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Technology

Japan, Europe and US app developers tie up to check IT giants

Google and Apple targeted over their dominance in distributing mobile apps

Digital service companies are pushing harder for the ability to distribute their apps to smartphone users without having to go through Apple or Google.

TOKYO -- Smartphone app providers in Japan, Europe and the U.S. will work together in a bid to curb the influence wielded by tech giants such as Apple and Google, Nikkei has learned.

Japan's Mobile Content Forum, which is made up of around 80 app service companies, will join forces with the European Games Developer Federation. Together they intend to look into whether Apple and Google, both of which own powerful app distribution platforms that run on their smartphone operating systems, are pressuring smaller app providers.

The two organizations will share information on app providers as well as on the regulatory situations and lobbying activities in Europe and Japan. Through this exchange of information, Japanese companies intend to gain an edge in encouraging their government and related ministries to amend laws.

The Europe-Japan partners also plan to coordinate with the Coalition for App Fairness, a U.S. nonprofit group seeking app store reforms. Members include Epic Games, the developer of the popular game "Fortnite," and music streaming service Spotify.

Apple's and Google's mobile app stores are coming under increasing criticism from companies and regulators around the world for monopolizing the distribution of smartphone apps. The tech giants have been blasted for charging high fees and engaging in other anti-competitive behavior, such as favoring their own apps in search rankings.

In the U.S., Epic and Spotify, big digital players in their own right, have taken stands against Apple and Google, demanding app store reforms.

Japan, however, lacks app providers that can throw around their weight.

"In Japan," an executive at an app provider said, "there are many small companies, and it has been difficult to speak out for fear of retaliation."

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