Sunday, May 10, 2015

Do the feds have a case against Apple-

Do the feds have a case against Apple?
News analysisApple's tweaking of the rules for which kind of ad networks can operate on its iPhone has prompted scrutiny from antitrust authorities, according to reports.The Financial Times on Thursday said that two sources close to the situation have "taken an interest" in Apple's actions on Monday. Which agency would be charged with looking into it, isn't yet clear: either the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice. But the FTC just spent months looking at the mobile-ad market from all angles for the recently closed Google/AdMob acquisition case, so the FTC would make sense.The concern stems from Apple banning developers from using advertising in their iPhone applications that shares analytic data with "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." The most prominent mobile-advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices and mobile operating systems is AdMob, now owned by Google.It would appear Apple is blocking a major competitor from its platform, but while still allowing plenty of other, smaller ad networks to play. But is that illegal? The question in these cases is always whether Apple has enough market power to force people to play by its rules. The federal government will be concerned about whether there will be a healthy market for ad networks outside of Apple's system and whether developers will be able to switch over to those ad networks easily enough to create competition between Apple's ad network and other ad networks.So should Apple's actions prompt legitimate concern from regulators? It might, depending on if you look at the latest incident as isolated or part of a larger pattern, and depending on how you define the market: Apple is relatively new to mobile ads and even though the company is very visible in the overall smartphone market, it doesn't dominate it.Apple has about 28 percent of the U.S. smartphone market according to recently released figures from Nielsen, and a similar share on the mobile ad market with iAd, which debuts in July. On Monday, Steve Jobs said Apple had locked up $60 million in mobile ad dollars to be spent on ads served via iAd between July and December this year. The total mobile ad spending for 2010 is expected to be worth $250 million, according to JP Morgan. That means Apple's share of that is still relatively low, about 24 percent. However, antitrust authorities would likely define the market as much narrower, say, as "touch screen smartphones that are designed to run third-party applications." In which case, Apple would likely have a larger share. While it's hard to pinpoint, it's notable that such a definition would eliminate Research In Motion, which though it's currently the leader in the U.S. smartphone market, has mostly smartphones without touch screens. The battle over how to define a market is, perhaps predictably, one of the biggest hurdles in these cases.AdMob is not happy, and it's easy to imagine that it was the one who put the bug in the FTC or Justice Department's ear about Apple's recent actions. Apple and Google now have a history of sniping at each other over what is turning into a significant mobile turf war. But is being spiteful or petty, which some argue Apple is being, illegal? Of course not. But it raises the hackles of your competitors and gets them on the phone with regulators.There isn't a larger investigation of Apple right now that we know of, but it's possible some day one could materialize. After all, this isn't the first time regulators have been prompted by competitors to check out Apple's business practices: its digital music market share, developer tools allowed on iOS, and e-book pricing have all been brought to the attention of state and federal antitrust authorities. "It's about a series of things Apple has done, including their policies with respect to Adobe. If you connect the dots, it presents a serious enough antitrust issue that could merit some scrutiny," said Jeffrey I. Shinder, managing partner at Constantine Cannon in New York, and former special counsel to the FTC.It's not illegal to have a monopoly, but misusing power in a market to block competition is. One way regulators could look at it is by saying "Apple is ahead and is setting up policies to entrench that lead and use it to dominate mobile advertising," Shinder said.Apple's defense would likely be that the market is so new, there's plenty of competition, and there's no reason for regulators to get involved in a market so immature. Plus it would argue that its products are superior and that's why people are choosing them.Apple does have many good arguments regarding the state of the market on its side, and there is no official investigation--yet. Though the company's aggression in this burgeoning market could come back to bite them in other ways, say, if Apple were to try to buy another mobile ad network. That would get a little extra attention from regulators. The FTC is likely to be extra sensitive to the issue right now. One of the reasons it approved Google's purchase of AdMob was that one of the company's biggest competitors in the mobile space was to come out with iAd, a product that would balance the playing field. What the FTC clearly didn't anticipate was Apple basically including everyone except Google.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

September 9, 2009, could be a Beatles perfect storm

September 9, 2009, could be a Beatles perfect storm
What is it with the Beatles and nines?As my colleague Caroline McCarthy pointed out in March when the launch date (September 9, 2009) for The Beatles: Rock Band was announced, the band's song "Revolution 9" ends with the words, "number nine, number nine, number nine."So clearly, the date 09/09/09 has at least some symbolic significance for the band. And now, in addition to that date being the launch of the Rock Band title, it was announced Tuesday that on that same day, the Beatles will release a CD box set of their entire catalog, digitally re-mastered for the first time, re-confirming reports from months ago.At the same time, many people have been talking about the high likelihood of an all-music-related Apple event around some unknown product announcement on September 9. So, with all these facts--and some informed speculation--in hand, one has to think seriously that we may get a star-studded event with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (who, you may remember, showed up at Microsoft's E3 press conference to promote The Beatles: Rock Band) and, of course, Steve Jobs, to announce the availability of that same digitally re-mastered catalog on iTunes.If that were to come to pass, it would seem to me an entertainment perfect storm. Of course, as is always the case with these things, we have to temper our enthusiasm because the most exciting speculation could well turn out not to be true. But if it does happen like this, well, it would easily be worth the price of admission.As for today's news, EMI Music and Apple Corps--the Beatles' publishers--said that it took engineers at the famed Abbey Road Studios four full years "of utilizing state of the art recording technology, alongside vintage studio equipment, to create these amazing re-masters."Having talked to the folks behind both The Beatles: Rock Band and the Cirque du Soleil's Beatle-themed "Love" about the re-mastering processes, I know that this is something that those involved with the band have been putting a lot of effort into over the last few years. And assuming that there will be a digital distribution element to this whole 09/09/09 thing, it's nice that after being very strict for years and years about how their music got out into the world, the band may finally have agreed to loosen the reins a little bit.Of course, it's not altruism. There will no doubt be massive amounts of money flowing into the coffers of everyone financially involved with the band. And that's because even for people like me who already own the entire catalog on old mono CDs or records, there may be a few extra dollars available for legitimate digital copies of songs like "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," and "A day in the life."But, of course, as of today, we don't know anything for certain about the Beatles and iTunes. What we do know is that The Beatles: Rock Band will have 45 songs, and that the digitally re-mastered CD collection will comprise all 12 Beatles studio albums--in stereo, no less--as well as "Magical Mystery Tour" and a combined "Past Masters Volume I and II," for a total of 14 titles on 16 CDs. The whole thing will be available, along with a DVD set of Beatles documentaries in one--presumably pricey--stereo boxed set.