updated 02:30 pm EDT, Thu July 1, 2010
EU could make mobile app operability mandatory
EU commissioner Neelie Kroes in an interview has warned that the iPhone and other phones may be pushed open by new European interoperability rules. Citing Apple as an example, she observed that the App Store and other closed platforms were examples of customer lock-in for proprietary technology. Kroes stopped short of proposing exact measures in a EurActiv talk but made clear Apple wouldn't be immune to an overall push for interoperability by the European Commission, whose Digital Agenda could make licensing and publishing formats a legal requirement.
"We need to make sure that significant market players cannot just choose to deny interoperability with their product," she said. "This is particularly important in cases where standards don't exist... This is not just about Microsoft or any big company like Apple, IBM or Intel. The main challenge is that consumers need choice when it comes to software or hardware products."
What the EU could do to Apple could vary but may have an example in the motivations behind $1.4 billion fine against Microsoft. The software developer was accused by the Commission of both refusing to give out code necessary for apps to support the same features as Windows or else discouraging it by demanding a premium royalty for the option. Apple largely provides access to the same programming interfaces as it uses for iOS devices, but it may have to make it easier for developers to write apps without using Xcode or requiring that all apps must be approved by Apple.
In the US, Apple is already believed to be under FTC investigation for banning third-party development suites. Adobe and others have complained that the iOS SDK rules make it artificially difficult to develop for platforms like Android at the same time, forcing companies to spend extra for multi-platform work and often leading many to write only for iOS hardware.