Kaspersky joins Spotify in the Apple antitrust allegations
In the latest twist to the saga, Apple comes under fire for allegedly stifling the parental control market on its App Store
First Spotify and now Kaspersky, the antitrust allegations begin to mount against Apple which will now have to fight two European authorities that will investigate its practices on the App Store.
The recent claims echo the points made by Senator Warren about how big tech companies must be broken up in order to maintain a level playing field.
Read below for the updates to the saga.
Latest Apple antitrust news
20/03/2019 - Kaspersky joins Spotify in the Apple antitrust allegations
Kaspersky has become the latest company to bring antitrust allegations to Apple regarding its supposed monopoly on the iOS App Store.
This claim relates to the security vendor's 'Kaspersky Safe Kids' app for iOS and how the firm recently received a notice from Apple saying some of its features no longer meet the App Store's guidelines, despite being listed on the store for nearly three years.
The features in question are the app control feature and the built-in, secure and child-friendly browser.
"Both features are essential," said Kaspersky. "The first allows parents to specify which apps kids cannot run based on the App Store's age restrictions and the second allows the hiding of all browsers on the device."
"[This is so] kids can open web pages only in Kaspersky Safe Kids' built-in secure browser, which protects them from unsafe content," it added.
The app maker's concern is that by removing these core features, parents will be let down by their expectations for the product which could deter further downloads. Kaspersky's app is still available on the App Store but failure to comply with Apple's demands will likely see the app removed.
The antitrust allegations refer to Apple's alleged protection of its 'Screen Time' feature first introduced in iOS 12 which allows users to track their screen time and study the activity spent on the device during the week.
"This feature allows users to monitor the amount of time they spend using certain apps or on certain websites, and set time restrictions," said Kaspersky. "It is essentially Apple's own app for parental control."
Kaspersky said that it has repeatedly tried to contact Apple to resolve this problem but these attempts have resulted in no meaningful discussions on the matter.
That's why the security firm has taken to formal arbitration, filing an official complaint with the Russain Federal Antimonopoly Service which is the government's arm for controlling the execution of antitrust law.
The news comes just days after Spotify launched a complaint at Apple for the same reasons, claiming that the App Store was favouring Apple Music and stifling rival competition.
15/03/2019: Apple takes the offensive on Spotify's short-sighted claims
Apple has responded today to Spotify's antitrust claims and has gone on the offensive, categorically disagreeing with Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek's statement that Spotify isn't "seeking special treatment".
"Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem - including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store's customers - without making any contributions to that marketplace," Apple said.
This preceded a sly dig at Spotify's business model, perhaps with an implied comparison to Apple Music's own streaming service, saying that Spotify makes "ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians and songwriters who create [the music it distributes]".
Apple wanted to address a few key points in Spotify's claims. The first of which related to Spotify saying that Apple blocked access to its products and updates to its app on the App Store.
Spotify originally claimed that Apple blocked it's "experience-enhancing upgrades", to which Apple said it had approved nearly 200 of Spotify's updates which led to over 300 million downloaded copies of the app.
"The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows," said Apple in a blog post.
Apple said it has approached Spotify regarding the Siri and AirPlay compatibility, to which Spotify has said it's working on it. The claims about the excluding Spotify from the Apple Watch were "surprising" to Apple, which clarified that Spotify was currently ranked number one on the Apple Watch app chart for the music category.
Apple then went on to clear up how it charges apps on the app store. According to the blog post, free apps don't pay Apple - apps that exclusively make money from advertising. Apps that generate revenue from other sources, or paid apps make a 30% contribution like Spotify said, but only for the first year of distribution, that contribution drops to 15% thereafter.
"Spotify wouldn't be the business they are today without the App Store ecosystem," Apple said.
That's quite a claim from Apple, from but it doesn't stop there. The tech giant continues to berate Spotify for failing the music industry, as well as Apple who helped catapult the product into worldwide popularity.
"Spotify's aim is to make more money off others' work. And it's not just the App Store that they're trying to squeeze - it's also artists, musicians and songwriters," read the blog post.
"Just this week, Spotify sued music creators after a decision by the US Copyright Royalty Board required Spotify to increase its royalty payments. This isn't just wrong, it represents a real, meaningful and damaging step backwards for the music industry."
It's clear that Apple isn't going to take these allegations lightly, adopting the stance that it enables other brands to grow exponentially while only asking for a small slice of the cake.
13/03/2019: Spotify forces Apple to confront antitrust accusations
Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple to the European Commission (EC) based on its alleged monopoly on its App Store, stifling competition in the music streaming market.
The complaint is based on claims that Apple has introduced certain rules in recent years that put rival developers in an economic and competitive disadvantage, to the expense of not only other streaming companies but to the user and their experience too.
Spotify said that it had attempted to resolve the issue directly with Apple to no avail, which is why it approached the EC, the regulatory body responsible for maintaining fair competition, for some authority on the matter.
The complaint focusses on the 30% tax Apple charges developers for using its in-app purchasing system (IAP) which includes upgrading from the Free Spotify version to its paid, subscription-based Premium' account which gives users an ad-free experience.
Charging the tax forced Spotify to raise its subscription fee from its initial price of 9.99, to 12.99 just as Apple Music launched for Spotify's initial 9.99 price, according to Spotify's general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.
He also said that the company was pressured into using Apple's billing system in 2014 but then detached itself from the program so users can only upgrade through indirect means, such as through Spotify's web page accessed by a laptop.
"We aren't seeking special treatment," said Daniel Ek, founder and CEO of Spotify in a blog post. "We simply want the same treatment as numerous other apps on the App Store, like Uber or Deliveroo, who aren't subject to the Apple tax and therefore don't have the same restrictions."
Apple also has a contingency plan for those, like Spotify, which are considering leaving its IAP. According to Ek, forgoing Apple's IAP leads to the limitation of communications with customers by the tech giant.
Ek also claims that Apple has blocked its "experience-enhancing upgrades" which has resulted in Spotify being excluded from integration with Siri, HomePod and Apple Watch.
Spotify is requesting three changes to Apple's operations:
- First, apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions--including Apple Music.
- Second, consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be "locked in" or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple's.
- Finally, app stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.
"Competition pushes us to evolve and improve both the customer and creator experience," said Ek. "It's not something we ever have, or will, shy away from. So, let me be clear that this is not a Spotify-versus-Apple issue. We want the same fair rules for companies young and old, large and small. It is about supporting and nurturing the healthy ecosystem that made our two companies successful in the first place."
IT Pro has approached Apple for comment but the company has yet to reply.
The news couldn't come in a more timely manner, at least that's what Senator Warren could be thinking. Earlier this week we reported on how Warren seeks to break up big tech companies from monopolising their markets and stifling innovation from rivals.
She made proposals for the restructuring of companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, but the one she made against Apple seems quite fitting. She opined that Apple should not be allowed to both host its App Store while also hosting its own apps on the platform.
A day after her proposals were reported, Facebook was caught red-handed blocking Warren's campaign posts made on the platform, the same site that she suggested should be disbanded from its WhatsApp and Instagram arms.
Facebook restored her posts, but not before she took to Twitter to vent her annoyance.
If Warren gets her way, cases like the one Spotify has brought to Apple could be a thing of the past and there could be a rise in smaller companies coming to the fore with exciting products before the bigger firms are able to swallow them in antitrust mergers.
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