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Apple Hopes To Skirt Antitrust Probe: Reports

Apple may tweak the wording of its iPhone Developer Program license agreement to fend off a potential antitrust investigation regarding its prohibition of Flash-developed applications.

Word of a possible antitrust investigation targeting Apple came to light Monday, when the New York Post reported that officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission were just “days away” from launching a full-scale inquest into Apple and the licensing practices in its iPhone Developer Program and its prohibition of Flash-built applications.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday, however, that indicate Apple may tweak the terms of its iPhone and iPad application developer agreement to dodge the antitrust investigation. Details of how Apple would change the agreement to avoid the probe were unclear Tuesday.

Apple has been increasingly vocal about prohibiting and rejecting applications that leverage Adobe Flash CS5 from its iTunes App Store. Adobe Flash CS5 is cross-platform development software, meaning a developer can use the software to create an application that will work and be supported across a host of devices, including Google Android, Research In Motion BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7. Adobe Flash CS5 also still supports the Apple iPhone OS, despite Apple rejecting applications developed on the platform.

According to the New York Post Apple’s lack of support for Flash-built applications within its iPhone OS has raised the eyebrows of antitrust investigators as it could be perceived as anticompetitive behavior by forcing developers to build applications for the other platforms and create them separately for the Apple iPhone and iPad. Instead of allowing cross-compilers, Apple’s iPhone Developer Program license agreement requires developers to write iPhone applications using Apple’s Objective-C language.

Meanwhile, a report in The Wall Street Journal noted that Apple’s developer agreements and licensing models weren’t the only things being investigated. The Journal reported that Apple’s iAd advertising platform may also come under scrutiny from antitrust regulators.

Apple’s iAd, its mobile advertising platform, is under a microscope after recent changes that forbid developers from sharing data collected from iPhone and iPad with third parties. That revision could be perceived as giving Apple iAd a competitive advantage as it could disallow third- party advertisers to target consumers, thus limiting their ability to tailor advertisements to specific sects of users and impacting potential ad revenue.

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