Home Technology Sideloading, interoperable messaging: the DMA agreement will profoundly transform the iPhone

Sideloading, interoperable messaging: the DMA agreement will profoundly transform the iPhone

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The agreement around the European Digital Markets Act (DMA) was obviously only a formality: both the European Parliament and the European Council, which brings together the Heads of State and Government of the 27 Member States, want the text be validated quickly. An agreement was therefore reached this Thursday evening, and it is important since it establishes new rules of the game for the major platforms.

Under the terms of the trilogue between the negotiators of the two institutions and the European Commission, the legislators established which were going to be the “gatekeeper” companies targeted by the text, and the regulatory measures which will fall to them. on the nose. Groups providing a so-called “essential” platform service (search engines, social networks, etc.) are therefore concerned. most prone to unfair trade practices ”) that have a market capitalization of at least €75 billion, or an annual turnover of €7.5 billion.

To be designated as a “gatekeeper”, these companies must also provide services such as web browsers, messaging or social networks with at least 45 million users each month in the EU. Among the points that were validated this evening, the DMA requires that the major messaging services (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or even iMessage) must open up and become interoperable with the smaller services.

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Users on all platforms, big and small, will need to be able to message, send files, and video call each other, no matter their app of choice. Users will gain, but hello technical implementation! Social networks will also have to improve their interoperability, although here again the devil will probably hide in the details.

Users should also be able to freely choose their default browser, virtual assistant and search engine. We haven’t finished dissecting this thick text, but one provision of the DMA is to allow the user of a smartphone to install applications directly (by sideloading) or via alternative shops. Apple’s lobbying did not weigh very heavily even if again, we will have to wait to know all the technical details, especially on everything security.

Europe: the threat of sideloading comes dangerously close to Apple

Also on the shelf of the App Store, smartphone manufacturers will no longer be able to force app developers to use their payment system. Another device aimed directly at the Cupertino manufacturer: the opening of the NFC of the iPhone. The DMA wants to simplify the contactless functionalities to, for example, allow a Navigo pass to be badged with a smartphone.

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If a “gatekeeper” does not comply with the rules of the DMA, the European Commission can impose a financial penalty of up to 10% of the platform’s worldwide turnover, and even 20% in the event of a repeat offence. In the event of systematic infringements, Brussels has the possibility of prohibiting the platform from buying other companies for a certain period of time.

Thierry Breton, Cédric O, Andreas Schwab and Margrethe Vestager during a press conference on March 25, 2022. Image Ministry of the Economy.

One of DMA’s reasons for being is to avoid the kind of practice that Apple does in the Netherlands. The manufacturer prefers to collect fines and play for time rather than respecting the rules of the Dutch regulator on alternative payment systems.

The DMA obstacle course is not quite over yet. The text must now be finalized at technical level and be formally approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council. Once the process is complete, the rules it establishes will have to be observed six months after their publication in the Official Journal of the EU. A priori, it will be rather in 2023.

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