Antitrust regulator says Apple’s cloud gaming ban and WebKit requirement are anti-competitive

Why is it important: Apple has been criticized for effectively banning cloud gaming apps on the iPhone and requiring all iOS browsers to use the WebKit engine. But now the United Kingdom competition authority is scrutinizing this policy along with the new Google Play Store payment rules.

UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced Last week, the company investigated the impact of Apple’s web browser and cloud gaming rules on the mobile device market. KMA also came out a study calling Apple and Google a duopoly in the mobile space (which points to the obvious, but I digress).

The CMA found that 97 percent of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 was on browsers powered by either Apple’s WebKit engine or Google’s Chromium. Apple is forcing all iOS browsers to use WebKit, which the CMA fears is limiting innovation in web browser apps. The European Union is already preparing a law obliging Apple to remove this requirement.

Concerns about Apple’s restrictions on iOS cloud gaming have also reached the CMA. Apple has blocked companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google from releasing mobile cloud gaming apps unless they agree to provide each streaming game as a standalone app.

That would partially defeat the purpose of cloud gaming and potentially give the Cupertino giant some in-game purchases as well as put subscriptions in competition with Apple’s game subscription service. Notably, Apple does not enforce such rules on streaming video and music subscriptions such as Netflix or Spotify.

Google, Microsoft and Nvidia have been forced to circumvent Apple’s cloud gaming rules by using web apps.

Pending an investigation, the CMA could force Apple to change its rules for both iOS web browsers and cloud gaming. The regulator is also investigating Google’s recently tightened commitments to Play Store apps using its payment processor and thus sending it a share of sales revenue. The new rules led to higher prices in South Korea and put Google in conflict with Epic’s Bandcamp.

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