Apple Increasing Platform Opacity and Kicking Out Competitors with iAd

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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 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 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

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