Apple’s Mobile Ad Platform Likely to Worry, Not Comfort, FTC

Apple’s Mobile Ad Platform Likely to Worry, Not Comfort, FTC

At its iPhone developer’s conference tomorrow, Apple is expected to announce its own mobile ad platform. Many are saying (that includes us here at The Next Web) that having Apple launch into the advertising space will make it easier for Google to buy AdMob, the mobile advertising company.

After all, with a potential competitor to Google in the mobile ad realm, why wouldn’t the FTC allow the purchase of AdMob to go through?

But the potential of Apple’s serving ads on its own platform could very well scare the FTC much more than the idea of Google’s expanding more heavily into the mobile space. American antitrust law is concerned with preventing anticompetitive business practices, which in theory is supposed to increase choice in the marketplace.

After all, if you can only go to one company for some good or service, that company is free to charge whatever it wants.

The potential of an ‘iAd’ advertising platform for Apple is that it runs the risk of bundling services, that developers might be more or less forced to use iAd over any other mobile advertising platform to appease Apple. And if there’s one thing the US government loves, it’s to go after big tech companies for violating antitrust law (see US v. Microsoft for some history).

Apple has already shown itself to be somewhat anticompetitive in how it controls the iPhone OS ecosystem. Earlier this year, Apple rejected an application simply for mentioning Android. So it’s not so much of a leap to imagine that Apple might not give priority to iPhone and iPad apps that use its iAd platform. And that is flat-out anticompetitive as it does not give developers a choice.

That said, Apple’s ad platform will not necessarily be anticompetitive, but it is sure to ruffle some feathers. The secrecy with which Apple manages the App Store is certain to raise questions when ultimately a bunch of applications using AdMob get rejected for seemingly nonexistent reasons.

An Apple ad network would certainly take some pressure off Google, but it wouldn’t necessarily make the FTC feel good about the state of mobile advertising. Sure, it creates a real competitor in the mobile ad space, but that unfortunately doesn’t imply that there will be real competition. After all, both monopolies and bundling are illegal.

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