Apple vs. Adobe on antitrust: Should regulators dictate what's in an SDK?

Apple vs. Adobe on antitrust: Should regulators dictate what's in an SDK?

Summary: Apple is reportedly facing an antitrust investigation at the behest of Adobe, but there's one irksome question: Should antitrust delve into the guts of a software developer kit?

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Apple is reportedly facing an antitrust investigation at the behest of Adobe, but there's one irksome question: Should antitrust delve into the guts of a software developer kit?

Initial reports about a potential antitrust inquiry based on the iPhone 4.0 terms of its SDK appear to be on target. And now Bloomberg says Adobe requested the review.

As a review the item in question is section 3.3.1, which is basically the no Adobe Flash clause.

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).

Regulators would obviously want Apple to open that up so third party intermediary layers (like Adobe). How meddlesome is this really? OK, Apple CEO Steve Jobs hates Flash and frankly I can't disagree with a lot of his points about the software. Flash does need some work. Should Apple really be forced to offer options when it thinks Flash sucks? Meanwhile, Apple has 25 percent of the smartphone market in the U.S. (Comscore) and 16 percent globally (IDC).

If Apple wants to stump for HTML 5 or some other standard it can. If your iPad doesn't deliver Flash you can always get annoyed and buy something else. Apple simply doesn't have the world domination market share in the iPhone or iPad for regulators to give a hoot. Sure, Adobe has a serious business risk to worry about, but it's betting on Android. Perhaps Android kicks the iPhone's arse in a year or two.

In other words, Apple can block Flash and pay the consequences in the marketplace. The tech industry isn't some playground where the score is never kept (an annoying practice considering every kid on the field can tell you who won or lost and the score).

Call me crazy, but I'm not sure I want the Feds playing around with SDKs. It smells like micromanagement to me and that's dangerous. It's bad enough that regulators are likely to overreach everywhere---do they really have grounds to shoot down Google's AdMob acquisition?

In a nutshell, the Adobe-Apple PR battle is interesting, but the big question here may revolve around regulatory power.

[poll id="126"]

Topics: Government US, Apple, Enterprise Software, Government, Security, Software Development

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276 comments
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  • Apple isn't a monopoly

    not yet anyway, why the special case antitrust laws don't apply.
    Apple's argument about Flash being crap is valid and I as a user is happy with the decision.

    [i]"Antitrust move against Apple would 'sink,' says expert"[/i]
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9176274/Antitrust_move_against_Apple_would_sink_says_expert
    Mikael_z
    • What constitutes a "monopoly"

      what crieteria do you have to meet to be ruled a monopoly?
      John Zern
      • The company has to have the name "Microsoft"

        Wasn't that easy?
        ye
        • Sure ye

          Yeah, that's all there was to it. Cry us a river.
          jaypeg
          • It's funny to watch the defense of Apple as a monopoly.

            I don't know if they can be considered one or not. But the Apple fanboy's are falling all over themselves defending Apple using the same arguments the Microsoft fanboy's used to defend Microsoft. Now that the name has changed these previously invalid arguments (according to the Apple fanboys) are all of a sudden valid.
            ye
          • Actually, YES you do know, or you are very stupid. 25% is not even close to

            90%.
            DonnieBoy
          • what % of the tablet category does the magical device own

            If it isn't 90% already it would be soon.

            After all this is a whole new category right, or for the purpose of antitrust should it just be lumped together with phones and computers so that Apples % is lower.

            I bet MS wished they wouldn't have been narrowed down to just Desktop, throw in all of the servers / phones out there and MS probably wouldn't have been a monopoly either.
            RichHalvor
          • legal definition

            "Monopoly is a control or advantage obtained by one entity over the commercial market in a specific area. Monopolization is an offense under federal anti trust law. The two elements of monopolization are (1) the power to fix prices and exclude competitors within the relevant market. (2) the willful acquisition or maintenance of that power as distinguished from growth or development as a consequence of a superior product, business acumen or historical accident.

            A market condition in which there is only one seller and one buyer is called a bilateral monopoly. A situation where one buyer controls the market is called monopsony."
            U.S. Legal Definitions

            So, if you consider apples market relevant then they are a monopoly, which is not illegal btw....however using restrictive trade practices for that market is.
            desamuelson
          • Neither is 99.4% close to 90%. That's Apple's share in mobile app sales

            What 25%? How about 99.4%? Tell me that's not a monopoly?

            http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/01/apple-responsible-for-994-of-mobile-app-sales-in-2009.ars
            CyberGuerilla
          • Neither is 99.4% close to 90%. That's Apple's share in mobile app sales

            Tell me that's not a monopoly?

            http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/01/apple-responsible-for-994-of-mobile-app-sales-in-2009.ars
            CyberGuerilla
          • They Only Have to Use Anti-Competitive Tactics!

            Whether Apple or Microsoft are True Full Monopolies or
            not, isn't the question Adobe is asking here. What they
            are asking is if Apple is using Anti-Competitive Tactics
            to lock competitors out of their platform.

            No one here can answer that question. That's why Adobe is
            has requested an inquiry. So that can be determined. No
            matter how you answered the survey or however wish the
            outcome to be, doesn't really matter. It doesn't even
            matter that some supposed expert has pre-determined that
            Adobe's request is bogus or will not fly past being a pig
            in the sky shot out of a canon!

            The truth is, if the inquiry is successful Apple will be
            required to oblige the legal findings here in the USA.
            But remember....., Apple still has the rest of the World
            to contend with on this and there are already foreign
            forces gathering to contest Apple's Market Dictatorship!

            We all know the Europeans aren't too keen on any anti-
            competitive Corporate maneuvering and market
            manipulation. So...... I'll be content to stock up on
            popcorn and watch the fireworks around the World as Adobe
            is not going to be the last Software company that joins
            the fray! :D
            i2fun
          • I was thinking the same thing:

            How many *stupid* people out there? Let's see ... raise your hand (and open your mouth so you can put your foot in it) if you think Apple has a monopoly in *any* market or consumer product sector.

            Yep. There are plenty of stupid people out there.

            And, no, the "Smart Phone [______(fill in the blank with electronic device of your choice)] That Stands Out As Singularly Well-designed, Supported, and Developed-for with Superlative GUI" market doesn't count.

            IF it did, then, yes, all you cry-babies *could* claim that Apple does have a monopoly.

            But the DOJ isn't really concerned about that.

            If any of you cry-babies are *not* really as stupid as you sound and really *do* believe (for anything resembling a good reason) that Apple does have anything resembling a "monopoly" in any sector, then ... I'll bet you (if you have any gonads) that this *talk* will never amount to anything.

            It's just a subject for much hot air and wringing of hands by those [mostly MCSE monkeys and IT support people] for whom all this movement away from overly-complicated "POS" OSes and "Beige Boxes" bodes no good.
            brian ansorge
          • The difference

            The difference is simple, the Apple fanbois are right when using these
            arguments, the MS fanbois were wrong. It all boils down to a basic
            understanding of anti-trust laws. Read the MS vs DOJ decision all the
            arguments are spelled out for you there.
            jaypeg
          • You can spin it any way you want.

            The Apple fanboys are being hypocritical.
            ye
          • No.

            Apple fanbois tend to educate themselves and make the correct
            arguments at the correct time.
            jaypeg
          • @jaypeg: No, Apply fanboys protect Apple no matter how hypocritical...

            ...their arguments may be.

            While it is currently undetermined whether Apple holds a monopoly or not the arguments being used to defend Apple are quite similar in nature to those used to defend Microsoft:

            - One can always choose to use something else.
            - Government should stay out of private business.
            - Apple has the right to do whatever they want with their products.

            All of those were used to defend Microsoft and the Apply fanboys found them invalid. Now, that the shoe is on the other foot, they're perfectly valid. Hypocrissy.
            ye
          • We might find what Apple did distasteful, but, Apple is not a monopoly, and

            antitrust laws do not apply.

            There may be other anti-competitive laws that
            apply, though I am not sure.
            DonnieBoy
          • Come on ye

            There's an entire 200+ page court Finding of Fact document that
            explains in great detail why each of those arguments failed in
            Microsoft's case. I've read the entire thing, have you?

            Your basic misunderstanding is the assumption that Apple and
            Microsoft are somehow the same and that their situations are
            somehow identical now. You forget that their basic business models
            are entirely different, Microsoft licenses it's OS and services broadly
            and presumes to be the great egalitarian leader over all open
            architecture. That position came with promises and responsibilities on
            behalf of their flock of developers and OEMs. It worked and they
            became as big and as powerful and as influential as any public utility
            in the PC market place. Governments, Airlines, Public Utilities where
            all using MS software. They promised openness and gained trust
            through that, then they abused that trust.

            Apple has always been closed. They haven't made those same grand
            promises to anyone. Apple is a user centric, highly integrated vertical
            silo of proprietary products and services. They've never hidden that
            fact. They make promises to their customers one at a time. A simple
            value proposition, here's our product, we think it's great, buy it or
            don't. That they've been successful in the face of a true monopolist is
            a testament to just how good their products really are.

            If you can't see the difference here, you just won't understand why
            those arguments do work for Apple. And you'll continue to find
            yourself on the losing side of these legal arguments going forward.
            Find the facts and the truth.
            jaypeg
          • @jaypeg: I'm very well aware of the details surrounding the antitrust...

            ...case against Microsoft. The only reason those reasons aren't invalid wrt Apple is they has not yet been convicted of being a monopoly. Should that occur those reasons will be 100% invalid...just like Microsoft. Yet we'll find the Apple fanboys whining about how Apple was unfairly treated by the government.

            It is no different...well...save for the name.
            ye
          • Notice the hypocrisy here

            Windoze fanbuis come out in gleeful support of Adobe when it comes to Apple choosing not to support it on the iPad.

            And then in the next sentence, they bemoan Adobe with it's lack of security and call it a piece of crap when it comes to windoze installations.

            So which is it, hypocrites?
            ubiquitous one