Blog Post

Apple Increasing Platform Opacity and Kicking Out Competitors with iAd

Steve Jobs’ keynote at WWDC this year struck me as being particularly unkind to third-party media and analysis sources, and maybe that’s because he’s bitter about the whole Gizmodo iPhone 4 scoop/theft thing that went on. One thing he definitely made clear, he wants statistics coming from vetted sources, not from just any mobile market research firm.

Pursuant to that goal, Apple (s aapl) recently changed the terms of its developer agreement to keep out third-party analytics companies like Flurry who regularly produce reports on market share and the App Store based on data gathered from other advertisers working in the App Store ecosystem.

Here’s the relevant section of the developer agreement, as posted by All Things D:

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.

Now it shouldn’t shut down all competition, as you can use your advertising stats to sell ad space, but only for that purpose, and only at Apple’s discretion. That’s right, Apple gets final say on whether or not you can share the data you collect through advertising. And the terms are cloudy enough to allow for the prevention of use of these statistics by large companies that also happen to have advertising arms which aren’t their primary business, like, say Google and AdMob.

It’s one thing to try to block out competitors, and that’s a question better left to anti-trust inquiries, but to purposefully try to obfuscate the attempts of third party research and analysis firms in order to better control every aspect of your marketplace, internal and external, is downright discomfiting. One thing’s clear: Apple is nervous about the upcoming war with Google (s goog) over the mobile market, and it’s doing everything it can to make sure the public can’t interpret that war in a way it finds unflattering.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Why 2010 Still Won’t Be the Year of Mobile Advertising

19 Responses to “Apple Increasing Platform Opacity and Kicking Out Competitors with iAd”

  1. sstonee

    Apple offers a subpar experience for creating content. Although they made the iPad infinitely more useful for lots of different tasks is its massive platform of third party applications, except third software company like video converter and dvd ripper company, ifunia created apps on COCOA. So“let the Free Market decide”is good idea to company like ifunia.

  2. This is clearly about the totally bogus stats that AdMob (who is owned by Google) published a few weeks ago that said Android had passed Apple in US market share. That got a ton of press from all the Apple haters rejoicing that Apple was no longer number one. When the real data came out from a reputable analyst firm apple was at 28 percent (or something like that) and Android was at 9 percent.

    I’m quite positive that was what is behind the new restriction. Apple really got falsely hammered on that wrong data. I’d do the same as Apple in this case.

  3. Alexis

    well I am with the majority here…

    Apple is doing nothing wrong…the fact is they are protecting “ME” when it comes down to it…of course it is good for them too…

    they are trying to keep my private info from being given to these “hacks” that call themselves “analytics companies”…what a laugh

    they just use the info they are given to fill their needs and prob sell the rest to the highest bidder…

    besides I love the iAds model…I get so pissed everytime I accidentally hit one of those atrocious ads in these apps and it kicks me to Safari…and then I have to go back to start all over again in my app…and I never wanted to see the damn thing…it’s just unnerving to me…and sure I want to see Apple prosper…I knew them buying the underdog Ad company was going to be to their advantage…cuz they could mold it the Apple Way…by doing it right…

    and for me anything to see Google get the shaft makes me smile…Google just reminds me of those futuristic movies where one company pretty much owns the planet and controls everything and everything you do has to be done with that company…it just makes me uneasy because the way Google is going they are that company…

    can’t they just relax a little and do what they were meant to do in the first place…SEARCH…they are way too big for their breeches

    Apple is the number one tech company because they make products that out run, out work, out last, and out everything everything else on the market…they just do stuff that works…and if you want to keep punishing them for it…go ahead…you will be the next one sitting out side in the cold for the next Keynote like Gizmodo was on Monday…lmfao

  4. This doesnt seem that unreasonable to me.

    Its Apple’s App store, they have the say on how it works, they own it, and they should have the decision over what information is taken from it. especially if its for sharing and profit.

    I dont get all this fuss people make over the app store. Sure, it may get a bit hairy for developers, but everyone else gets a more useful, less bug riddled app store.

    Do you walk into a super market and demand they sell all sorts of products you cant find? no you dont. you just go shopping, buy whats there, and get on.

  5. Greg Patterson

    Apple, like the high and might Google, is out to make money. It does not make Apple money if Google is serving up the ads on its phones, thus kick them out. Rest assured if Apple bought an ad company that was prominent on the Android platform, Google would work against it. Anyone who believes otherwise, needs to stop drinking the Android-Aide. As for the data collected, I agree with it. What I do and where I do what I do on my phone is my business. I actually applaud Apple on this decision.

  6. Kevin Ballard

    This change is most likely prompted by Flurry blogging about unreleased Apple hardware, but the end result is a huge win for consumer privacy. No longer do I as a user have to worry about third-party companies tracking my app usage, and even worse, harvesting data from my system such as my current location. This has implications for developers trying to improve their apps, but it doesn’t block devs from collecting analytics information, only from sending that data to third-party companies. If Flurry really had the dev’s best interests at heart they’d simply transition to providing software for the Dev to run to analyze this info right on the dev’s servers. But this doesn’t really help Flurry, so of course they aren’t doing that.

    • The DOJ has nothing to go after Apple with. It does not have the largest amount of market share, RIM still does. A DOJ suit would be premature and with Android in play, the DOJ will sit this fight out. Apple and Google will regulate themselves.

  7. what kind of fools comment on this blog… clearly apple fanboys have lost their minds…. it is in their best interest that this article was written.. to ensure that consumers continue to get free apps via any ad networks a developer may choose.. and apple by stifling its competition is doing exactly the opposite.. there is no guarantee that your data is any safer with apple than it is with admob…. hence there is no upside for you apple fanboys from this development.. kudos to Darell for bringing this out on the Apple blog!!!!

    • The consumers will still get free apps. I don’t see how the Apple haters don’t see this. Apparently they never had a mind to begin with. Apple is stifling competition for the users sake. Did you see the iAd demo? They are far better than the alternative. Developers are more than welcome to not use the platform if they wish. There is no guarantee of anything. But, it would be safe to assume that that user data will be safer with Apple than with multiple points of contact. Plus you are blind to something Apple does well. They want to control the experience. They want ads to work a certain way on their products. It’s their company. They can do as they please. Sometimes that control means you don’t experience as much, but it’s cuts out most of the terrible experiences.

  8. Why should Apple allow their biggest competitor access to detailed device and user data on their premier product? It would different if Google supplied the same data for the Android phones to Apple. Would they do that? I doubt it.

    • Apple could easily write an app for Android and do what they want with it. I think the uproar here is about how much old Jobs restricts the iPhone/ iTouch etc.

      Yes I still choose an iPhone but it could be SO MUCH BETTER if we could do what we want with it

      • Apple has every right to protect future product infomation from being released to compeditors.

        I for one don’t want an uncontrolled platform. The iPhone and iPad are the only devices I don’t have to worry about spyware and such.

  9. I’m not really sure why everyone is making a big deal about this OR throwing around the anti-trust issue. Apple isn’t blocking all other competitor’s ads, just limiting the amount of data they can collect, which in the end benefits the users (and, let’s not be naive, Apple too). This isn’t an anti-trust issue at all because if you don’t like it, just use another platform.

    • You are missing the point. The point is the legality of the Apple license. There are legal limits to what can be enforced by a license. For example, Apple cannot sell a phone or computer and require you, by its license, to only have it serviced by Apple. In fact, it could be argued that Apple license, (which is basically an EULA), is legally unenforceable — I don’t believe EULA’s have been tested in court.

      Once I have bought a device, how much can Apple control it? Only a lawyer can answer that question. If I want to install an app that uses AdMob, why can’t I? And, if Apple requires me to use the App Store to buy applications, what are the limits to what they can do? Can a car manufacturer require you to buy parts only from them, and then arbitrarily decide what to offer?

      • You are missing the point. Apple isn’t limiting what you can do everywhere just what others can do in there store. You cant take a car to a dealer and make sure they give you other companies parts. Just like an item that is sold at walmart won’t be allowed to advertise K-Mart. Itsnthere store, let them manage it how they please. This is a benefit to the consumer, and yes Apple. Why would they have it any other way? Be honest, google ads on the apps I have are very ugly. I can promise that iAds will be a better alternative for the user.

  10. Michael G.

    There really is no story here. Google is a competitor to Apple in mobile phones. If they pretend Google does not own AdMob, Apple would basically let Google collect information it could use to attack Apple’s devices and platform. It seems to me a fairly straightforward business decision. It would be like a widget company letting its biggest competitor set up security cameras inside the widget company’s facilities.

  11. Steven

    I would rather have NO ads. Collecting every click, locations, etc. having nothing to do with the app, without opt-in, is wrong. Decide whether you want to write apps or spyware.

  12. Cristion

    Or perhaps Apple have a want to control what data goes to what company and for what purpose. Shouldn’t the company act with the best intentions for the end user? This really doesn’t strike me as an anti-trust problem so much as creating a safe space for users who do not want their stats used by any careless company who comes along and wish for a more regulate environ.