Just days after Apple pulled AppGratis, the popular app-discovery service, from its App Store, French minister Fleur Pellerin is calling for the European Commission to regulate digital platforms like Apple’s more tightly. Reuters reports that Pellerin, France’s junior minister for the digital economy, called the decision to excise the app "extremely brutal and unilateral" during a visit to its publisher iMediapp, adding that "this behavior is not worthy of a company of this size." AppGratis was removed for violating Apple guidelines against displaying apps for purchase in a way that could be confused with the App Store, and sending marketing-based push notifications.
The point woman in Hollande's crusade for "digital sovereignty"
The newly-created position to which president François Hollande appointed Pellerin in 2012 is primarily responsible for boosting French exports by helping small- and medium-sized businesses secure financing. But as the point woman in Hollande’s crusade for "digital sovereignty," or applying French rules to international internet businesses, she has become embroiled in disagreements with several prominent tech companies, most notably Google. Last year, she met with the company’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, to hammer out a deal over publishing rights. That dispute, which centered on Google’s displaying of newspaper headlines and snippets in its search results, eventually resulted in the company’s $82 million investment in a French Digital Publishing Innovation Fund earlier this year.
Apple insists that AppGratis ignored its technical specifications, and while focusing on one app when there are so many that provide similar services might seem arbitrary, AllThingsD reports that a broader crackdownn on app-discovery apps is on the horizon. More than anything, the AppGratis case highlights the precarious situation tech startups find themselves in when building a business around someone else’s platform, leading some to ask at what point that platform becomes essential infrastructure.