back to article UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive

The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices. "When it comes to how people use mobile …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There is a strong case for requiring a level playing field between Apple’s browser (Safari) and third-party .." ...sock-puppets for Google Chrome

    Is that the dazzling light of competition rushing towards us?

    1. Forget It

      Firefox is not a complete sock-puppet

      - in particular it distinguishes by permitting some degree of WebExtension add-ons.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Firefox is not a complete sock-puppet

        Yeah but I'll bet 99% of people who switched from Safari to another browser on iPhone would switch to Chrome. Why? Because once "real" Chrome is available on iPhone, web developers will have zero reason to code for any other browser. It is the only browser other than Chrome or its derivatives with a large enough share to make developers consider it.

        Once they know people are able to run Chrome on iOS they will code only for Chrome, test and support their site only for Chrome, and slap a "best viewed in Chrome" label on it if you're lucky, or direct you to a Chrome download upon detection of a non-Chromium browser if you're not.

        It'll be the IE6 days all over again, but worse since Google has its fingers in a lot more pies than Microsoft ever dreamed of in the 90s.

        Forcing Apple to open up its browser to competition, without thinking about what happens to browsers and the web in general if/when that "competition" results in a Google controlled Chrome monoculture is insanity. If they're going to make Apple open up to competition, they should at least insure such competition will exist by forcing Google to divest Chrome.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Firefox is not a complete sock-puppet

          I'm never going to install any google product on any device that I have control over.

          By all means, sell your soul to Google and install Chrome, but some of us will not follow you down the path to mega slurtdom.

          Apple could offer an 'insecure iPhone' or a secure one. I know which I'll go for and it is not the insecure one.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Firefox is not a complete sock-puppet

            From the "been there, got the tee shirt" department.

            As suggested, there is likely to be echoes of the 90s. I can remember going to sites with "other than IE6" and finding them "a bit flaky", or even finding a redirect telling me to (not quite in these words) "get IE6 or p**s off". Some of the site owners I contacted were "a bit stroppy" about suggestions they support "open standards HTML" as well as "closed and proprietary IE6 HTML".

            I used to work for an IT services company that included custom software in its portfolio. As the token "not a Windoze user" it was a p.i.t.a. having to fire up a Win XP VM every day just to do the timesheet using a web app that only supported IE6. The head developer actually told me it was my fault for not using Windows, the customers all use Windows, and no he isn't going to support anything but IE6. Roll forward a few years, I somehow managed to avoid asking him how his "IE6 or nothing" policy was working when I knew darn well that some of our customers were now using Macs, Chrombooks, various Android devices, etc., etc. and so they had to be coding for cross platform support.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in mobile operating systems"

    No surprise there, they're the ones that created the market.

    Borkzilla, late to the party as usual, tried to muscle its way in but didn't have the balls to follow through. It rarely does when it's not the one dictating the rules.

    Nokia was there for long time, but didn't manage to get to grips with smartphones and failed.

    Competition is possible, but will not come from government dictate. Given the cost of entry into the market, there's every chance that the future competitor on the market will be from China, because that is where it is growing right now, safe from meddling by either of our two incumbents.

    Maybe India could grow one too, who knows ?

    1. mootpoint

      Re: "Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in mobile operating systems"

      It's astonishing to me how much people in tech have bought into the "tech titans are monopolies because they are good at what they do". No. They obtained first mover advantage and now they are exploiting their market power to maximise profits and destroy the competition. It is classic monopolistic behaviour. Market dynamism is down - there are way fewer startups than there were 20 years ago because entrepreneurs know they haven't a hope in hell of breaking their stranglehold on the market. Product innovation is down - without any meaningful competition, they don't need to innovate to keep market share. When did you last see any innovation from Google? From Facebook? The CMA are absolutely on the right track here. When the AT&T monopoly was broken up in the eighties, it resulted in a huge growth in the market, massive product innovation in the telco space and, ironically enough, the widespread adoption of the internet. Bring it on.

      1. innominatus

        Re: "Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in mobile operating systems"

        First mover advantage? But Netscape -> Internet Explorer -> Chrome and Safari / WebKit? Market share allowing proprietary standards and barriers to competition?

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        First mover advantage?

        Aren't people always quick to remind everyone that Apple did not invent the smartphone? Why did the "first movers" like Nokia, Microsoft and RIM fail and latecomers Apple and Google succeed if first mover advantage is a thing?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: First mover advantage?

          Yes, Google are anything BUT a first mover in the browser market. They were pretty much last to the party and leveraged their lead in other markets to push Chrome out there and introduce features which there own other internal dev teams knew about in advance so could use in other Google products before the rest of the market could catch up. Just taking the plays from MS in that respect. Even now, if you visit from a non-chrome browser, you still get frequent pop-ups suggesting a change to Chrome would be a good thing.

        2. Alumoi Silver badge

          Re: First mover advantage?

          Could it be that Nokia and RIM were making phones, not 'please spam and track me every single second' devices?

          1. low_resolution_foxxes

            Re: First mover advantage?

            It felt like Blackberry was intentionally forced out of business, presumably because of their focus on privacy/protecting user data. I can imagine a few groups who may not have liked this, but frankly it could simply have been advertising cabals.

            Apple had some nice design touches, but they weren't the first company to have a touchscreen smartphone by a long measure.

            I'm not sure why Nokia died. I think they struggled to transition from hardware buttons to a touch-screen interface, Symbian was OKish, but the kiss of death happened when they transitioned to Windows phone. Although TBH I quite liked my Lumia back in ~2014

            1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

              Re: First mover advantage?

              Blackberry: They lost market share as their focus was on the enterprise and executives were buying iPhones as they were sexy than a Blackberry. Apple wiped out Blackberry despite not (directly) competing with them.

              Apple: They weren't the first with graphical touch screens. They were the first to do it well.

              Nokia: Were already in trouble before smartphones took off due to poor leadsership & strategy. Nokia's inability to stick to a single plan and execute it well was killing them. Their strategy to pivot to Windows was sane - until Microsoft shafted them by completely screwing up the delivery & upgrades.

      3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: No. They obtained first mover advantage

        Re-read my post.

        I never said that they were good at it, I specifically said they built the market.

        As such, we are in agreement.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: "Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in mobile operating systems"

      Microsoft was in the market way before Apple and Google, with Windows CE. But the unix-based offerings of Apple and Google were far superior, once hardware developed to the point that they were viable.

      They tried to replace it with a Windows NT-based alternative, but that didn't work out.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: "Apple and Google have substantial and entrenched market power in mobile operating systems"

        Microsoft's problem was that it tried to put a desktop UI onto a small touchscreen. Spoiler alert: It didn't work.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    Why CMA is not investigating government who is facilitating market imbalance?

    I mean how smaller businesses can develop and compete with behemots like Google or Amazon, if they get hammered by high taxes and other barriers?

    If small and medium business could pay the same % of tax as the big corporations who can afford creative accounting and tax avoidance structures, then we could see some competition emerging.

    Or maybe CMA could look why government is not addressing tax avoidance of big corporations?

    Sure it should be a job of HMRC and Treasury, but they are full of WEF agents who are protecting WEF affiliated corporations from the tax man greedy paws.

    1. SImon Hobson

      Re: Government

      The thing to remember is that tax avoidance is COMPLETELY LEGAL, and I bet few people here in this forum do not use at least one tax avoidance scheme - even if they don't realise it. Got a company pension ? Got a private pension ? Got a government endorsed ISA ? All of those are tax avoidance schemes - and completely legal.

      It is true that a very small outfit will struggle to match the tax advantages that come with being a massive multinational with the flexibility to move its profits around. But all the same techniques are available to the smaller business if they wanted to take advantage of them.

      The issue is scale. In the same way that a "man with a van" haulage operation based well oop north could not compete with a massive international that might be able to keep moving it's wagons around to support flagging them in a foreign country for better tax treatment.

      Changing the way tax works in an international setting means getting the agreement of (most of) the rest of the countries in the world. That's difficult to do, as at least some of the key players would be losers. And even if you manage to set new rules, you can be sure the big multinationals will have come up with new avoidance schemes before the rules come into effect.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Government

        Making use of tax allowances is legal and encouraged.

        Moving your money to avoid paying tax is illegal. Just ask Jimmy Carr, et al.

        1. SImon Hobson

          Re: Government

          Err no. Moving your money to avoid tax IS legal. Moving it to an illegal tax evasion scheme is illegal - just ask Jimmy Carr et. al. The key bit being that you stay within the laws laid down.

  4. Giles C Silver badge

    The biggest problem any newcomer will have into the mobile market is application support.

    You have companies that develop apps for iOS and android, without the manufacturer support they won’t be new hardware for these phones built, but without the application support there won’t be anyone wanting to use the new devices.

    For example you have an app for your bank this will be available for either iOS or android. Along comes the revolutionary new wibble phone, but you need the app to authorise card payments, without the bank porting the app over to wibble it isn’t going to work for you.

    Yes you can argue that the two main players have cornered the market, but they have done that due to popularity of their platforms, pushing everyone else out to point they have withdrawn, blackberry - now an android device , windows phone - discontinued, firefox os ended up on panasonic TVs.

    To be honest the competition authorities sat on their hands for the for the last 10 years and only now have become interested, the horse hasn’t so much bolted as the last three generations have been living wild and the stable has fallen down due to lack of use.

  5. Korev Silver badge

    "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    How does being forced to say use Safari or the Play store hold back the British tech sector?

    1. sreynolds Silver badge

      At a rate of about 30% less the VAT income

  6. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    It's all well and good ending WebKit monoculture on iOS

    How do you end the Blink monoculture everywhere else?

    Or, for that matter, the Chrome monoculture in general: Usage share of web browsers

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