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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Apple and Google's dominance of the mobile market under investigation by UK competition watchdog

In June this year, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded its year-long study of the market for mobile software, hardware, and services and the conclusion was that Google and Apple had an unhealthy dominance over operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices. The competition watchdog promised to launch a formal investigation into the matter and is now living up to its promise.

Last week it announced that it was starting a market probe into cloud gaming and mobile browsers. The investigation is expected to take not more than 18 months after which CMA will take appropriate actions to remedy the situation.

Some proposed measures include changing how particular products are sold, demanding the divestment of business units, and working on removing policies that facilitate unhealthy competition.

For context, CMA notes that 97 percent of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 happened on browsers powered by either Apple's or Google's browser engine. The worst part is that web developers don’t have a choice. Apple, for instance, requires that all iOS browsers use its own WebKit rendering engine rather than competing browser engines like Google's Blink or Mozilla's Gecko.

Additionally, CMA has established that 800,000 users of cloud gaming services in the UK are affected by restrictions that Apple and Google place on mobile cloud gaming services.

"Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google," said Sarah Cardell, interim Chief Executive of the CMA.

"In the meantime, we are using our existing powers to tackle problems where we can. We plan to investigate whether the concerns we have heard are justified and if so, identify steps to improve competition and innovation in these sectors," Cardell continued.

The news have been very well received especially by competing organisations whose business has been affected by the duopoly.

Microsoft has come out to endorse the investigation especially the one touching on Apple's refusal to embrace competing browser engines and Apple’s effort to force its browser on users by not supporting APIs to third-party browsers.

Mozilla was the other competitor to support the move and is also urging CMA to look into Google’s dominance on desktop browsing.

Meta is also on the list and has urged the CMA to look into Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) privacy settings which affect businesses like Meta that rely on ad revenue.

Both Google and Apple have already come out to defend themselves and while the former acknowledges and accepts that there may be competition issues, the latter has dismissed CMA’s findings as flawed.


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