibilities of their choices. It’s not Apple’s fault at all in this scenario, but they get to take the blame. Readers of that tweet will not pause and ask who is to blame, they’ll just have a second thought about buying that next iPhone.
Personally, I think that I’d like to see a button under Settings that says “Turn on Advanced Mode” that would allow me to get apps from where ever I’d like. Pressing that button would also be accompanied by a warning that alerts me to the potential security and stability issues that may come from downloading software from other software repositories.