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Apple’s iOS third-party app store may be launched in the EU, developers are not very excited

Apple plans to introduce a third-party app store on its platform in order to meet new EU Digital Marketplace Act regulations, the company said. AppleInsider asked a number of developers for their thoughts on the matter, and while some are excited about it, many are equally nervous.

While Apple is still strongly opposed to being forced to introduce a third-party app store, it is preparing for the change. Apple’s software and services engineers are believed to be preparing for the Digital Marketplace Act to take effect, which could require Apple to introduce a third-party app store by 2024.

Overall, developers seem to be at least accepting of such a shift. In some cases, there is a lot of interest in what a third-party app store might bring. But among many developers who have been in the business longer, they appear to be more cautious.

Excited about the future
Mykola Savin, chief product manager at Setapp, said, “We at Setapp are excited about the news that Apple is preparing to introduce a third-party app store on the iPhone, even though this shift will initially be implemented only in the European Union.”

Setapp was originally a subscription service for Mac apps, but it has always tried to include more iOS apps. Today, Setapp can already be considered a third-party app store.

Setapp is really a third-party app store for the Mac, designed to benefit both users and developers,” Savin continued. For users, Setapp offers a different way to consume and manage apps, with a fixed-fee subscription that gives access to a collection of frequently used apps.”

Savin said there are more than 240 Mac apps on Setapp, but only 37 iOS apps, and all of those are iOS versions of cross-platform Mac apps. We are currently restricted by Apple from adding iOS-only apps to the platform,” he said. We’re happy to act as an alternative to Apple’s App Store because that’s what our users and the iOS developers who apply to Setapp desire.”

Just as Setapp saw the advantages of separating Mac and iOS apps, the developers behind Luna Display saw an opportunity for the company to combine hardware and software. luna Display allows Mac, iPad and PC users to share each device’s screen with other devices.

I want to see the iPad and iPhone open up to third-party app stores,” said Matt Rouge, founder of Luna Display. I firmly believe that competition creates more choices for consumers. And as it stands now, the Apple App Store has no competitors.”

He explained, “Right now, if you sell a particular hardware product that is compatible with an app, you need to distribute the app through the Apple App Store. This is inconvenient because without the hardware, the apps simply won’t work! In the case of our service, we had to build a special ‘virtual’ hardware model to get the app past Apple’s app review. So, why do we have to publish apps through the Apple App Store? Wouldn’t it be better if we could download them directly from our Web site!”

Ruger said this would also allow companies like Luna Display to keep older versions of their apps, which is “impossible” to do through the Apple App Store. In addition to his own company, Ruger believes that an app store with a much lower commission than Apple’s 30 percent might inspire more innovation.

Ruger asked, “What kind of new applications might emerge? What would happen if some of the beta apps or experimental features that aren’t allowed to be released in the Apple App Store came out? Would we be able to experiment and innovate more quickly? Would we be able to launch new experimental features faster?”

Apple’s current app store is not bad

Of course, not everyone is interested in the arrival of a third-party app store. Developer teams like the Omni Group remember the high costs involved in selling CD-ROM software through retail stores, and they ultimately don’t expect much change in the Apple ecosystem.

It’s hard to say what impact the Digital Marketplace Act will have overall, but I don’t expect it to have much of an impact on our specific software releases,” said Omni Group CTO Greg Titus. “Omni’s productivity apps are a good example of what the Apple App Store is all about. Overall, we are very pleased with the support we have received from Apple and the way our apps are being sold through their app store.”

James Thomson, the developer of the full-featured scientific calculator PCalc, further predicts that users will continue to use Apple’s App Store. Personally, I don’t think it makes much sense for us to bring in a third-party app store,” he said. When we sell PCalc directly on the Mac App Store and on our own website, we see over 80 percent of people choosing to buy through the Apple App Store.”

Thomson continued, “While there is a lot of additional paperwork to do, it doesn’t make much sense to sell through other app stores, and I really don’t think it makes much sense to do so in the future. Of course, we won’t do anything that might conflict with app reviews, and different types of apps will have different considerations, but I don’t think we’ll turn to other app stores, even if they’re available.”

A threat to Apple’s business?
Third-party app stores will benefit some companies, while probably not having much of an impact on others. But the question is, will it have an impact on customers or on Apple?

Setapp’s Savin says, “I don’t see third-party app stores as a threat to Apple’s business, either from a revenue or security perspective. We can look at Android, and sideloading doesn’t have much of an impact on Google Play. And, Mac computers have always allowed sideloading of apps for a long time.”

He continued, “We know from Setapp’s recent Mac App Report that for most Mac users, the Apple App Store remains the most popular and trusted way to find and get the latest apps. I think the situation is similar for iOS users, and the introduction of a third-party app store won’t make much difference.”

Thomson, whose PCalc has been on the market for more than 30 years and is available on the Apple App Store on a variety of platforms, from iOS to Apple TV 4K, is more concerned about the threat to developers. He said, “My main concern is that if Apple does open sideloading in a broader way, it will lead to a proliferation of pirated apps on iOS, like we see on the Mac today.”

As a result, some developers are excited about Apple’s introduction of a third-party app store, while others are wary. All agree, however, that the shift is still in its early stages.

According to Omni CEO Ken Case, “I have more questions to answer about how the Digital Marketplace Act might affect Apple’s platform. It may make the app distribution process on iOS more like MacOS, but just how similar remains to be seen.”

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