Apple May Face Legal Trouble for Software Development Rules

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Hot on the heels of Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash post from last week, wherein the Apple CEO made his case for why app developers shouldn’t use third-party cross platform development software, the New York Post is now reporting that “the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are locked in negotiations over which of the watchdogs will begin an antitrust inquiry into Apple’s new policy of requiring software developers who devise applications for devices such as the iPhone and iPad to use only Apple’s programming tools.”

Apparently the main argument is that Apple’s insistence on using its tools curtails competition because apps created for Apple products can’t easily be ported to other devices—BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile/Phone 7, etc. So smaller development houses, for instance, have to devote precious resources to making iPhone-only apps instead of making a single app that can be quickly configured to work on a bunch of different phones.

Apple’s stance, according to Jobs’ post, is the following:

“We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.”

It’s important to note that even if the New York Post story is accurate (the publication cites a single, un-named source), the initial inquiry will be just that: an early look to see whether or not the matter is even worth pursuing. It may be that Apple can legally dictate whatever rules it wants to when it comes to the applications that live in its store. That’s what happens now, anyway.