North Dakota has voted against a bill that world force Apple and Google to support third-party app stores and in-app payment methods.
North Dakota made headlines last week when a bill — the first of its kind in the US — was introduced that targeted Apple’s App Store, as well as the in-app payment methods Apple and Google use. The bill would have forced the companies to embrace third-party options, as well as protect developers from retaliation if they chose to go that route. The bill was touted as a way to level the playing field and protect smaller developers.
Apple, in particular, has faced increasing criticism over the App Store. Some developers object to the fees Apple charges, want third-party store options, want to bypass Apple for in-app payments, or all of the above. Meanwhile, Apple has consistently said the App Store is critical to the iOS and iPadOS ecosystem, as it provides a layer of security that is one of the company’s selling points.
Erik Neuenschwander, an Apple software manager specializing in privacy, underscored the point in his testimony (PDF) for the ND legislature:
The App Store is curated. I understand some of you have owned stores yourselves, so this will be familiar to you: you don’t put just any product on your shelves; you stock your shelves only with products that meet your standards for safety and quality. You don’t want to sell products that don’t work or pose a danger to your customers. And that’s how we run the App Store: to keep out apps that would steal your banking information, or break your phone, or spy on your kids. Each week, we review about 100,000 submissions, and we reject about 40% of them because they don’t meet our standards. And we know that our approach works: research shows that iPhone has far fewer malware infections than the Android Platform.
Neuenschwander also emphasized that customers can vote with their wallets if they don’t like Apple’s walled-garden approach:
And, remember: customers can make this choice for themselves. Today, if a customer wants our curated App Store approach, he can buy an iPhone; but if he wants a different approach without the protections Apple provides, then he can choose one of our competitors. We think our approach is better, but at the end of the day, it’s the customer’s choice to go with us or with someone else. Senate Bill 2333 could eliminate that choice if it required all mobile device makers to adopt the same approach of stocking their shelves without first screening the products.
Ultimately, it appears Apple’s arguments were effective, as the ND legislature voted against the bill 36-11.