UK authorities investigate Apple and Google via mobile browsers and cloud games

What just happened? Developers have long complained about Apple and Google controlling mobile web browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming. UK regulators indicated they were aware of the complaints last summer, but now have ample reason to launch a formal investigation into the mobile giant’s policies.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this week announced the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s rules. Regarding iOS and Android web browsers, respectively. The CMA will also look into Apple’s refusal to allow cloud gaming apps in its App Store.

Apple iPhone and iPad users have plenty of web browser options besides Apple’s Safari. However, the Cupertino gatekeepers require them to run on Safari’s WebKit browser engine. Likewise, Google maintains a similar environment for its Chromium engine on Android (most Windows browsers also run on Chromium).

Developers have told the CMA that such policies harm their business by stifling innovation and increasing costs. Some developers say WebKit glitches have forced them to build apps — and thus pay for Apple certification — for services that should work fine through mobile websites.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Google had to use webpages to circumvent Apple’s soft ban on cloud gaming apps for iOS. It’s a soft block because Apple doesn’t block such apps. Instead, it requires every game to be offered in a cloud service for individual app certification, which indicates a preference for subscription services like Apple Arcade and Netflix Games. The Google Play Store allowed cloud gaming apps like Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia’s GeForce Now, even before it shut down competing cloud gaming platform Stadia.

CMA Call Browser engine and anticompetitive cloud gaming limitations upon initial issue review in June. It noted that 97 percent of 2021 mobile web surfing in the UK took place on either WebKit or Chromium. The regulator considers Apple and Google to be a duopoly in mobile computing.

The UK regulator has not specified what consequences it can impose on Apple and Google if it decides to bring charges of anti-competitive conduct against them. However, she said her investigation may encourage a change in current domestic policies.

The European Union is also trying to crack down on mobile browser engine policies. Last month, that is Issuance Digital Markets Act (DMA), which Prevent Companies from forcing users and companies to use a single browser engine. Any consequences that DMA may bring to Apple or Google are likely to happen over the next few years.

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