Absence of Sideloading in iOS 17 Beta Raises Questions, but Craig Federighi Teases EU Compliance Talks

The beta launch of iOS 17 by Apple has generated curiosity and conjecture among industry insiders. The multinational corporation has encountered close examination from governments globally, notably the European Union, over claims of engaging in anti-competitive behavior through its App Store and iOS platform. These alleged practices curtail users' ability to download applications from alternative sources apart from Apple. Speculation arose last year regarding Apple's plans to introduce sideloading capabilities in iOS 17, permitting users to install apps from diverse origins. However, this anticipated feature did not come to fruition as initially anticipated.

Craig Federighi, who holds the position of Software Engineering Vice President at Apple, has recently suggested that the company might be open to meeting the European Union's requirements concerning sideloading.

Earlier reports from Bloomberg suggested that Apple had plans for a significant overhaul of the ecosystem of iOS. One notable aspect of this transformation was the potential introduction of sideloading, a feature that would allow users to download applications through other sources outside of the App Store. The project was reportedly led by prominent figures in Apple's software development division; Andreas Wendker and Jeff Robbin. However, it was anticipated that Apple would still enforce specific security measures for apps obtained from external sources, similar to the protocols already in place for the Mac platform. Bloomberg also indicated that sideloading could be limited to EU countries, a claim further supported by 9to5Mac's discovery of unused code in iOS 16 indicating the possibility of location-based restrictions.

Contrary to expectations, the first beta release of iOS 17 does not include sideloading. Apple made no mention of the feature during the WWDC 2023 event. Interestingly, during an episode of "The Talk Show" hosted by John Gruber, several Apple executives participated in a live session. Craig Federighi expressed Apple's commitment to prioritizing customer satisfaction and acknowledged ongoing discussions with the EU regarding compliance. Although Craig did not explicitly confirm the inclusion of sideloading in iOS 17, his remarks suggested strongly that eventually, Apple might introduce the feature to meet the EU's requirements. Given Apple's penchant for secrecy, it is likely that they will keep this aspect undisclosed until the public release of iOS 17 that's coming up later this year.

Apple is expected to downplay the significance of sideloading if it eventually becomes available on iOS. The company will likely strive to ensure that the majority of users remain unaware of the feature. This resistance to sideloading is primarily driven by the App Store's lucrative revenue stream, Apple profits by receiving a percentage of up to 30% from developers for every purchase made.

If the rumors turn out to be accurate, the option of sideloading might be limited to countries where Apple is obligated by law to allow it. However, even in those cases, Apple is not expected to make the process user-friendly for the average individual, as it seeks to maintain the dominant position of the App Store.

Developers can now access the initial beta version of iOS 17, while a public beta release is scheduled for the summer, followed by the official launch expected in the autumn. Comprehensive guidelines for downloading the beta update are available on the official Apple website.

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