Apple Facing Possible Government Probe Over iPhone Developer Restrictions

The U.S. government is apparently preparing to launch an inquiry into Apple’s policy that blocks iPhone and iPad app developers from using non-natives tools, such as Adobe Flash, according to the New York Post. Apple upset some developers recently when it changed its rules to prohibit iPhone OS app development with tools that let coders write apps that can be cross-compiled to run on multiple platforms.

Unnamed sources close to the situation claim the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are debating which agency will look into Apple’s new policy. The concern is that the policy stifles competition by blocking iPhone app developers from developing software that runs on any mobile device instead of only on the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

When Apple updated its developer agreement for the unreleased iPhone OS 4 developer agreement, a clause that prohibited compilers that don’t rely on C, C++ and Objective-C calls to Apple’s APIs caught the attention of many people and companies. Adobe quickly floated to the top of that list thanks to its disappointment that its new Flash CS5 tools for converting Flash-based apps into native iPhone apps fell into that camp.

A grass roots effort to allow Flash development for the iPhone quickly came to life thanks to many Adobe product users, and ultimately led to an open letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs explaining the company’s position.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen fired back with accusations that the Flash-related problems Mr. Jobs cited were either “patently false,” or issues with Apple’s operating systems.

An inquiry into Apple’s actions don’t necessarily mean the company is facing a full-on government investigation. Instead, an inquiry helps the agencies determine whether or not an investigation is needed.

The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have not commented on the possible inquiry.