U.S. regulators are considering an inquiry into whether Apple Inc violates antitrust law by requiring that its programming tools be used to write applications for the iPad and iPhone, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday. The news comes amidst a high-profile dustup between Apple and Adobe Systems Inc, which makes the widely used Flash software to provide video and build games. Although Flash is nearly ubiquitous on the Internet, Apple calls it a balky battery hog and Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs will not allow Flash on the iPhone or iPad, or as a tool to build apps on those devices. Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since its debut in 2007, and 1 million iPads since its April 3 debut.
The devices' popularity means extra scrutiny about every Apple move related to the smartphone platform. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department enforce U.S. antitrust law, and no decision has been made on which may take the probe on Apple, said the source, who spoke privately for business reasons. The New York Post first reported regulators' interest in Apple's policy. The paper reported that the two agencies were locked in negotiations over which would handle the inquiry, and a decision was expected shortly. “What they're (Apple) doing is clearly anticompetitive … They want one superhighway and they're the tollkeeper on that superhighway,” said David Balto, a former FTC policy director. Apple, Adobe and the Justice Department declined to comment.The FTC did not respond to a request for a comment.
Apple has recently come under scrutiny from U.S. regulators for other reasons. Under pressure from the FTC, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from Apple's board of directors last year.