Despite new language in its developer terms to the contrary, Apple is allowing targeted ads from Google, its AdMob unit and others inside iPhone and iPad applications, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Back in June, Apple revised its developer terms of service for its iOS 4 operating system, which the iPhone 4 and iPad use, to prevent non-independent advertising technology providers such as Google's AdMob from collecting data from applications. This makes it hard to target users with ads that run within iPhone applications.
The move was designed to unlevel the playing field for Apple's own iAd platform, which the company began offering July 1 to let developers make money from ads served within their applications.
AdMob, which Google acquired in May to offer similar in-app ads, complained that the new developer terms hurt developers and consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly looking into Apple's mobile business practices as a result of AdMob's complaint.
"Software developers say their new and updated applications are getting approved by Apple, even though the apps are enabled to serve ads by third-party ad networks such as Google's Mobile Adsense and AdMob."
The Journal noted Glu Mobile's "Super KO Boxing II," game, which were approved for use in iPhones and iPads, uses Google's AdMob to place ads. Nikolai Sander's "Spawn Glow" app was approved for the iPhone 4 last week; it uses Google's Mobile Adsense.
While Apple and Google declined to comment, this is a smart, albeit surprising move by Apple.
By not giving Google or AdMob reason to cry anticompetitive foul on behalf of Apple, the company is not giving the FTC cause to investigate it further. That's smart.
What's surprising is that Apple would bow to the looming pressure, something it normally flies in the face of. That practice is exemplified by CEO Steve Jobs' aggressive, take-on-all-comers mentality.
Apple seems to be carefully picking its battles, even as it goes out of its way to seem unconcerned about politics.
This is a consumer privacy issue, not a competitive concern. Still, perhaps Apple intends is to adjust business practices to ward of scrutiny, again picking its battles.
A reader told me:
"Congressmen feel they get no respect from Apple; it puts very little money into their campaigns, so Congress is gaming the corrupted campaign finance system. It does this by coming down on Apple, hoping that Apple would give them some money for their campaigns."
That's an interesting opinion. Perhaps Apple's lack of leverage on Capitol Hill is correcting its course with regard to competition with iAd. We'll have to see if this extends to other sectors of Apple's business.
In the meantime, it appears developers that use AdMob and Google's AdSense for Mobile are free to roam on the iPhone 4 and iPad.