The feds may be on to Apple's bad behavior

Whether or not Uncle Sam opens an antitrust investigation, Apple's actions have already attracted plenty of enemies

More evidence that Apple is the new Microsoft: It may be on the verge of getting investigated by Uncle Sam for antitrust violations.

Apparently, Apple's new our-way-or-the-highway developers agreement for the iPhone has gained the attention of the Federal Trade Commission and/or the Department of Justice, according to a report in the New York Post. It seems that dictating to developers what tools they can use to build their apps and forbidding said apps from transmitting analytical data to third parties does not sit well with somebody in Obamaville.

(eSarcasm put its hands on an alleged Steve Jobs blog post responding to the rumours, but I'm not buying it.)

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs has been careening through the tech world like a drunken frat boy at a high society luncheon -- bashing longtime partner Adobe, trashing Android as a haven for porn, defending the ban on apps for their sexual or political content while allowing others with similar sexual or political content, and so on. That is, he's pretty much acting like it's Steve's world, and he just lets us live in it.

And then there's GizmodoGate. Siccing the computer cops on blogger Jason Chen and confiscating his computers was clearly an intimidation tactic -- spill our secrets and we'll make life unpleasant for you in any way we can.

Protecting their own, the formerly adoring media (present company excepted) has begun to turn on Apple. The New York Times' David Carr calls Apple's behavior in the whole GizmodoGate affair "churlish," which is probably the meanest word the Times' copy editors will allow him to use. He writes:

"Apple executives have often behaved as though the ultimate custody and control of information lies with them, and the company has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect its interests. Yet for all of its spectacular achievements, Apple is exhibiting a remarkable tone-deafness in the issue at hand. As Apple is changing into a media company, as well, its Silicon Valley brand of aggression is running up against its broader ambitions."

Damn straight. Even The Daily Show's Jon Stewart took time out from trashing Teabag-party animals and Faux News to take Apple to the woodshed for being "appholes" video.

The Fake Steve Jobs (aka Dan Lyons) channels faithful Apple blogger John Gruber in an NSFW way when he satirically writes:

"In case you've forgotten (or, if you never actually knew it, because you are missing part of your brain, which you probably are if you think Apple is wrong on this one) -- at the end of the day Apple is a company, not a charitable organization. As such it has every right to do what it considers to be in its own best interest.

Even so, for the sake of argument, let's consider only what Apple is doing from the perspective of the end user. Do customers benefit from what Apple is doing? In the short term, maybe not. But long term, absolutely. Because by putting up with what Apple is doing now, customers are helping to ensure that Apple stays in business and that its competitors die. That, more than anything else, is the reason to continue buying Apple products."

Is Apple using its monopolistic powers over the iPhone to impede competition? I'm no attorney, but it sounds like something worth exploring.

Investigation or no, there's an anti-Apple backlash brewing, it's coming from every direction, and I say it's about time. Yes, Apple builds great products and even better marketing campaigns. That doesn't give the company a free pass to act like "appholes."

Note: I've previously suggested Google is the new Microsoft, and Facebook is a good candidate for that crown as well, so that makes three. Any others?

OK, Apple fanboys, have at it. Does Apple deserve closer scrutiny from the feds? Let us know below...

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld

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