Why the UK is investigating Apple, Google

Tightening the noose around Google and Apple‘s practices in the UK, Britain’s competition watchdog has launched an in-depth investigation into the duopoly of the Silicon Valley giants on mobile ecosystems. The authority said that the responses of its Mobile Ecosystem Market Study report “reveal substantial support for a fuller investigation into the way that Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store.”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says that the duopoly of Google and Apple allows them to “exercise a stranglehold over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.”

The CMA notes that they received responses from various browser vendors, web developers and cloud gaming service providers who say that the duopoly is not only harming their businesses but also holding back innovation as well as adding unnecessary costs.

In a press release announcing the probe, the watchdog noted that most people use their browser at least daily to access online content and “97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happens on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine. “

The watchdog also said that web developers have also complained against Apple on cloud gaming. There are already more than 800,000 users of cloud gaming services in the UK.

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“Apple’s restrictions, combined with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to added costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages, and have no choice but to create bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient, ” the CMA said in a release.

Google and Apple reply
While the watchdog states that these restrictions limit choice and innovation, both Apple and Google have argued that these restrictions protect users. The CMA says it will go ahead with the investigation and consider these concerns.

Apple submitted a 15-page response saying that its development of the WebKit browser engine allows for “the security, privacy and performance of devices to be preserved”, while also warning of “severe risks” if rival browsers are able to deploy new features without “an in-depth evaluation of their security and privacy implications”. On cloud gaming, Apple denies any anti-competitive behavior

Meanwhile, Google submitted a 10-page response saying that the Android platform offers “users and businesses more choice than any other”. It also suggested that the restrictive behaviors the regulator is most concerned about apply to Apple’s iOS, not Android.

Apple and Google provided statements to TechCrunch.

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“Apple believes in vibrant and competitive markets where innovation can thrive. Through the App Store, we’ve helped millions of developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world, spurring an app economy that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK alone. We will continue to engage constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are always protected,” an Apple spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“Android gives people a greater choice of apps and app stores than any other mobile platform. It also enables developers to choose the browser engine they want, and has been the launchpad for millions of apps. We’re committed to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers build successful businesses,” a Google spokesperson was quoted as saying.