Apple's new app policies spark gov't probe

Matt Bowman · May 3, 2010 · Short URL:

Two agencies locked in negotiations over which will lead inquiry, NY Post reports.

 Apple could soon be called to task for its recent decision to require application developers to only use Apple programming tools in their apps. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are currently duking it out behind closed doors to see who will lead an initital inquiry, according to the NY Post.

At issue is Apple's recent decision to change its iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, putting the kibash on third-party development environments. The new Section 3.3.1 of the developer agreement, which came out when Apple announced its iPhone OS 4.0 SDK reads:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

That can easily be read as follows: "It is too easy for app developers to build a tool that works on the iPhone, Android, RIM, and any other platform. We want developers to spend what little time and money they have on Apple, so there's nothing left for working with competitors."

Of course, that's not how Steve Jobs reads it. The section is widely viewed as the "no Adobe" clause, and Jobs went so far as to publish a blog post last week (a rare occurance) lambasting Adobe for poor stability and security. That sets up the argument that 3.3.1 is really about quality, not keeping developers from working for the competition.

The government inquiry being discussed according to the Post would be a preliminary move to gather information--and would not constitute an accusation of wrongdoing. The move would initiate info-gathering in order to later decide whether a suit is appropriate.


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