Apple could face antitrust probe over Flash
Despite user anger over Adobe's exile, is there really a case to answer?
Published: 5 May, 2010
It's not just Google facing antitrust probes - its arch-rival Apple could face a federal investigation over its decision to ban tools that use third party compilers, notably Adobe Flash, from the iPhone and iPad.
Citing unnamed sources, The New York Post reported that the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are currently discussing which agency should lead an antitrust enquiry - which would determine whether a full fledged investigation were necessary. If so, Apple would be required to submit information on its decision to change its developer rules in order to bar cross-compiler tools, seen mainly as a swipe against Adobe.
Adobe subsequently ended work on iPhone versions of Flash, and made a wholehearted commitment to Android and its Nokia alliance. It has not, as yet, taken any legal action of its own though would clearly be a key witness in any antitrust probe.
Many users and developers are frustrated by the lack of support for Flash and the sites it enables, such as YouTube - even though, in the medium term, the world is moving towards native browser technologies rather than plug-ins like Adobe's. Despite the anger with Apple's stance against Flash, many question whether this really is an antitrust issue, since there are plenty of developer platforms and smartphones - and there will be plenty of tablets - that do support Flash, and provide good alternatives to Apple products. Forcing a firm that is not in a monopoly position - Apple has about 25% smartphone share in the US and 16% globally - to support third party intermediary layers could set a difficult precedent. Apple's move has certainly disadvantaged Adobe, but arguably Flash has a more entrenched position in mobile than Apple, and this is a competitive issue, for the smaller company to address via commercial strategy and/or the law courts.