A federal judge on Friday struck a serious blow to Apple’s control of its App Store, giving companies a way to avoid handing Apple a cut of their app sales and potentially upending a $100 billion online market.
Over the last month, regulators in Japan and South Korea have forced Apple to tweak how it manages the App Store. In the United States, the Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the business. The Senate introduced antitrust legislation aimed at promoting app store competition after a House committee said last year that “Apple exerts monopoly power in the mobile app store market.” And the European Union, Britain and India also are investigating Apple’s App Store dominance.
Apple counts on revenue from its App Store to fuel its expansive profits, and the decision could eat away at that money. It was a damaging loss for the company, which is facing increasingly pointed questions from regulators and politicians around the world about its business.
Together, the legal setbacks and the tighter regulatory controls indicate that Apple’s long run of calling all the shots on the App Store — one of the linchpins of the internet economy — may be ending. That could represent one of the tech industry’s most substantial changes in years, as smaller companies keep more of their profits and Apple’s ability to be an unavoidable toll collector slips away.
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