Why Apple blocking xCloud on iOS is complete and utter nonsense

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Shawn Farner

The recent xCloud launch announcement came as more of an Xbox Game Pass announcement; that is, xCloud (for the moment) is tied to that subscription. If you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get xCloud. You can stream the Game Pass library to your phone or tablet in 22 markets beginning Sept. 15.

The most disappointing part of that announcement, however, was what it left out. iOS devices will not be supported to start. They may never be, as it was revealed by Business Insider that Apple is actively blocking xCloud from fully launching in the App Store.

“The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers,” Apple said to Business Insider. “Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers.”

What’s the snag? Apple takes issue with xCloud providing a library of games that it cannot itself review. Instead, Microsoft controls the xCloud library, and all of those experiences are piped in through the xCloud app.

Apple’s stance, of course, is ridiculous. It’s no wonder the company is being scrutinized by the Antitrust Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Take a moment to think about what the xCloud app does. It reaches out to the internet and pulls back data for subscribers of a service. That is xCloud stripped down to its most basic function.

Now think about what other apps allow you to do the same thing, yet aren’t blocked by Apple:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • HBO Max
  • Disney Plus
  • Hulu
  • Peacock
  • CBS All Access
  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Services you can pull up IN THE WEB BROWSER
  • etc.

Microsoft struck back in a statement to Windows Central, saying that Apple “consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.” When you look at the above list, it’s tough to disagree.

Instead of looking at every movie or TV show Netflix offers as a separate piece of content it needs to review, Apple is letting all of those fly by. Apple is doing the same with every song on Spotify, and every book in Kindle Unlimited. Games are apparently the only streamed form of media Apple has any interest in policing.

When you consider the fact that Apple launched a gaming subscription of its own last year, the company’s stance looks less like concern for the consumer and more like anti-consumer, anti-competitive behavior.

For now, it appears xCloud won’t be getting the grand iOS launch it had hoped for. Neither will Google Stadia, as Apple is also blocking that app from its store. Keep an eye on this story, though — Apple has caved to pressure before, and there will undoubtedly be a lot of pressure on the company in the days ahead.