The Apple WWDC Antitrust Scorecard

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(Bloomberg) -- Just minutes into Apple Inc.’s big annual bash to tout its latest wares, the Trump administration stole the show from Tim Apple. The company is among four Silicon Valley titans facing possible U.S. antitrust probes.

The Justice Department is set to investigate Google and will also oversee scrutiny of Apple, Bloomberg reported. The Federal Trade Commission will take responsibility for probes of Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. Building an antitrust case, if one ever materializes, is a long process, but assigning official oversight is a major step that has already spurred an investigation from Congress.

Most of the Apple developer conference Monday focused on crowd-pleasing software that shouldn’t offend trustbusters. The company presented several new tools to help developers build software more easily, customize their mobile apps to run on the Mac and make better augmented-reality software. Apple gave plenty of examples of how it’s playing nice with rivals: Google Docs will work better in the iPad’s web browser; Microsoft Corp. is designing a new Minecraft for the iPad; and Microsoft and Sony Corp. game controllers will connect with Apple products.

But Apple also unveiled tools and features that, according to some developers, could be construed at anticompetitive. One of them, called “Sign In with Apple,” will let people select which personal information they share with apps and websites when creating accounts. On one hand, it could give officials a reason to go easier on Google and Facebook, which operate the most popular alternatives. On the other, Apple’s decision to make the button mandatory for all apps that provide any third-party login method surprised—and unsettled—some developers.

Other apps unveiled Monday are likely to alienate smaller companies. Apple customers may decide the new Reminders app, which has a breadth of features and comes free with Apple products, is good enough to replace the to-do lists sold by other companies on the App Store. Makers of apps for menstruation tracking or for turning an iPad into an external computer monitor may also be reevaluating their businesses in the coming months.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who helped crystalize the new antitrust craze, said in March that Apple shouldn’t be allowed to run an app store while also controlling the platform. Apple didn’t make any conciliations on that front Monday. Instead, the company said it would open a new App Store for the Apple Watch.

Although Apple came out with several long-requested updates—a “dark mode” for using the iPhone at night, a new Mac Pro computer, an iTunes breakup—one remains overlooked: the ability to change a default app to something not made by Apple. On the iPhone and iPad, emails will continue opening in Apple Mail, links in Apple Safari and addresses in Apple Maps, regardless of a user’s preference. The European Union cited Google’s use of default settings on Android in its antitrust case last year.

Altogether, Apple gave developers and investors plenty to clap about. It may have also given antitrust enforcers a little more ammunition.

And here’s what you need to know in global technology news

“We would have screwed it up.” That was Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s cloud chief, talking about early proposals to acquire GitHub. The company embarked on a multiyear effort to change its perception within the developer community before ultimately buying the startup a year ago.

Huawei and a former worker accused each other of stealing secrets. The Chinese company has a chance to turn around its image as a potential thief of intellectual property during a trial in Texas that began this week.

Many of the proposals to limit Mark Zuckerberg’s power would have passed, if not for the CEO’s outsized voting rights. That’s according to the results from the Facebook shareholder meeting last week.

YouTube’s algorithm makes some deeply disturbing recommendations. New research shed a light on how the site can help pedophiles find home videos and how the system sexualizes children, the New York Times reports.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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