Craig Federighi Discusses Sideloading At Web Summit Conference

Craig Federighi, Web Summit 2021:

Even if you have no intention of sideloading, people are routinely coerced or tricked into doing it. And that is true across the board, even on platforms like Android that make sideloading somewhat difficult to do.

Apple doesn’t trot out Federighi to a third-party conference with a highly-produced Keynote deck for the fun of it. They are clearly concerned that European lawmakers are actually going to do something they don’t want; that is, pass laws requiring them to offer sideloading as an option. On the whole, he presents good arguments against the policy. You can watch the full thing here.

However, one particular talking point highlights a severe weakness that I see in Apple’s stance. Federighi posits that a social networking app may choose to “avoid the pesky privacy protections of the App Store” and only make their apps available via sideloading. Apple’s customers would then have to leave the ‘safe’ Apple software ecosystem, or lose touch with their family and friends. This is sort of true. But what is omitted is that an app choosing to leave the App Store is not primarily doing so to avoid Apple’s privacy standards, but because it would then be able to avoid Apple’s IAP rules.

Apple benefits financially — measured in the billions of dollars per year — by keeping the App Store as a monopoly. However much it wants to tout the user privacy and safety benefits, Apple’s position would be far stronger if cynics weren’t able to point to the money being accrued by the App Store gravy train. The 30% cut is ultimately the driving factor that has led Europe to want to pass these competition laws in the first place. If Apple truly wants to put customers first and protect from sideloading, alternative app stores and the like, it needs to compromise on the business policies somehow.