Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) seems to be preparing to allow users to sideload apps, according to the latest iOS 17.2 beta code, in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act antitrust legislation.
What Happened: The 9to5Mac reported on Thursday that the EU legislation requires tech behemoths to enable users to download applications from third-party sources, thus improving market competition. While Apple has traditionally rejected sideloading, the newly discovered iOS 17.2 beta code indicates a possible policy shift.
The beta code unveils a fresh public framework named “Managed App Distribution.” Initially assumed to be an API linked to MDM solutions for installing enterprise apps, further scrutiny suggests a more comprehensive plan by Apple.
Notably, the new API includes an extension endpoint declared in the system, hinting that other apps could create similar extensions. Further research discovered an unused entitlement that could potentially enable third-party apps to install other applications, essentially opening the door for developers to establish their own app stores.
The API also includes references to a region lock, implying that Apple might restrict it to specific countries, in line with the stipulations of authorities like the European Union.
Apple has until March 2024 to comply with the DMA legislation. However, the tech giant is also anticipated to appeal against the inclusion of the App Store in the Digital Markets Act.
Why It Matters: Apple’s potential move towards allowing sideloading apps marks a significant departure from its traditional stance, which could reshape the App Store ecology. This comes amidst a broader shift by the company towards software innovations, as highlighted in a Benzinga report dated November 13, 2023. The report noted that Apple is reportedly focusing on software enhancements, including generative AI features for the upcoming iPhone 16, as significant hardware upgrades are not on the horizon. This dual focus on software innovation and compliance with global regulatory norms paints a picture of a tech giant adapting to changing market dynamics and legislation.
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