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.
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.