The Competition and Markets Authority conferred on launching a market investigation alongside its Mobile Ecosystem Market Study report, which found that Apple and Google have a practical duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exert a stranglehold over handling systems, app stores, and net browsers on mobile gadgets.
Browsers are one of the most influential and widely used apps on mobile devices. Most people use their browsers at least daily to access online content such as information, news, videos, and shopping. 97% of all mobile net browsing in the U.K. in 2021 occurs on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine, so any restrictions on these engines can significantly impact users’ experiences.
Computer games are a multi-billion pound enterprise in the U.K., recreated by millions of people. There are already over 800,000 users of shadow gaming benefits in the U.K. Still, conditions on their distribution on mobile devices could hamper growth in this sector, meaning U.K. gamers miss out.
Responses to the consultation, published today, reveal substantial help for a fuller investigation into how Apple and Google conquer the mobile browser market and how Apple limits cloud gaming through its App Store. Many came from browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming assistance providers who say that the status quo hurts their businesses, holding back innovation and adding unnecessary costs.
Web designers have complained that Apple’s restrictions, connected with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to counted costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when creating web pages and have no option but to develop bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient.
Ultimately, these regulations limit choice and may make bringing innovative new apps to the hands of U.K. consumers more challenging. At the same time, Apple and Google have argued that authorities are required to protect users. The CMA’s market investigation will consider these problems and whether new regulations are necessary to drive better outcomes.
Market investigations can change companies’ behavior and restrictions, which improve competition and lead to more excellent choices for consumers and better-quality products.
The U.K.’s antitrust protection has moved to deepen its scrutiny of the Apple and Google mobile duopoly — booting off an in-depth investigation into elements of the pair’s mobile ecosystem dominance by probing their approach toward rival mobile browsers and shadow gaming services that it’s concerned could be restricting competition and harming consumers.
The move tracks a market study conducted by the Contest and Markets Authority (CMA) last year that led to a final report this summer that ended there is substantial competition concerns — with the regulator seeing the tech giants have what it described as “an influential duopoly on mobile ecosystems that permits them to exert a stranglehold over handling systems, app stores, and web browsers on mobile gadgets.”
At the same time, the CMA proposed undertaking what’s known as a market investigation reference (MIR) with two points of focus: One look at Apple’s and Google’s market power in mobile browsers; and another probing Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store.
That proposal for a MIR kicked off a formal consultation process, with the regulator seeking feedback on the scope of its proposed probe. Today it’s approved the decision to make a market investigation — opening what’s referred to as a ‘Phase 2’ (in-depth) study, which could take up to 18 months to complete.
The CMA said today the study would focus on the supply of mobile browsers and browser engines; and the distribution of cloud gaming benefits through app stores on mobile devices.
In a press release announcing the opening of the in-depth investigation, the CMA said responses to the consultation had shown “substantial” support for fuller research into how Apple and Google “dominate the portable browser market” and how “Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store.”
Its PR highlights the strategic significance of mobile browsers — citing that “most” people use a mobile browser at least daily to access online range and adding that 97% of all mobile web browsing in the U.K. last year occurred on browsers powered by either Apple’s or Google’s browser engine — giving the pair enormous power over users’ experiences.4
On cloud gaming services, the regulator is concerned restrictions applied via mobile platforms could hamper the growth of the developing sector, leading U.K. gamers to “miss out,” as it sets it.
“Web designers have complained that Apple’s restrictions, connected with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to counted costs and frustration as they have to negotiate with bugs and glitches when building web pages and have no option but to create bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient,” it also wrote in the press release.
“Ultimately, these constraints limit choice and may make it more difficult to get innovative new apps to the hands of U.K. consumers. At the same time, Apple and Google have asserted that restrictions are needed to save users. The CMA’s market investigation will evaluate these concerns and whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes.”