Apple won’t be forced to open iMessage to competitors, EU rules, as it also allows three Microsoft services to disconnect from DMA


Apple will not be required to make iMessage interact with WhatsApp and other email rivals after all, nor will Microsoft face tighter controls on how it can operate its Bing search engine in the European Union after the bloc’s lawmakers concluded that the services did not meet the criteria for designation under the law. Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The Commission also said today that it closed two other market investigations – into Microsoft’s Edge web browser and the online advertising service Microsoft Advertising – without concluding that they should be designated as “core platform services” under the regulation. The decisions therefore mean that there is no expansion of the initial list of 22 core platform services. Commission announced last year.

Apple and Microsoft have both been confirmed as “custodians” of the DMA for a total of five core platform services. last fall — when Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, its App Store and its Safari web browser, as well as the Windows operating system and Microsoft’s LinkedIn social network, were designated as falling within the scope of application of ex ante regulation on competition.

The pan-European regulation imposes interoperability requirements on relevant messaging applications and, more broadly, enforces a set of initial obligations and requirements on how access control giants can operate designated services.

At the time of the initial designations, the Commission announced that it would open an investigation to examine the arguments of the two tech giants respectively claiming that iMessage (in the case of Apple) and Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising (in the case of Microsoft) should not be added to the list of regulated core platform services.

Pan-European regulations set a usage bar of more than 45 million monthly active users (and 10,000 business users) for service designation and both men had claimed that the services in question were not popular enough – including including, in Apple’s case, claiming that iMessage business users were actually using a separate product.

The Commission had given itself a maximum period of five months to examine the two men’s arguments against new designations and conclude the investigation. So, in this case, he took the entire allocation, claiming that he had adopted the decisions yesterday.

Apple and Microsoft have been contacted for comment on the designation reprieves for iMessage, Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising respectively.

At press time, Microsoft could not be contacted, but an Apple spokesperson sent us this statement, welcoming the development:

We thank the Commission for agreeing with us that iMessage should not be designated under the DMA. iMessage is a great service that Apple users love because it provides an easy way to communicate with friends and family while providing industry-leading privacy and security protections. Consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps and often use several at once, showing how easy it is to switch between them.

The decisions not to designate the four additional services remain valid for now. But the Commission’s press release states that it “will continue to monitor market developments in relation to these services, if substantial changes occur”, implying that notable changes in market share could trigger a revaluation.

Gatekeepers, including Apple and Microsoft, are expected to ensure that designated core platform services comply with DMA rules by March 7. That’s why in recent weeks we’ve seen a series of announcements and changes from tech giants claiming to have their services ready for the deadline.

It remains to be seen whether they are actually compliant – it will be up to the Commission, which applies the DMA to access controllers, to determine. (NB: Penalties for violating the regime can reach 10% of global annual turnover, or 20% for repeat offenders.)


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