The EU Tries to Catch a Falling iPad

The iPad get the DMA treatment too, gatekeeper rules be damned
Apple’s iPad Hit by EU’s Digital Dominance Crackdown
Apple Inc.’s iPad has been added to a list of Big Tech products and services hit by strict new European Union rules aimed at stopping potential competition abuses before they take hold.

The EU commission, clearly feeling like it hasn't been in the headlines enough recently with the focus back on technology rather than regulation, took the low-hanging fruit, quite literally:

Apple Inc.’s iPad has been added to a list of Big Tech products and services hit by strict new European Union rules aimed at stopping potential competition abuses before they take hold.

The move means Apple has six months to make sure its tablet ecosystem complies with a raft of preemptive measures under the EU’s flagship Digital Markets Act.

You'll recall that in the initial DMA sweep, the commission specifically left the iPad (and, importantly, iPadOS) off the list (update: at Apple's request, more on this below). This was mildly strange since iOS and iPadOS are effectively the same operating systems, which can largely run the same apps, with only really UI differences distinguishing the two. But the devices on which they run are different enough that the EU was at least thinking about thinking about them differently. Not anymore!

The EU’s decision to draw iPad under the scope of the DMA will ensure that fairness and competition are preserved, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. She said that despite not meeting all the thresholds for being earmarked, an investigation showed that “iPadOS constitutes an important gateway on which many companies rely to reach their customers.”

Whereas before the rules simply seemed arbitrary, now they're just full on stated to be such. Kudos to Vestager for getting the camel-casing on 'iPadOS' correct though. I'm sure that took three committees and 18 people to do.

Apple already made the iOS-only changes while leaving iPadOS untouched. Now the EU has declared that both must be changed to comply with the DMA. I'm sure this is going to go over well in Cupertino. (Though it would seem the Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch do not need to comply – even though the latter two effectively run iOS as well. So that's a "win" for Apple, I guess.)

What's even stranger about all this is that the EU is ruling (and really overruling) that the iPad is a "gatekeeper" device even as sales have been falling pretty substantially. Well, that may be about to change anyway, I guess...

Update: I tweaked some of the wording above since, as Matthew Ball points out, it was Apple themselves that asked for the commission to consider the App Store as actually five different app stores – the iOS App Store, the iPadOS App Store, the watchOS App Store, the tvOS App Store, and the macOS App Store.

Certainly the last one is completely different than the others as it was never based around iOS. But the others all were. And whereas the iPhone and iPad often very similar app experiences, the Apple Watch and Apple TV are quite different, of course. With the Apple Watch, the app ecosystem is almost non-existent, much to Apple's chagrin. With Apple TV, third-party apps are vital to the service, but the product itself is a niche player in the space.