back to article Australia starts second fight with Google, this time over whether app stores leak data, gouge devs, steal ideas and warp markets

Australia, already embroiled in a nasty fight with Google and Facebook over its plan to make them pay for news links, has opened an inquiry into whether Apple and Google’s app stores offer transparent pricing and see consumers’ data used in worrying ways. The issues paper [PDF] outlining the scope of the inquiry names only …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "whether app stores leak data, gouge devs, steal ideas and warp markets"

    Yes, yes, yes and yes.

  2. tiggity Silver badge

    Depends on developer

    If you are a small dev then app stores great as removes the heavy lifting of app distribution, update, marketing (to some extent) & payment (easy for e.g. a one man band to make a nasty error on payments if going it alone, having Apple or Google deal with financial stuff gives peace of mind).

    If you are a big hitter like Epic, then its a PITA, as you have the experience and numbers to deal with distribution, payments etc.

    No "scanning apps for nasties" will be foolproof (as always an ongoing arms race vs malware deployers), but the efforts Apple & Google make is better than nothing (in the same way that running anti virus software on a PC is generally is better than no anti virus) and will at least catch non cutting edge malware.

    As a user I have found useful apps (that I would be unaware of otherwise) both by searching on app store, and also by app store recommendations.

    So, trustworthy (to some degree) app stores are (IMHO) good for user and small dev but bad for major software houses (hence Epics legal shenanigans)

    .. thus, like many things in life, its complicated & depends on viewpoint

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Depends on developer

      Yes, the basic idea is good, the implementation over 10 years ago was reasonable, for set-up costs. Now it is draconian for established players and very unfair, when it comes to paying subscriptions and in-app content that don't go anywhere near the app stores (E.g. magazine subscription, where the media is delivered from the publisher's website or in-game currency, which just needs transaction processing, which doesn't cost 30%). Publishers should be given the option of using the app store for transactions or their own payment processors, if they have an established provider.

      Disallowing 3rd party stores and side-loading is also wrong. Point out that the user does so at their own risk and Google/Apple can't be held responsible if you compromise the system, by all means, but they shouldn't be banned outright.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Depends on developer

        At least you can sideload easily (alter a few security settings from typical defaults and good to go at your own risk) in Android, really not easy on an Apple device though, where vast majority forced to use Apple store only.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Depends on developer

      tiggity,

      I strongly suspect this is one of the reasons that Apple and Google will lose this battle with competition regulators. It's suspicious that they both charge the same amount. But in an even bigger sign that they're charging monopoly rates and have market domination - even the big boys don't get discounts. There's no negotiation for volume, which is incredibly unusual.

      They're less severe on bigger companies having control of accounts though, because they know they'd get slaughtered. So Microsoft Office have an app, but they don't get 30% of all the subscription income - and MS aren't forced to do that by in-app purchase either.

      1. DS999

        Re: Depends on developer

        If app stores were banned from taking any cut from subscriptions, what stops every app that isn't free from changing their price to $0 and going to a yearly subscription model? Then Apple and Google get nothing for operating their app store.

        Based on Apple's margins for their app store, if they took a 10% cut instead of 30% they'd only break even. Obviously if they took a 0% cut they'd lose billions as none of their cost of running the store would be recouped.

        1. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: Depends on developer

          I'd be interested in your source for Apple's margins. I can't believe they wouldn't make a tidy profit at 10%.

          They have no overhead for developing these apps since that is done by others, there is no 'physical' network for distribution of the apps (transportation, warehouses, retail stores), and these apps actually add value to their platform.

          1. DS999

            Re: Depends on developer

            Read their financial reports, they show margins on various lines of business.

            You think all the servers and network capacity to deliver all the updates is free? The people working on the review process work for free?

            You'd have a heart attack if you found out how big the cut that brick and mortar stores took for software. When Apple announced they'd be taking 30% developers were delirious with gee.

            The real story is that app stores leveled the playing field between huge companies like Epic and lone developers working out of their bedroom - if they produce a good app that gets good reviews it can get equal placement alongside apps with multimillion dollar development and marketing budgets. So guess who hates the 30% cut. It isn't the little guy who gets to compete against Epic as equals.

            If the current way app stores work is torn apart, I'm willing to bet that what results will disadvantage the little guy because that's the real goal of companies like Epic.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Depends on developer

          Obviously if they took a 0% cut they'd lose billions as none of their cost of running the store would be recouped.

          DS999,

          Billions? Really? Given Apple are pretty secretive about their results, I'd be amazed if you can back this up.

          The App store costs aren't going to be even close to low. Because they've got data centres to run and the credit card transaction costs alone are going to be 1-3%. And they must employ at least a few thousand staff for app checking and customer service. But then sales volumes are high. But it's oinly costing them billions if they're horribly inefficient. Or if the app store turnover alone is hundreds of billions - because credit card processing being a straight percentage, that's always going to go up in proportion to sales volumes.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
            Trollface

            Re: Depends on developer

            yes it cost billions, because Apple has to pay giganormous licensing fees to a shady Bahamas corporation

  3. Dinanziame Bronze badge
    Go

    Break them up

    At this point, it would be easier for Apple and Google to be broken up into several businesses. Possibly more efficient for them as well. I would claim it's even only a question of time until this happens.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Break them up

      "broken up into several businesses"

      Sales, Marketing, and Legal?

      http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20000228

  4. Zolko

    bundled services

    "The ability and incentive for Apple and Google to link or bundle their other goods and services with their app marketplaces

    How Apple and Google’s various roles as the key suppliers of app marketplaces, but also as app developers, operators of the mobile licensing operating system and device manufacturers"

    This is the crux of the matter: they (Apple and Google) can leverage their position in 1 field to impose their view in another unrelated field. Best example being ad services. I think this is very similar to Microsoft bundling Windows with IE.

    It should be forbidden for manufacturers to also be unique providers for the OS, app store and payment services. Keyword being "unique". In Apple's case you must also add "HTML engine". This is basic anti-competitive stuff, should be a no-brainer.

  5. Ashto5

    App Store / Play Store

    The charges are wrong, just plain wrong.

    App Store & Play Store are an offering to the user to BUY the damn device.

    The security scanning etc.. THAT is what the manufacturers should be offering to make THEIR shiny product worth buying.

    It is a monopoly (other games are available) 30% disgusting ... over £1k for a phone disgusting

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Go

    Thanks

    Thanks to Australia for at least asking the hard questions. Nobody else is even really doing that.

    1. RM Myers Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Thanks

      To be fair, the EU has had at least 3 antitrust actions against Google, and the US is expected to file one by the end of this month (just search for "Google antitrust, these have been all over the news websites). Also, both the EU and US are rumored to have active antitrust investigations of Apple currently.

      So far, none of these actions have resulted in anything more than fines, which are not going to deter companies as profitable as Apple and Google unless they are in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollar range. Plus Apple and Google are very politically connected, which makes it difficult for regulators to move against them in a meaningful manner.

      So antitrust action - yes. Meaningful antitrust action - no.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Ouch. This is whole new can of worms.

    I think this inquiry is good, but the process is going to hurt.

    I especially appreciate this question : "Whether processes put in place by app marketplaces to protect consumers from harmful apps are working ".

    The answer is no, the process is not working. At least, not reliably. If you have to remove something from the store because it turned out to include malware, that means that it got into your store before you noticed. So no, the process is not working.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Different kettle of sharks

    The ACCC is a wholly different beast to the whinging Australian/US publishers like News Corpse.

    1. Cat Empire

      Re: Different kettle of sharks

      The Australian Corporate Criminal Cartel?

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