UK officially launches probe into mobile browser dominance by Apple and Google


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As part of its ongoing antitrust march against high tech, the UK has announced that it will next look into Apple and Google's control of the mobile browser market. special attention is paid to mobile games.

On Tuesday, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it would be looking into the mobile browser situation. In particular, during the comment period that began in June 2022, a large number of responses were received from “browser vendors, web developers and cloud gaming service providers” who stated that control is a problem, hinders innovation and increases costs.

“Many UK companies and web developers tell us that they feel they are being held back by the restrictions imposed by Apple and Google. When the new digital markets regime is introduced, it is likely to solve problems like this.”, said interim CMA chief Sarah Cardell. “In the meantime, we use our existing powers to solve problems where possible. We plan to find out if the concerns we heard are justified and, if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors.”

The announcement clarifies that one aspect of the investigation will be cloud gaming. It's not entirely clear why the investigation includes this as part of the browser review, since Apple's gaming restrictions don't exist in Safari.

Apple is banning cloud gaming through the App Store unless each streaming game has its own content viewer app. Central library apps are allowed to match all of these separate listings, but submitting hundreds or thousands of games individually is certainly not ideal for game streaming companies.

Other factors cited in the investigation are “perceived under-investment in browser technology” leading to additional costs for developers forcing developers to create mobile apps to solve problems. At first glance, this seems to contradict the mobile gaming aspect of the investigation.

In addition to mobile gaming, the CMA is also looking at unspecified other factors in the mobile browser market.

“Ultimately, these restrictions limit choice and could make it harder to deliver innovative apps to UK consumers,” the CMA said in a statement. “At the same time, Apple and Google argue that the restrictions are necessary to protect users.”

Prominent vendors supporting the investigation include DuckDuckGo, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Meta, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Vodaphone. Google and Apple have maintained their own positions, mainly based on security and other user experience issues.

UK regulations require that market research must be completed within 18 months of application. The UK CMA has the power to impose fines etc. on businesses that do not comply.

The CMA says it will be able to address these issues in the future “most effectively” with the authority it may or may not have through its digital markets division. This division was announced in 2020, launched 60 employees in 2021, and remains under the auspices of the CMA, although it still has no regulatory authority or authority.

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