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The Japanese government has drawn up regulations that will require Apple and Google to allow users in the country to download and install apps outside of the App Store and Play Store.
Japan is the latest country to pressure the two tech giants to open up access to their platforms. Europe’s Digital Markets Act is also poised to force both companies to allow third-party app stores on their platforms and alternative payment systems to be used on users’ devices.
According to The Japan Times, the new regulations will require Apple and Google to allow users to download apps through sources other than their respective app stores. The government says this will stimulate competition and could possibly reduce app prices.
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Japan’s government is also working on a list of prohibited actions for operating system providers that would prevent them from showing favoritism towards their own services and payment platforms. The new regulations were created by a group headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno at the government’s digital market competition headquarters.
The legislation will be presented during an upcoming parliament session in 2024.
Due to concerns that Apple and Google both include their own apps already installed on iPhones and Android smartphones at purchase, both companies will be required to make it easy to remove the pre-installed apps and must also make sure their services aren’t given preferential treatment within their search engines.
While Apple does not have its own search engine like Google does, it’s possible the government could crack down on Apple’s local search feature, Spotlight.
Currently, Apple does not allow users to install iOS apps from outside of its App Store. Google does allow users to sideload apps from outside sources, although it’s a convoluted enough process that 97% of users still install apps from the Google Play Store.
However, both companies prevent third-party app providers from accepting user payments in their apps via any payment platform other than the ones provided by Apple or Google. The new regulations will require the companies to allow users to make payments via third-party platforms.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has always cited privacy and security as the two main reasons Apple doesn’t allow “sideloading” of apps from sources other than the App Store. However, he may be glad to know that the new Japanese regulations would require developers to offer privacy and security safeguards for any outside app store offerings.
As mentioned above, the European Union is also implementing rules that will likely force Apple to allow third-party app stores and sideloading of apps on their devices. The European Union says all changes are intended to ensure “fair, transparent, and contestable digital markets”
The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) requires tech giants that meet the act’s “gatekeeper” criteria, which includes Apple and Google, to open up their services and platforms to outside companies and developers, much like Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s macOS desktop computer platforms allow.
The DMA will also require them to make messaging, voice-calling, and video-calling services interoperable. This would allow Meta to request that its Messenger and WhatsApp apps be able to interoperate with Apple’s iMessage framework. Apple would be required to comply with the request, at least within the European Union.