Just as the EU is deliberating on whether to include interoperability requirements in the proposed Digital Markets Act, explicit details have emerged (link in German) of how Apple’s opposition to interoperability has little to do with security but is mostly driven by commercial considerations – in order to keep users of Apple’s services locked in to its own ‘walled garden’ of iOS devices.
Documents revealed in the ongoing US court proceedings between Epic Games and Apple over terms of access to Apple’s app store indicate that Apple took the deliberate decision many years ago not to make available an Android version of Apple’s iMessage service that would have allowed Apple iOS and Android users to exchange messages seamlessly.
According to the documents, Apple software boss Craig Federighi argued that iMessage interoperability with Android phones simply “removes an obstacle for iPhone families to give their children Android devices”. Federighi is also quoted as saying that it is a “bad idea” to eliminate Apple’s “unique selling propositions” in order to facilitate the switch to another platform.
Interoperability is a technical mechanism for computing systems to work together, even if they are from competing firms. This enables people to communicate and collaborate with others, while being free to use software applications, service providers, and devices of their choice. For Apple’s iMessage, not even one of these three is open for choice: it is built to only work with Apple’s software and communicate via the service and on devices provided by Apple.
Many small businesses, civil society organisations, consumer representatives and digital service providers are currently seeking amendments to the EU’s proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA) to require so-called ‘digital gatekeepers’ to make their core services interoperable with services from alternative providers. This aims at stimulating innovation and increase choice of services for citizens, consumers, businesses and public authorities.
Jonathan Todd is a freelance communications advisor