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What Apple is Doing to the Mobile Ad Market

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There's quite a lot of clamoring in the tech world today about Apple's purported blocking of major competitors, such as Google's AdMob, from advertising in apps for the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Evidently, this would be a step to ensure the widespread adoption of Apple's new iAds mobile advertising platform. Blocking out AdMob from the lucrative markets offered by Apple's devices would be a huge loss for Google, which paid $750 million for the mobile advertising company back in November of 2009. Here is the offending text, from section 3.3.9 of the new iOS developer agreement:


  • "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."


Some are treating this as a direct declaration of war by Apple against Google, while others are taking it as proof that Apple is totally terrified of them. But I tend to agree most with Ben Parr's column over at Mashable that what Apple is doing, rather than outright banning AdMob and others from advertising on iOS, is seizing control over the analytics and data that mobile advertisers can collect, and the way in which they can collect them. With this power, Apple can make AdMob just a little more difficult for developers to work with, giving iAds a subtle yet definite advantage. An all-out blockade of third-party advertisers would likely amount to a monopoly in the government's eyes - in fact, the FTC is already looking into Apple's actions. Google, for its part, says that without access to this data, AdMob is effectively crippled because it can't properly target its ads.

My take on the matter is that the government will force Apple to modify the developer agreement to allow AdMob and other competitors access to the data they require to function, but that Apple will still find a way to give iAds an advantage over its rivals without drawing the wrath of the FTC. In my mind, it is inevitable that iAds will eventually become the mobile advertising platform of choice on iOS devices (and thus, perhaps, all the mobile landscape). Apple inescapably has that power, because it is the developer and creator of these wildly popular machines.