EU’s Vestager calls Apple’s decision to delay AI features ‘stunning’

28 Jun 2024

EU commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager in 2018. Image: Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Apple said this week it will postpone the roll-out of AI features on EU devices amid security concerns related to the DMA.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager has called out Apple’s decision to delay the roll-out of certain AI features in the EU as a “stunning, open declaration” of the company’s attempts to “disable competition” in the region.

Vestager, who has been increasingly vocal about her concerns around Apple’s so-called ‘walled garden’ and alleged aversion to open competition, was speaking at a Forum Europa event yesterday (27 June).

“I find that very interesting, that they say ‘we will now deploy AI where we’re not obliged to enable competition’,” she said, upon being asked about her thoughts on Apple’s recent decision.

Apple announced earlier this week its plans to postpone the release of several upcoming AI features in the EU market because of issues it has with requirements stemming from the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is an attempt to crack down on anti-competitive behaviour.

Apple Intelligence, as the company’s AI feature is called, is due to launch in the US later this year but is now not expected to launch in the EU until 2025. Other features that are being delayed are iPhone Mirroring and SharePlay Screen Sharing, Bloomberg reported.

The DMA aims to force larger companies to change their policies to level the playing field for smaller entities. One example of this is through interoperability – big companies such as Apple must ensure rival services can function on their devices such as iPhones.

“I think that is the most stunning, open declaration that they know 100pc that this is another way of disabling competition where they have a stronghold already,” Vestager told the audience.

Apple is currently being investigated by the EU over concerns that its current practices breach DMA rules. One of the investigations is looking into Apple’s measures to comply with DMA obligations, while another is looking at Apple’s “steering rules”. This is due to concerns that restrictions on Apple’s App Store may “constrain” the ability for developers to promote offers and directly conclude contracts.

“I was personally quite relieved that I would not get an AI-updated service on my iPhone,” Vestager told Politico when asked about Apple’s decision to delay AI features in the EU. “It would be a ‘thank you but no thank you’ for me.”

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EU commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager in 2018. Image: Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic