Apple to be hit with antitrust probe

How the tables have turned. Once the struggling underdog, Apple has now become big and mean enough to catch the eye of antitrust regulators in Washington. According to the Associated Press, the regulators plan to look into Apple's policy of shutting out third-party tools for iPhone and iPad app development.

The company isn't in trouble quite yet, mind you. AP quotes a "person with knowledge of the inquiry" as saying the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are still determining which agency will carry out the investigation. Also, the probe might not necessarily find evidence of Apple violating antitrust legislation.

What's all the fuss about? Wired reported last month on Apple's latest iPhone developer agreement, which states in part:

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).

Adobe was none too pleased with that particular clause. As the Wired piece explains, the firm planned to include a tool in its CS5 suite that would let developers turn Flash apps into native iPhone OS apps. Apple's new developer agreement shuts out Adobe and cross-platform Flash apps completely—and it can be blamed for much of the recent mud-slinging between the two companies, including a lengthy anti-Adobe rant Steve Jobs posted on the front page a week ago.

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