updated 11:30 am EDT, Sat June 12, 2010
FTC to check ban on iPhone cross-compile tools
The Federal Trade Commission is formally launching an investigation into Apple's ban on cross-compiling tools for making iOS apps, sources leaked out on Saturday. Following negotiation with the Department of Justice, the FTC will determine whether or not Apple is being anti-competitive by preventing Adobe Flash CS5 and other tools from creating native iPad, iPhone and iPod touch apps. When the investigation would start wasn't known.
Insiders also didn't tell the WSJ whether the FTC would also look into Apple's exclusion of AdMob through the iOS 4 gold master terms. The contacts did say the DOJ investigation into music practices could go ahead independently of any FTC investigation of apps.
Neither Apple nor the FTC has agreed to comment.
The legal ramifications are new for Apple. It has often had some control over development in the past, such as by making it impractical to write Cocoa apps for Mac OS X without using Xcode, but until now hasn't had devices with market shares large enough to create competitive worries. Apple doesn't have a majority position in smartphones as it's currently smaller than Nokia and RIM, but regulators have said that actions against Apple would most likely be a preventative move stopping those rules from having a caustic effect on app development. If the FTC waited until Apple had a majority share, rule changes might be ineffective as it would give those participating in Apple's current system too much of an early advantage over competitors.
The iPhone creator's CEO, Steve Jobs, has contended that the cross-compiling restrictions were to ensure quality apps. Some of Apple's experience with Mac OS X apps in the last decade was defined by lagged development from Adobe and Microsoft. Their dependence on third-party tools like CodeWarrior led to delays either in OS X-native code or to porting apps over to Intel processors. Adobe and other critics, however, have argued that Apple wants to make it difficult to write easily ported iPhone apps. Under the current rules, developers have to write a separate iPhone version even when they can create apps for Android and other platforms using just a single development tool.