In a significant move, 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 comes after an extensive investigation into whether iPadOS holds enough market power to warrant stricter regulation.

The Commission’s conclusion that iPadOS constitutes an important gateway for business users to reach end users highlights Apple’s entrenched and durable position in the market. The designation under the DMA means that iPadOS will now have to comply with a broad range of rules aimed at promoting competition and consumer choice.

Under the DMA, Apple has been given six months to ensure full compliance with the obligations as applied to iPadOS. This includes allowing users in Europe to download apps from sources outside the Apple App Store, uninstall preloaded apps, and choose default services like browsers from choice screens. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to 10 percent of Apple’s global revenue.

The investigation found that iPadOS users are locked into the platform, with business users exceeding the gatekeeper threshold significantly. End user numbers are also close to the threshold and predicted to rise in the future. This raises concerns about the lack of choice and competition in the iPadOS ecosystem.

While Apple’s iOS operating system, Safari browser, and App Store were already designated as Gatekeeper services under the DMA, the compliance changes made to iOS have not been extended to iPadOS. This inconsistency raises questions about Apple’s approach to regulatory requirements and its treatment of different operating systems.

The designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service is another crack in the walled garden of Apple’s ecosystem. While iMessage has been spared from DMA compliance, the scrutiny on iPadOS signals growing concerns about Apple’s dominance in the market. The EU’s decision comes at a critical time, just before Apple’s next event where new iPad models are expected to be announced.

The European Commission’s designation of iPadOS as a Gatekeeper service underscores the need for stricter regulatory oversight in the tech industry. Apple’s compliance with the DMA rules for operating systems will be closely monitored, and the implications of this decision could have far-reaching effects on competition and consumer choice in the Apple ecosystem. It remains to be seen how Apple will respond to these regulatory challenges and whether it will make the necessary changes to address the concerns raised by the European Commission.


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