North Dakota Senate debating whether or not to force Apple to allow iOS users to side-load apps

Right now, side-loading apps is not the preferred method for installing apps on iPhones and iPads. At least, not by Apple. The company cites user security as a primary reason for that. However, the Senate in North Dakota may force Apple’s hand on the matter.

As first noted today by The Bismarck Tribune (via AppleInsider), the North Dakota Senate is debating a new bill (No. 2333) that wold change how Apple operates its App Store, and how Google operates the Play Store. The goal, according to the state legislature, is to weaken these two companies’ perceived monopolies. The bill aims to change how developers sell their apps, reducing the requirement that they must be sold through a company’s own storefront (the App Store and Google Play).

The state legislature notes that the iPhone earns over $10 million in sales in North Dakota alone on an annual basis. However, the bill doesn’t specifically name Apple or Google in its text. Instead, it broadens the scope, aiming to tackle “digital application distribution” platforms for “general computing”. The bill does exclude standalone video game consoles, though, and dedicated music players.

If the bill were to pass, it would dictate that no general purpose platform can demand and/or require that an app developer use their store, and their store only. What’s more, the bill also demands that these companies do not “require a developer to use an in-application payment system as the exclusive mode of accepting payment”, which would obviously be another major pain point for Apple (but would make Epic Games very happy).

Senator Kyle Davison (R-Fargo) introduced the bill:

The purpose of the bill is to level the playing field for app developers in North Dakota and protect customers from devastating, monopolistic fees imposed by big tech companies. [This penalizes smaller developers] by raising prices and limiting choices for consumers.

Apple’s chief privacy engineer, Erik Neuenschwander, took part in the hearing, during which he said the bill would potentially “destroy iPhone as you know it.” He added that the bill would “undermine the privacy, security, safety, and performance that’s built into iPhone by design.”

And finally, Neuenschwander added:

Simply put, we work hard to keep bad apps out of the App Store; [this bill] could require us to let them in.

As noted by AI, it appears that the bill will not pass in its current form. However, this may be a stepping stone to something that will pass one day.

Do you think Apple should change the way it handles app availability on iOS in general?