Apple's pleas ineffective: iPadOS on EU's gatekeeper list

iFought the law, but the law wasn't particularly interested in my line of reasoning

The European Commission just brought months of legal wrangling to an end with a decision to add Apple's iPadOS to the Digital Markets Act's list of gatekeepers. 

The Commission said today that iPadOS (Apple split its iPhone and iPad iOS derivatives in late 2019) had been added to the existing register of DMA gatekeepers, and said Apple had six months to get the platform compliant with DMA gatekeeper standards. 

As for what that may look like, we need only turn to iOS, which is already on the gatekeeper list (alongside Windows and Android) and has undergone a number of changes to comply. Among them have been opening iOS to third-party web browsers and third-party app stores, as well as allowing devs to distribute apps from the web. We can likely expect similar things from a DMA-influenced iPadOS. 

DMA gatekeepers, for those unfamiliar, are online platforms with a large enough reach (45 million customers or 10,000 business users, in the DMA's case) that the EU considers them to have a degree of market control. Before the inclusion of iPadOS, Apple's iOS, Safari and App Store were already considered DMA gatekeepers.

The EC was also considering including iPadOS and iMessage on its gatekeeper list, which Apple has been fighting for months. In February it was decided that iMessage, alongside Microsoft's Edge, Bing and Ads, were having their gatekeeper status rescinded. iPadOS, however, would remain under review.

One of Apple's arguments against the inclusion of iPadOS on the list was that it didn't meet usage thresholds, but the European Commission said that was not the case if you look at the entire picture. 

"Apple's business user numbers exceeded the quantitative threshold elevenfold, while its end user numbers were close to the threshold and are predicted to rise in the near future," the Commission said in a statement regarding its iPadOS designation. 

The Commission also noted that iPadOS deserved gatekeeper recognition because it locked users - both business and personal device owners - into the system because of Cupertino's tendency "to disincentivise end users from switching." 

"Today, we have brought Apple's iPadOS within the scope of the DMA obligations. Our market investigation showed that despite not meeting the thresholds, iPadOS constitutes an important gateway on which many companies rely to reach their customers," said EC competition chief Margrethe Vestager. "Today's decision will ensure that fairness and contestability are preserved also on this platform." 

Vivaldi's Jon von Tetzchner commented on the ruling: "This clarified designation shows that, like us, the EU believes that iPads and iPhones are part of the same ecosystem, and Apple controls both as the gatekeeper. They both run the same iOS operating system, even if Apple claims that iOS and iPad OS are different; they are fundamentally the same. The only real difference is the screen size."

Apple hasn't yet responded to questions for this story. ®

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