Opening the gates: Europe might see its first third-party Apple app store by next year. Last year the European Union passed the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The legislation forbids "gatekeeper" companies like Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their platforms and services, including payment methods. The European Commission enacted the rules on November 1, 2022, and platform holders have until next year to comply.

A service called "Setapp" plans to offer iPhone, iPad, and macOS users an alternative to Apple's walled garden in 2024. The business model is geared more like Sony's PlayStation Plus or Xbox's Game Pass. Users pay a monthly fee for complete access to the company's 240+ curated apps.

Currently, the library is limited to only four categories – Optimize, Work, Create, and Develop. Sorry no games yet. However, some well-known user favorites already exist on the macOS version of the platform, including ClearVPN, project management app SheetPlanner, writing/publishing utility Ulysses, and programming tool CodeRunner.

Setapp includes an AI assistant similar to ChatGPT, which can advise users on which apps best suit their needs. Subscribers can also ask the chatbot about other topics, like how to perform a fresh install of macOS.

Since Apple does not restrict Macs from downloading off-platform, macOS subscriptions are already available starting at $10 per month for one computer. Setapp is waiting on Apple to comply with DMA rules, so the company has not revealed an iOS-only pricing plan. However, $10 per month aligns with its current subscription tiers.

Setapp's other tiers include the Mac + iOS plan for $12.50 monthly starting sometime next year. This tier provides access for one Mac and 4 iOS devices. A Power User subscription is the same but adds three more Macs for $15 monthly. All plans have a 10-percent discount when paying for a year upfront. Subscriptions start with a one-week trial, during which users can cancel without being charged. Users only interested in the iOS version can join the waitlist for plan pricing and availability updates.

It's worth mentioning that this alternative app store is only available in the EU. However, Apple is said to be making drastic changes to iOS that possibly include the ability to sideload software to comply with the DMA. These features may very well bleed into global builds since it's much easier to maintain a single operating system rather than two. We'll see what happens this fall when Apple unveils iOS 17.