Apple iPad is Also Subject to Europe’s Tough App Rules

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Key Takeaways

  • The EU has determined that Apple's iPadOS is a gatekeeper platform.
  • The iPad is now subject to DMA rules that require access to apps beyond the App Store.
  • Apple has six months to comply.

The European Union has determined that Apple’s iPad also has to comply with Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules governing app competition.

The European Commission found that iPadOS was a “gatekeeper” platform despite falling just short of the user numbers needed to qualify. The business user base crosses that qualifying number “elevenfold,” the regulator said, while end user iPad numbers were expected to rise.

The Europe overseer found that typical iPad owners are still locked in, with ecosystem measures discouraging users from switching to Android and other tablet platforms. Business users are tied to iPadOS both due to the “large and commercially attractive” audience as well as a vital need in some situations.

The decision gives Apple six months to ensure the iPad complies with the DMA in Europe. We’ve asked Apple for comment and will let you know if we hear back.

The change requires that Apple let iPad customers in Europe bypass the App Store, whether through installing third-party stores or downloading apps from the web. Users should also have more power to uninstall preloaded apps and choose default browsers beyond Safari.

The gatekeeper findings don’t apply to iMessage. Critics have argued that Apple uses its chat client to lock users in by making them lose access to some conversations if they ever leave for Android.

Apple has previously argued that its typical restrictions against downloading outside the App Store help protect users against malicious apps. It has also maintained that its tight integration delivers a better customer experience. The company nonetheless updated the iPhone to honor the DMA before a March 7th deadline.

The company doesn’t have much choice in the matter, however. A failure to comply with the iPad ruling could lead to fines in Europe of up to 10% of Apple’s worldwide revenue, and as much as 20% for continued violations.