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Pending EU legislation may force Apple to open up its platform to rivals like Adobe.
Change in antitrust laws could have serious implications for many other companies as well

The European Union's European Commission, under the guidance of commissioner Neelie Kroes, has had no qualms with slamming U.S firms with massive antitrust fines.  Now it's preparing a massive new initiative which just may have a major effect on some U.S. firms.

The new measure, called the Digital Agenda, raises many points, but one of the most significant is to redefine what companies can be subject to scrutiny over abuse of their market position.  The Agenda looks to change the necessary language from "dominant" to "significant".  Its text, found here, includes the passage:

Since not all pervasive technologies are based on standards the benefits of interoperability risk being lost in such areas. The Commission will examine the feasibility of measures that could lead significant market players to license interoperability information while at the same time promoting innovation and competition.

This proclamation may affect a number of key players in the tech industry by forcing them to open their gates or face massive fines.  

Perhaps the biggest example is Apple, Inc.  Apple is being probed by U.S. government antitrust investigators over its decision to ban Flash from its iPad and iPhone.  The problem is that Apple can easily argue that it does not have a "dominant" position to abuse when it comes to the iPhone.  And even the iPad, the new clear leader in the tablet industry could stake make similar claims -- after all the term "dominance" is loosely defined.

However, there's little doubt that it plays a "significant" role in the tablet and smartphone industries.

Under the new measure, if the language is approved, the EU may gain the power to force Apple to allow Flash onboard.  It may also be able to finally force Apple to allow third-party devices -- like Android smartphones, the Palm Pre, or rival MP3 players – to sync with iTunes.  The EU has long complained about Apple's efforts to block such syncing.

If the measure forces the hands of companies like Apple, they may feel compelled to eventually embrace similar measures in the U.S.  The U.S. is slowly trending towards a policy of stricter antitrust enforcement, following in the EU's line.

Ultimately the issue boils down to whether the market's largest players have a responsibility to "leave the door open" when it comes to interoperability.  This may come at a small expense to firms to publish documentation, which they could likely cover with licensing fees.  However, what they ultimately truly stand to lose is a tool against their competitors.  

By tightly controlling their platforms and various products' ties, companies like Apple can build their brand in the eyes of the consume -- a key part of the so-called "halo effect" which has driven purchasers of one Apple product to pick up more Apple gadgets.  It's remarkably similar to the inside track that Microsoft Word and Microsoft Internet Explorer were given with Windows -- which landed Microsoft in hot water with U.S. antitrust investigators around the turn of the millennia.  Ultimately, such maneuvers don't even need a monopoly -- as Apple's extensive use of them has proven.  They merely require a significant market share to start; hence the EU's claim.

So is interoperability something that should be mandatory?  Or should companies be allowed to close their platforms tightly?  Advocates of a more laissez faire government would certainly argue the latter, but the EU and Kroes seem convinced of the former, a platform that may have a big impact on some of the tech industry's top firms in the U.S. and abroad.

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RE: You understand this wrong
By Penti on 7/11/2010 6:19:48 PM , Rating: 2
They didn't open up an API, they created a specialized API just for the task which don't fit well in Flash Players awkward work flow.

But sure (new) Android phones come any day now with the final version. Palm on the other hand has had flash running for years without releasing anything. Point I made with Open screen was they could have treated OS X as a platform to release _and_ develop (and therefore also for iPhone) for themselves. But Apple have been busy doing other stuff, and Palm has been busy not getting out their phones, which I still can't buy here. Adobe should have a more off interest themselves, they don't really have an Apple team, they didn't at first collaborate with Apple or Nvidia and ATI, they did freaking do that on Windows, Microsoft didn't help them a bit. It's all in the drivers there. APIs weren't implemented so they could be used by Adobe. Of course I understand that they want to test it before releasing, but it's just retarded that it's so much harder for them then anyone else. You had CUDA, Elementals etc on Mac (which is used in a freaking Adobe product to begin with.). It wasn't Apple or anyone but themselves stopping 10.1 none-gala getting hwacceleration. Maybe iPhone 4 could have got flash but it would probably still have delayed the phone because of the developing resources not going to the core functions. iPad on the other hand couldn't when it was released. There's still no tablets with flash support really. Nvidia and ATI aren't forbidden to release drivers any how for the mac, and they don't even need to be signed and they are free to include any function they want, IO kit doesn't bring any limitations. It's not Apples fault just as it isn't Microsoft's service that got them enabling hwacceleration on Windows. But of course Apple made the choice not to work on the Adobe flash codebase. But neither did Microsoft. It's not Apple causing the injustice on the desktops, only when it concerns the handhelds. Which they I still say couldn't have counted to be included as a feature to any product. Of course it still can be released for both iPad and iPhone 4, theres no other reason then not have joined open screen project stopping that. But launching it as a feature would have taken a lot of work by Apple and not so much Adobe. It's simply a business structure or strategy not all will jump on. Including Microsoft.

And while it might be final it's still not universally useful. Still not a core feature of any product.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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