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FTC to investigate Apple's iPhone app rules

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.


By Electronista Staff


  1. Bearcat

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009



    There isn't anything confirming this on the FTC least not yet.

  1. aristotles

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Jul 2004


    MSFT does not go out of its way either

    MSFT does not support development for their platforms from other platforms either or provide support for other development tools other than their own.

    If Apple is pressured to allow other tools, they can still reject any app that uses private APIs, does something different than advertised or crashes. They also should not have to provide any free help troubleshooting what is wrong with the application if the developer used a "tool" to generate the exec other than the XCode/GCC toolchain from C/C++/C# code.

    If you wanted to get help in figuring out what is wrong with the output from a third party tool, Apple should be able to refuse to help or charge per incident/hour.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999



    What's the point of regulating the development environment that can be used when Apple still controls the single distribution point? They can just reject these apps from the App Store and have the same effect. Either this is a big show and the FTC is going to do nothing, or the FTC would have to force Apple to allow alternative methods of software distribution as well. The answer is obviously the former.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Punishing successful companies?

    "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."

    So the FTC thinks that Apple will definitely gain a majority market share? And this would give developers using Xcode an unfair early advantage? I wonder what the Android apologists would say about that.

    "Oh yeah, Apple will definitely crush us all if we can't cross-compile for iOS. We would be at a huge disadvantage unless you cripple Apple in some way. Any way!" And from the other corner of their mouths they will say "Look, Android sales surpassed iOS sales! And our phones can run Flash! We win!!!"

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    But seriously

    First - Apple doesn't have a majority share of the smartphone market. The Android crowd may or may not be out-selling iOS devices, depending on whose stats you are reading at the moment. And, extrapolating sales statistics, you might be able to make a case that Apple's market share will never attain "monopoly" numbers.

    Second - Apple does not need to allow any and all apps submitted to the App Store to be sold through the App Store. CVS isn't forced to sell Long's branded aspirin. Honda dealers aren't forced to sell Toyotas.

    Third - Apple only needs to point to Adobe dragging its feet for a decade in porting CSx over from OS 9 to OS X, then to Carbon to Cocoa. Apple lost sales during this period because professional users, who were locked into Adobe's software, didn't buy new Macs or new versions of Mac OS X. Adobe's software only ran on the older OS 9 or used the older Carbon API.

    That third point is why Apple wants iOS developers to use only Xcode. When Apple feels the need to upgrade their hardware and/or software, it might require only a recompile in Xcode. A cross-compiiler might require its designers to add a new compiler or an entirely new library to support Apple's changes. And, in the case of Adobe, this could take many years to implement.

    Apple is protecting itself from being hobbled by a 3rd party company that can't react quickly when Apple advances its hardware and/or software technology. I don't think that deserves FTC scrutiny.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999



    So, the F.T.C. is moving to prevent monopolistic practices by a company that isn't a monopoly and take whatever measures it can to cripple Apple's chances of becoming one. Or, put another way, the D.O.J. and the F.T.C. have placed themselves in the position of determining the degree of success a company is allowed to have, by their obviously corrupt, bribed, lobbied, bought and paid for standards. Adobe must have put a lot of money in brown envelopes for this one to bite. Scum!

  1. Bermy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2006


    comment title

    cuz the fcc knows so much about app development amirite? someone get this gov't out of all our faces please!!

  1. charlituna

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009


    Apple isn't competing in an open market

    there's an actual 'mobile apps' market, because each OS is very specific. As they probably should be. And nothing in Apple's policies have said that you can't make a whatever version. They just require that you have one optimized for their OS, which means using the proper languages. If Android, WinMobile don't care, they don't have to. Let them put whatever on their devices if they like.

    As for the whole itunes thing, Amazon was the real abuser. They were using their market power as an online retailer for actual goods to pump up their digital sales by getting better treatment than the rest. Apple never said you can't sell on both, just if you allow Amazon to break street date, Apple won't be plastering you on their front spots, they'd give it to someone else who needs it more.

  1. tetzloff

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2010



    why should apple be required to do anything?

    it was never promised that app development could be done in any other way than using xcode. I can tell you about hundreds products that cannot be developed for without the manufacturers tools.

    if you don't like that way a product or the ecosystem around it do not buy it. a manufacturer like apple does not owe any developer or purchaser anything other than the product described.

    people that complain about this stuff just come off like whiney babies that think the world owes them a favor..

    sorry for the rant...

    Comment buried. Show
  1. facebook_Marc

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2010


    So, Mr. Jobs...

    Do you still like Obama?

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