Do Apple's new ad policies take aim at Google?

Its terms stop developers from using ad services "owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices"

If you read the most recent revision of Apple's developer terms, it sure sounds like Apple is trying to keep its ad-rival--Google's recently acquired AdMob--off of the iPhone.

The new terms, introduced earlier this week, prohibit developers from incorporating advertising services that are owned by, or affiliated with, developers or distributors of mobile devices in their apps.

Omar Hamoui, founder of AdMob, wrote a blog post on Wednesday explaining how Apple's new policies will affect both developers and users--and not, according to him, in a good way.

"The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. And because advertising funds a huge number of free and low cost apps, these terms are bad for consumers as well," Hamoui wrote.

The new language in the developer terms was reportedly influenced by an incident in which Flurry, an analytics firm, was able to gather app data through advertising. This data reportedly allowed Flurry to gather early data on the iPad and the new iPhone.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed this issue at the D8 Conference last week: "We said, 'No.' We're not going to allow this. This is violating our privacy policies and it's pissing us off that they're publishing data about our new products. So we said, we're only going to allow analytics that don't give device information, and that are solely for the purposes of advertising."

Jobs also said that Apple is "not banning other advertisers from the platforms," which is true--they're not banning other advertisers at all--the Wall Street Journal's MediaMemo blog suggests that the new terms appear to be good news for smaller competitors, such as Greystripe, Millenial Media, and Medialets (though it may make them less attractive to potential buyers).

Still, the language in the new developer terms appears to target Google's AdMob, which is Apple's largest rival in the mobile advertising market.

Section 3.3.9 also confirms that advertisers may use analytics--so long as the data collected is only used for advertising, and only with Apple's consent:

3.3.9 You and Your Applications may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent, and then only under the following conditions:

- The collection, use or disclosure is necessary in order to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application. For example, without Apple's prior written consent, You may not use third party analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party for aggregation, processing, or analysis.

- The collection, use or disclosure is for the purpose of serving advertising to Your Application; is provided to an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads (for example, an advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent); and the disclosure is limited to UDID, user location data, and other data specifically designated by Apple as available for advertising purposes.

Crippling Google's AdMob may catch the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, who has reportedly been paying more attention to Apple as of late.

Ironically, Google was scrutinized by the FTC during the recent $750 million acquisition of AdMob--the FTC claimed that such an acquisition would raise serious antitrust concerns. The acquisition was only cleared in May 2010, after Apple announced that it would enter the mobile advertising market with its new advertising service, dubbed "iAd."

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Sarah Jacobsson

PC World (US online)
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