Apple May Allow Default Third-Party Apps

By Chand Bellur

February 20, 2020 at 5:54 p.m. PDT

  • EU regulators and Congress are looking into Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.
  • iOS currently does not allow third-party apps deep integration into iOS.
  • Rumors suggest that Apple will allow third-party browsers and email clients to run as default apps.

Apple Under EU and Congressional Scrutiny

The 1990s saw Microsoft battle anti-trust allegations over the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows. By bundling their web browser with the Windows operating system, competitors like Netscape were virtually shut out.

The problem is that most users need a web browser to download an alternative. Not everyone could FTP to Netscape and download Navigator. Furthermore, uninstalling Internet Explorer caused a cascade of defects, as the browser was deeply integrated into Windows. Microsoft contended it was a feature of the operating system, not a web browser.

The court ruled that Microsoft should be split up, with one business creating the Windows operating system and another corporation developing apps. This never happened. The Redmond based company continually appealed until the political climate changed. Eventually, the settlement allowed them to provide limited information about Windows architecture to third-parties.

Apple is in a similar legal battle, however, they have been much more bold. Able to escape regulation for decades, they have created a vertical monopoly where customers must purchase both the device and apps solely from Apple. First-party apps such as Safari and Maps are defaults, launching almost obnoxiously when a user taps an integration point.

Apple May Allow Default Third-Party Apps

Bloomberg recently reported that Apple may be opening up to third-party developer demands in an effort to stem anti-trust scrutiny. The company may allow third-party browsers and email clients at first, eventually bringing music subscription services into the fold.

The source suggests that even the HomePod may allow direct streaming from Spotify. Currently, Spotify users must beam music to the HomePod using AirPlay technology.

It’s unknown whether Apple will allow Google Maps to operate as a default app. However, users running Chrome can launch Google Maps directly from the browser.

The changes are expected to be folded into the iOS 14 release, which will likely launch this summer.

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