updated 09:15 am EDT, Thu June 10, 2010
FTC, DOJ may find iOS anti-AdMob terms illegal
US government officials are already investigating Apple's decision to block AdMob from iOS 4, tips asserted late Wednesday. Two contacts said that the federal level has an "interest" in whether the terms are anti-competitive. As it was still early, the FT sources didn't know if the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission would conduct a proper investigation.
Apple's new SDK terms are ostensibly to protect privacy and prevent competing mobile platforms from snooping pre-release data, but many have already noted that the terms are clearly designed to exclude Google's recent acquisition AdMob from the iOS platform. AdMob has already complained that the rules would limit competition by only allowing mobile-only advertisers, giving Apple's iAd a significant advantage over the smaller companies that would remain, like Greystripe and Medialets.
Apple may not have a significant defense against any forced changes. Its reactionary launch of iAd was instrumental to the FTC approving Google's buyout of AdMob as it created major competition to AdMob on the iPhone. By attempting to exclude AdMob or any advertiser for whom mobile ads aren't the largest component, Apple would promptly invert the situation by cutting out Google from some of its existing share and giving iAd an artificial edge.
None of the details have been confirmed by the government or by Apple, but they follow a pattern that has seen official or very likely investigations of the company in e-book pricing, video, music and possibly Apple's rules banning cross-compiling development tools. The company has increasingly been accused of strong-arming media labels and of making it intentionally difficult to serve other platforms.