Apple may leave Russia after Kremlin introduces new smartphone requirements

Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media considers the possibility of requiring mandatory pre-installation of domestic applications on smartphones and tablets sold in Russia. The draft amendments to the law on communications should be published for public discussion.

According to Vedomosti news agency, the Kremlin wants to demand that the smartphones and other devices which are supplied to the Russian market have applications from domestic developers installed on them. These are, for example, maps from Yandex, the social network application VKonakte, antivirus software from Kaspersky Lab. Therefore, many domestic developers will have automatic access to all smartphones and tablets sold in Russia.

At the moment, all the smartphones already have pre-installed software and usually these are applications from the operating system's developer, for example, maps from Google (Android operating system developer) or Apple (iOS developer and iPhone manufacturer). Phone manufacturers also include their applications in these packages, and external developers, including Russian ones, can agree with phone manufacturers to pre-install their apps.

Domestic applications can get be installed on new smartphones only on commercial terms, and this applies only to Android phones since Apple does not pre-install other software on its equipment.

At one of the meetings, Apple representatives have already warned officials that the introduction of such rules will force the company to revise its business model in Russia, says a source who was present at the discussion. Microsoft and Intel are also against these reforms, according to Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service. The representative of the Association of Trading Companies and Manufacturers of Electrical Household and Computer Equipment (RATEK) Anton Guskov calls the attempt of the state to control the extremely competitive applications market as an exceptional situation. He stressed that there is no such precedent in the world.

At the same time, officials insist not only on the pre-installation of domestic software, but they also want to demand that the manufacturer provide the users with the opportunity to remove any applications from their smartphone, including applications of the manufacturer. Deleted apps are not allowed to be automatically restored even when the phone resets to factory settings, and these requirements are technically impossible for many manufacturers and can lead to the withdrawal of the large manufacturers from the Russian market, says Guskov. As a result, the "grey market" for such smartphones will grow, and there will be no pre-installed Russian applications on these smartphones, he believes.

RATEK believes that this will affect domestic developers whose business is connected to mobile applications, for example, the Russian AppStore.


  Russia, USA, Apple