Apple faces growing pressure on how it runs its app store ahead of its major global developers’ conference, which starts on Monday.
The company has been accused of creating “hostile” policies within its pricing structure and is handling two competition polls announced this week.
But he is also involved in a row with some of his developers.
This has now expanded into a debate involving politicians and other major technology companies.
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference often features announcements of new products, but it’s primarily an event for software developers working on Apple platforms, some of whom express discontent over its pricing.
The topic was triggered in part by an email app called Hey, created by developer David Heinemeier Hansson. It had an update declined from the Apple App Store earlier this week because it doesn’t allow in-app purchases, from which Apple has a 30% cut.
Many developers do not offer in-app subscriptions to avoid this withdrawal – or increase the price of in-app subscriptions for the end user.
But not all apps are affected, says Hansson. He pointed to Microsoft’s Gmail and Outlook email apps, which he says are treated differently, but which Apple would not discuss with him.
Hey’s annual subscription of $ 99 (£ 80) is only available directly from the online company and the app doesn’t tell users where to buy it, so the company believed it was following all the rules, similar to other email apps .
But Apple told him that the app should never have been approved in the first place and could be removed.
“If we don’t like the deal that Apple offers us – which is to pay them 30% or to be expelled – what will we do about it? Where will we go?” he told the BBC.
“If you start new software today and you’re not available on the iPhone, you’re invisible.”
The cry has now been picked up by others, including blogger John Gruber, whose blog, Daring Fireball, is widely read by Apple developers. He wrote that if Hey’s problems weren’t a mistake, the decision would have been “scandalous”.
These problems are the basis of an anti-competitive investigation announced by the EU this week, motivated by a Spotify complaint. The Swedish company also questions Apple’s approach to top up subscriptions and the cut it requires.
The anti-competitive probe, coinciding with the line on Hey’s business model, has turned into a much broader discussion.
Microsoft President Brad Smith entered the debate, saying that regulators on both sides of the Atlantic should have a “focused conversation” about the app stores and the rules in place, even if he didn’t mention Apple by name.
Microsoft itself has been the subject of competitive surveys, hit with heavy fines for its dominance in the market with Microsoft Windows and its web browser.
But he said the restrictions and demands placed on developers today are much higher than anything that existed 20 years ago, at the height of Microsoft software dominance.
Facebook, meanwhile, has told the New York Times that its gaming app has been rejected by the Apple app store five times.
Sources who spoke to the newspaper said it could be because the app offers simple games that don’t have to be downloaded in the traditional way – through the Apple store.
Even the president of the House antitrust committee – the group of politicians involved in competition law in the United States – expressed his concern.
“Because of the market power Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents – highway robbery, basically – bullying to pay 30% or deny access to their market,” David Cicilline told The Verge.
“It’s crushing small developers who simply can’t survive with this type of payments. If there was real competition in this market, this wouldn’t happen.”
The committee asked heads of major technology companies – including Apple’s Tim Cook – to attend a session on technology competition. Reportedly, Mr Cook has not yet agreed to participate.
But despite Apple’s international focus on policies, its marketing manager, Phil Schiller, told Techcrunch that the company was not considering any changes to its rules.