a slow news day, or webpage hit counts are down.
Is it news that the FTC or DOJ is thinking about maybe investigating Apple on these issues - depends (and I'm not talking about adult incontinence either).
Usually talks about initiating investigations result from allegations being made (usually by competitors) referring to one of more issues they have with corporate behavior or policy. Usually it is fairly obvious that there either is, or is not an issue that needs to be addressed. As WilliamG has alluded to in other postings (for example) there could be some question as to whether Apple bears responsibility for "adversely impacting" developers ability to use 3rd party code construction products for building apps on the Apple device platforms. Inasmuch as the government usually requires fairly clear and strong evidence of anti-competitive behavior, there would be a lot of review to determine whether there is actual impact or not. The problem for Apple is that the App Store platform is wildly successful. A part of dealing with that success is dealing with it's impact in the market, especially when the market is not well defined - which Apple's representatives will, I'm sure be certain to call out.
There are some very interesting issues at stake here - how is the mobile device category defined, how is the smartphone category defined, what is (and is not) an application for a mobile device, how is the application space for mobile devices defined, and by whom, is there an actual mobile device applications market which can be directly referenced, or is the "market" hopelessly fragmented due to failure to standardize on hardware, OS and software/application definitions. These are all issues that the DOJ and FTC have to determine. And in doing so (unlike threads like this) they have to do so in a way that applies equitably and reasonably across the entire space, not just to Apple, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian/Maemo, or WebOS in particular. The only common ground established so far has been a very generalized and almost totally useless subcategory of "smartphone" as a cellphone which allows the user to install and use applications for purposes other than (not necessarily exclusively not) point to point contact with other mobile devices and telephones. The rest is still being defined by Google, Apple, HP/Palm, Microsoft, Nokia, HTC, LG, Motorola, and others. The problem for Apple is, having entered the smartphone space with the iPhone/iPod Touch, and now the iPad mobile devices (as they did with the iPod devices), they have successfully altered the balance of power, and the definition of what constitutes a "smart" mobile device, and what that ecosystem should (or should not be). By being both disruptive and successful in driving both consumer demand and wide-spread acceptance of their redefinition of the mobile device space, they have created a powerful platform, and just like Nokia in the cellphone space, that has caused issues for those companies not well-prepared to address that disruption. The response by those companies is to resort to lawsuit to mitigate the impact and to slow-down the acceptance and mitigate the disruption, or to complain to governmental agencies to claim anti-competitive behaviors in the nature of the disruption, as most likely, Adobe has. Notice how quiet Microsoft has been through all of this - they have seen a huge erosion of their Windows Mobile marketshare. Yet no one has asked why they are so quiet. Likewise why are there not additional lawsuits from RIM, Motorola, HTC and others claiming anti-competitive behaviors.
Part of the problem may be (speculating here of course), that no one took Apple's entry into the smart mobile device category seriously. How could Apple, which had only recently built a successful market majority stake in the mp3/media player space with the iPod/iTunes framework, yet struggled to gain any appreciable marketshare in the (much more serious?) desktop/laptop computing space, bring any marketable advantage into what has been characterized as a cut-throat, low margin, ill-defined space like the cellphone market? And now here, scarcely three years (and only three models) later own the most lucrative and successful branding in the space outside of RIM/Blackberry? Against seasoned and hardened players like those I cited above. Was it because Apple built, not just a cellphone that could run applications, but built the easy-to-use SDK, the (sometimes problematic) approval process, the straight-forward delivery mechanism (iTunes/App Store) and a reasonable system of revenue management to developers who used it. That has to figure prominently into the picture because no one else had as strong end-to-end solution. The question we, as owners of our government should ask, is it necessary for our government to penalize such success, in order to ensure that diversity in the market is maintained, even though no other player in the market applied as much thought or effort into created a ecosystem as effective or successful?