EU suggests phones and laptops should come without pre-installed apps in new proposed legislation

(Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • The EU is proposing a new Digital Services Act.
  • Draft legislation of the bill has been released.
  • It suggests businesses like Apple and Google should not be allowed to pre-install their own applications on smartphones and laptops.

A new draft of the EU's Digital Services Act states that businesses should not be enabled to pre-install their own apps on hardware such as laptops and smartphones.

As reported by the Financial Times:

The draft recommends that Big Tech might be prohibited from favoritism of their own services on their websites or platforms, to the hindrance of competitors, which business ought to not be enabled to pre-install their own applications on hardware gadgets, such as laptop computers or phones, or force other business to solely pre-install their software application.

According to Bloomberg, the new legislation, due to be unveiled in December, will also force platforms to share customer data with business rivals, and prevent them from preferencing their own services in searches:

Due to be unveiled in December by the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, the legislation will seek to modernize rules governing the internet to give platforms greater responsibility for what users post on their sites as well as propose regulation aimed at curbing the power of large platforms.

The EU says it wants to "constrain unfair behavior", and in a separate document criticized gatekeeping, suggesting platforms should not be able to provide special treatment in online searches or mediation for their own services. It also says users should not be restricted from uninstalling any of the apps on a device.

The move would, of course, be a massive blow to vendors like Apple, other smartphone makers, and indeed tablet and laptop vendors who ship pre-installed software on all of their devices as a matter of course.

Proposed laws also suggest Facebook and Google would have to submit to annual audits of their advertising metrics. Reports note these proposals are in the early stages and could look very different by the time they are finalized. They would also need the backing of member states and the European Parliament, so are likely years away from becoming reality.

Stephen Warwick
  • I get where this legislation is based upon. How ever, education especially IT doesn't really teach knowledge that's also relevant day to day. Such as privacy aspects and how to change default applications etc.
    it's the lack of knowledge of the ability to change default applications which results in gatekeeping. The easiest solution to implement is improving the out box wizard where users would choose the default applications for services. After which once the smartphone is set up and store is finally accessed, the apps would download and install. Also an option to have a clean experience without any pre-bundled software during oobe would also help.
  • Agree on the education piece. I've been in situations where I've told someone to open the web browser and they say they do not have internet because they don't see the Chrome logo. They think Chrome is the internet in the same way that some think a PC, or computer is called a CPU. Also the confusion people have with Storage space and RAM when they get messages like you're out of space and say they need more memory in their CPU.
  • I mean following this logic it means that no device should come installed with an operating system. It's getting a little bit ridiculous.
  • Also, laptop/smartphone manufacturers who are also a component manufacturers (like Samsung) should be prohibited from installing their components (like screens or SSDs) into said laptops or smartphones.
  • Love to hand one of these commissioners a phone or laptop with no applications on it. The dialer is an app on a phone.
  • ... and (even more) so is the app store... I mean how dare Google or Apple hoist their app stores on the consumers... the app store app needs to be removed immediately.
  • No the dialer is not an app, neither is calculator or camera. These things make the hardware work. Yes, the calculator make the cpu compute.
    An app is an aftermarket add on.
    The reason we're in this mess is because EU also think that way. They think a browser is an app. It's not. It's a hardware function without which delivery of service would not be possible.
    Some one has to drive a new car into the showroom. It cannot be hoisted.
  • It's still an app, even if it (or something equivalent) is required to use the full functionality of the device. You can claim that any app is "necessary to make the hardware work" in some roundabout way.
  • > No the dialer is not an app, neither is calculator or camera. You don't say... here are Play Store links to the Google dialer and Google camera for your viewing pleasure. And yes, quite a few manufacturers provide their own and then people download and install ones from the Play Store. Google dialer: Google camera:
  • Maybe this misinformed understanding is what afflicts the EU commissioners. There isn't a friggin thing on your phone or PC that isn't an application, outside the operating system itself. The OS function is to support running applications. Some are necessary to preform the basic functions the device was intended for. Some are to provide access to services the OEM wants to promote, and others are there to perform specialized functions desired by the consumer.
  • I think this will make a chaos but I also fund this good so Im not forced to use some specialized app that's looked for the phone company and we are allowed to pick what ever we want on the phones.
  • no apps? so on a smartphone it would have no phone app when you buy it? dumb
  • I like the idea of choosing the apps I want\need at initial set up rather than deleting or disabling after the fact. Apple, with their walled environment, will fight this tooth and nail more so than Google.
  • You know that thing that lets you choose what apps you do and don't want. It's an app.
  • Especially Windows 10. It would be great to get LTSC level cleanness on Home and Pro.
  • Governments continually demonstrate why capitalism should be left alone to do its thing.
  • Capitalism without some measure of outside regulation to keep the markets free is not actually capitalism.
  • The idea of any operating system shipping without "apps" is ludicrous these days. Browser is an app. The desktop environment is an app. Heck, even the command shell is an app. On Unixes (and maybe Windows too), even the way you login is via an application of some kind. You literally cannot use an operating system without some set of apps installed.