In a rather strange attempt to defend itself, Apple has apparently suggested developers can easily bypass the iOS App Store policies and restrictions. The iPhone maker, itself, has reportedly suggested app developers could deliver their services through Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
Apple delivered a rather confusing and seemingly self-sabotaging statement to the Australian antitrust authorities. The company suggested developers could deploy Progressive Web Apps instead of going through the iOS App Store.
Developers have multiple alternative channels to reach users, suggests Apple Inc.:
Bypass the App Store if needed, seemed to suggest Apple Inc. in a response to an antitrust complaint in Australia. Developers have multiple other channels to reach their intended or targeted users, claimed the iPhone maker.
Apple suggested there are alternatives to the Apple App Store. The company was initially referring to the other dominant smartphone operating system.
I can still recall seeing WebKit engineers dunking on PWAs and iOS’s historical reluctance to adopt modern standard PWA features. It’s funny now that Apple’s trying to use them as a saving grace 😂 https://t.co/kyoiV5WEpx
— Legomite 🇵🇭 (@legomite) March 25, 2021
Android and its huge user base are readily available to app developers, noted Apple. However, the company continued and added that even the iOS ecosystem is open to developers who do not want to go through the Apple App Store.
“Even if a user only owns iOS-based devices, distribution is far from limited to the Apple App Store because developers have multiple alternative channels to reach that user. The whole web is available to them, and iOS devices have unrestricted and uncontrolled access to it.”
“One common approach is for users to purchase and consume digital content or services on a website.”
— Koombea (@koombea) March 23, 2021
The statements clearly suggest Apple Inc. is very open to the idea of PWA or Progressive Web Apps. These are essentially applications that reside completely on the web.
Users can access these PWAs through any web browser. Moreover, the Android ecosystem allows users to create a link to a PWA on the home screen. This makes the PWA behave as a locally installed app, but in reality, the icon is merely a shortcut to the PWA.
Apple Inc. was once convinced about Progressive Web Apps but abandoned the same for the Apple App Store:
Back when Steve Jobs was still actively involved with the iPhone and app ecosystem, he was interested in the potential of the web to deliver apps and services.
Jobs had announced the web 2.0 + AJAX (now known as HTML 5) development platform. He had even termed the platform a “sweet solution.
This writing supports my latest suspicion: Apple wants to keep PWAs as an MVP, at least as a defense against antitrust issues.
— Maximiliano Firtman (@firt) March 25, 2021
The then Apple Inc. CEO enthusiastically pointed out that apps based on Web 2.0 didn’t require any SDK. Moreover, he assured that web apps could look and function just like the built-in apps.
These apps could even use URL strings to call phone numbers or launch emails, envisioned Jobs. Needless to add, the many benefits and the simplicity convinced many developers.
PWAs close some of the technical barriers, but the biggest is that nobody would ever find it.
When people seek out a new app they’ve heard about, they don’t search the web for it — they search the App Store.
They’d search for “overcast”, not find it, and never look elsewhere. https://t.co/VQysGRtwbu
— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) March 25, 2021
Although developers, invariably inspired by Jobs, started creating web apps, their creations weren’t a hit. The technology and the ecosystem back then were far too underdeveloped.
Hence, Apple Inc quickly abandoned the concept and launched the Apple App Store back in 2007. Apps, available on the App Store, benefit from Apple’s APIs and frameworks. The same isn’t necessarily true for PWA.
It is not immediately clear how well Apple will support PWA, especially now that it claims they are a viable alternative to App Store offerings.