Super Webapps

By Mark Nuyens
7 min. read📱 Technology

Both super apps and cloud streaming should be supported by Apple to allow developers to create richer and more diverse applications.

Apple is being accused of anti-competitive behavior in the United States, including its control over so-called "super apps". For those unfamiliar with the term, super apps are essentially applications that offer a wide range of smaller apps under a single roof, similar to how shopping centers offer a variety of stores. In this respect, Apple's own App Store could be considered a shopping center.

Apple's resistance to super apps is rooted in its desire to maintain tight control over its ecosystem, but more importantly, its App Store revenue stream. To describe the situation in Apple's own words: it would "let the barbarians in at the gate."

Critics argue, however, that this stance stifles innovation and limits consumer choice as a result. They contend that super apps could provide users with a more convenient and seamless experience, while also allowing developers to reach a wider audience.

Meanwhile, many argue Apple's concerns about security and fraud are overblown, as super apps can be designed with robust security measures in place. In fact, when browsing the web, there is no Apple protecting you at all. By preventing super apps, Apple seems to be more concerned in protecting its own interests, and doing so at the expense of consumers and developers.

A year ago, I expressed my skepticism when it comes to having these super apps. The article, titled "Everything App", was written mostly in response to Elon Musk's ambition to launch such an app. Oh, and by the way, this was prior to him renaming Twitter to X. I essentially made the point how most users, myself included, would probably prefer to use separate applications for different tasks, such as banking, shopping, and communicating.

However, when it comes to the idea of super apps in general, I can actually envision another scenario, one that is focused on aggregating web applications. These web apps would essentially be accessible from a single app, similar to a browser, but without the conventional browser interface. This approach would be similar to how Apple currently treats their own native apps.

Although Apple's current rules do allow the existence of secondary app stores, developers will need to jump through a million hoops to comply with Apple's strict and rather unrealistic requirements. These circumstances, combined with limiting the creation of super apps, is what's holding back a more diverse range of applications, at least in my opinion.

Apple argues that it has legitimate reasons to limit access and charge developers for using its platform. However, we shouldn't forget how the mobile landscape has evolved significantly since the App Store was first introduced. Both iOS and Android are now dominant mobile platforms. However, unlike desktop operating systems like Windows, macOS and Linux, which allow users to install software from practically any source, mobile platforms restrict users to apps that are distributed through their respective app stores. This gives Apple and Google significant control over the software that can be used on their devices. One might argue that, by this point, mobile and desktop platforms have become notably alike, both playing a significant role in our digital lives.

Determining the appropriate balance between platform control and consumer choice is and remains, of course, a complex challenge. Therefore it is particularly remarkable to witness the actions taken by the US when it comes to making its case. The outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for both mobile ecosystems, and the role of regulators play in shaping it.

Another interesting aspect of the US government's complaint against Apple is the company's resistance to cloud streaming apps, in particular when it comes to gaming. Apple's restrictions on these services have been criticized as an attempt to maintain its hardware sales, since cloud streaming would allow people to play games and use other large software without the need for powerful local hardware like the iPhone.

In a previous article of mine, titled "Streaming Software", I actually discussed this very concept and proposed how their widespread adoption could lead to smaller devices with reduced processing requirements. More importantly, I asked myself why the idea of streaming software hasn't lived up to its potential. Apple's restriction of these types of apps has certainly answered this question, that's for sure.

In conclusion, the US government claims Apple's actions when it comes to mobile are anti-competitive and stifles innovation. I fully agree. By preventing developers access to a more wide range of possibilities, Apple has been deliberately limiting consumer choice and preventing innovation in the mobile industry. Why? Well, I guess the answer to that one is easy: earning a trillion dollars for the sake of it.