Pressure from the European Union on Apple, driven by the Digital Markets Act (DMA), has prompted a potential shift in Apple’s iOS ecosystem. The DMA requires Apple to enable sideloading, allowing users to install apps from sources outside the App Store to foster competition.
Recent discoveries within the iOS 17.2 beta by 9to5Mac suggest Apple is moving toward accommodating sideloading on iOS devices, a practice previously prohibited by Apple to maintain control over app distribution through the App Store.
Sideloading involves installing apps obtained from third-party sources, and while Apple has always restricted this on iOS, the DMA pushes for its facilitation in the European market. Clues in the iOS 17.2 beta reveal a new framework termed “Managed App Distribution.”
Initially presumed to be associated with Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions for enterprise app installations, further investigation unveils a more expansive purpose.
The API in question features functionalities enabling the downloading, installing, and updating of apps from external sources. Moreover, it introduces the possibility for third-party developers to create their own app stores.
Despite its potential to modernize MDM solutions, indicators of region-based restrictions suggest a focus on compliance with specific countries’ requirements, particularly those imposed by the EU.
Apple anticipates complying with the DMA by March 2024 and acknowledges the forthcoming impact on the App Store’s business model, as mentioned in a Form 10-K filing. Simultaneously, Apple plans to appeal to the EU to exclude the App Store from the DMA, emphasizing its efforts to safeguard the iOS App Store.
However, it seems iOS 17 is being prepared for eventual sideloading, potentially marking a significant shift in Apple’s approach to align with evolving regulatory standards while endeavoring to maintain its market position.
This potential change signifies a significant pivot in Apple’s traditional approach, indicating a willingness to adapt to regulatory demands while potentially introducing increased competition and diversified app sources for iOS users.
By aligning with regulatory requirements while striving to maintain its market position, Apple seeks a balance between compliance and upholding its established App Store model.