If you're wondering what the future holds for Apple's App Store, you're not alone: so is Apple.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in a split decision that consumers are allowed to sue Apple over operating its App Store as an alleged monopoly. Apple has argued that consumers are not actually direct Apple consumers. Instead, they're consumers of a particular app and only use Apple's App Store as a venue for accessing those goods. Therefore, Apple said, the company can't be sued.
The Supreme Court disagreed. And now, consumers who have downloaded apps from the company's marketplace are allowed to sue the iPhone maker for what Chief Justice John Roberts calls "alleged monopolization."
It's a major blow to Apple -- and one that could have a profound impact on the company.
Apple's App Store is the only way to download apps to your iPhone or iPad without jailbreaking a device and accessing third-party app marketplaces. Apple has said that its App Store limitation ensures only good-quality apps are running on its devices. That creates better stability, security, and usability across its iOS operating system.
That stands in stark contrast to Google, which allows developers to sell their apps to Android users from any number of app marketplaces, including those operated by Amazon or Samsung. If consumers want to break away from Google Play, they can go to the Amazon Appstore and get the same apps without ever needing Google to factor into the equation.
Apple, however, is the sole app store provider on iOS. And whether you like it or not, you need to use Apple's App Store.
Developers, too, are forced into Apple's App Store. And along the way, they need to share whatever revenue they generate in their apps with Apple.
Now, though, consumers have a tool to fight Apple's App Store grip. But exactly what that means remains to be seen.
Some industry watchers have suggested that Apple could face lawsuits from disgruntled users that could ultimately cost the money time and cash to settle. Others believe the Supreme Court ruling now paves the way for Apple to defend its stance in only offering its own App Store in iOS.
Such a development could be extremely troubling for Apple. And if the company loses, we could see a dramatic shift in the way we access apps in the company's operating system. Needless to say, it could be a costly problem for Apple.
For now, though, not much is expected to change in the short-term. Apple will continue to operate its App Store and both consumers and developers will rely on it. But the Supreme Court just dealt a major blow to Apple that the company might feel the full force of in the coming months.