updated 12:45 pm EDT, Sat September 25, 2010
EU says new iOS policy puts halt to investigation
The European Commission on Saturday said it was putting an end to an investigation of Apple's app policies. Competition Policy VP Joaquín Almunia claimed that Apple had relaxed iPhone development rules in direct response to EU investigations. Apple's move was characterized as proof change could be voluntary.
"Apple's response to our preliminary investigations shows that the Commission can use the competition rules to achieve swift results on the market with clear benefits for consumers, without the need to open formal proceedings," Almunia said.
Microsoft has stood in contrast as it has been interoperability push. Agency leaders had been concerned that Apple and others were attempting the same kind of lock-in with mobile phones that had led to the fines against Microsoft for its control of the desktop. Apple had insisted that its initial plan to ban third-party compiling tools was to preserve iOS app quality, but the move conveniently made it much more difficult to write both for Apple devices and for other platforms like Android and BlackBerry, as companies would need to rewrite and port code themselves instead of simply using a write-once tool like Adobe's Flash CS5.
Along with the app policy, the EU today also said it was ending an investigation into Apple's pan-European device repair policies following another change. The American firm had previously limited in-warranty repairs on the iPhone to the country where it had been bought, but will now let authorized repair outlets handle fixes in EU member states where Apple doesn't directly control repairs. Commission officials had been concerned the policy represented a "partitioning of the market" that artificially locked Europeans into buying phones in their own countries.
Unlocked iPhones are available in France and the UK and have been popular among non-natives. Some have been visitors buying for themselves to avoid carrier-locked models, but a thriving trade has also existed in gray market exports to countries that either don't have iPhones at all or are limited to a specific carrier.