In a recent development, the European Commission has designated Apple’s iPad operating system, iPadOS, as a Gatekeeper service under its flagship Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules. This decision follows an almost eight-month investigation into whether iPadOS holds enough market power to warrant stricter regulation, highlighting the Commission’s concerns regarding Apple’s entrenched position in the market.

The designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service means that Apple will now have to ensure full compliance with a broad range of rules under the DMA. These rules include allowing users in Europe to download apps from outside the Apple App Store, uninstall preloaded apps on iPads, and select default services such as browsers from choice screens. Failure to comply with these rules could result in fines of up to 10 percent of Apple’s global revenue, or up to 20 percent for repeat infractions.

Lock-In Effect on Users

The Commission’s investigation found that iPadOS users are locked into the platform, with the number of business users exceeding the quantitative gatekeeper threshold by a significant margin. This lock-in effect restricts users’ ability to switch to alternative platforms or services, creating concerns about competition and innovation in the market. The Commission also noted that end user numbers are close to the threshold and are predicted to rise in the near future, further emphasizing the need for stricter regulation.

Despite the similarities between iPadOS and Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, most of the DMA compliance changes introduced for iOS have not been extended to iPadOS. This divergence raises questions about Apple’s approach to regulatory compliance and highlights the need for uniform standards across all its platforms. The designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service is a significant development that underscores the importance of ensuring fair competition in the digital market.

The designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service is a prominent crack in the walled garden of Apple’s ecosystem, signaling a shift towards greater regulatory scrutiny of the company’s practices. While Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, Safari browser, and App Store were already designated as Gatekeeper services under the DMA, the addition of iPadOS further strengthens the Commission’s oversight of Apple’s operations. This decision comes at a critical time for Apple, with the company’s next event scheduled to showcase new iPads, including a long-rumored OLED model.

The European Commission’s designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service under the DMA rules highlights the growing regulatory pressures facing tech giants like Apple. The decision underscores the need for greater transparency, competition, and consumer choice in the digital market, sending a clear message that companies with significant market power will be held accountable for their actions. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, regulatory scrutiny is likely to increase, reshaping the future of tech regulation and competition policy. Apple and other tech companies will need to adapt to these changing dynamics to navigate the complex regulatory environment effectively.


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