updated 11:45 pm EDT, Mon May 3, 2010
Apple could dodge FTC complaints with SDK change
Apple could avoid a possible FTC antitrust investigation by changing the terms of the iPhone 4.0 SDK, insiders said Monday night. The FTC would supposedly leave Apple alone if it let developers write iPhone apps using other tools, such as Adobe's Flash CS5 or MonoTouch. How likely this would be wasn't described.
Due to the way the WSJ anonymizes sources, it wasn't clear whether the contact was from Apple, hinting at possible reciprocation, the FTC, or another organization altogether. Apple CEO Steve Jobs' criticism of third-party tools makes it unlikely that his company has changed opinions in a short space of time.
The new update as well as companionstories have also reinforced the one-time rumor and now have both the FTC and the Department of Justice potentially launching investigations. Procedures are reportedly at such an early stage that neither agency is certain which should lead or when one of them can commit to any investigation.
Government pressure may be opposed by Apple, which believes that third-party development tools have often held back advancement of the Mac and could do the same for the iPhone. However, developers have criticized Apple for not only restricting the software they can use to write apps but for artificially inflating the cost of supporting more than one platform. Mobile advertiser Greystripe's CEO Michael Chang has explained that writing an app using Flash CS5 for the iPhone could cost $75,000 initially but would cost just a few thousand dollars more to port to Android. Without Adobe's tool, however, developers could be forced to rewrite from scratch and spend as much as they did before. The sheer expense could be considered anti-competitive as it would make writing for more than one platform cost-prohibitive for smaller studios.
Adobe has tried to sidestep technical questions and has accused Apple of political maneuvering to attack Flash. It has said it plans to stop supporting the iPhone in cross-platform development after Flash CS5 and may be giving employees Nexus Ones to promote a personal switch to the more Flash-friendly Android platform.