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EU hits back at Apple withholding Apple Intelligence from the region

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission

European Union chief Margrethe Vestager says that Apple refusing to launch Apple Intelligence or iPhone screen mirroring in the EU is a “stunning declaration” of how anti-competitive the company is.

On June 21, 2024, Apple announced that it will not be releasing either Apple Intelligence or iPhone Mirroring for users in the EU. At the time, Apple said that it “was committed to collaborating with the European Commission” to launch the features, but has security concerns because of requirements of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The European Union did not immediately respond publicly. However, its antitrust executive Margrethe Vestager was directly asked about it in an interview at the Forum Europa conference in Brussels.

“So Apple have said that they will not launch their new enabled features in the IRS environment, and they say that they will not do that because of the obligations that they have in Europe,” said Vestager. “And the obligations that they have in Europe, it is to be open for competition, that is sort of the short version of the DMA.”

“And I find that very interesting, that they say we will now deploy AI where we’re not obliged to enable competition,” she continued. “I think that is the most sort of stunning, open declaration that they know 100% that this is another way of disabling competition, where they have a stronghold already.”

To be fair to Vestager, this was one brief response in a Q&A session and she was not pressed for any details. It also wasn’t a well-informed forum as the host reading the audience’s question struggled to understand either what Apple Intelligence was, or the term “walled garden.”

In her response, Vestager seems to have omitted the fact that Apple has explicitly stated that it wants to bring the features to the region. In its announcement, Apple said it was “highly motivated” to bring the features to the EU, but the DMA includes “regulatory uncertainties.”

“Specifically, we are concerned that the interoperability requirements of the DMA could force us to compromise the integrity of our products in ways that risk user privacy and data security,” said Apple. “We are committed to collaborating with the European Commission in an attempt to find a solution that would enable us to deliver these features to our EU customers without compromising their safety.”

Apple’s iPhone Mirroring, for example, appears to use Device Attestation. This is complex, but essentially means both Mac and iPhone know precisely what device is on both sides of a connection, and that the user is who they say that they are based on biometrics or passwords. DMA requirements would require Apple to make this work with Android, which is where Apple’s security concerns come in.

Then Apple offering its Apple Intelligence only on the iPhone also has DMA implications, given that it only works on Apple devices. From previous statements including ones to AppleInsider, it’s known that Apple has been continually working with the EU on its responses to the DMA, so it’s reasonable to assume that will continue.

As the DMA stands, there is no equivalency requirement, where Apple has to offer the same features to the EU that it does in the US, or vice versa. So, Vestager can say that she doesn’t like it all she wants, but there’s nothing at present that can force Apple to change their tune.

However, separately, the EU has also told Apple that it believes the company is failing to comply with the DMA with compliance steps that it has already taken. Vestager previously said the EU has “serious issues” with Apple, and it is continuing to investigate concerns including anti-competitive actions.

The announcement of these preliminary findings over non-compliance follow the EU’s decision to fine Apple $2 billion over allegedly favoring its own Apple Music service over the far more successful rival, Spotify.