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Wednesday, May 05, 2010, 03:15 pm PT (06:15 pm ET)

Former labor secretary suggests FTC police banks rather than Apple

Former secretary of labor Robert Reich, who served under Bill Clinton during the Microsoft monopoly trial, has published a high profile article castigating the Federal Trade Commissions' purported investigation of Apple.

The article asks "Why is the Federal Trade Commission threatening Apple with a possible lawsuit for abusing its economic power, but not even raising an eyebrow about the huge and growing economic (and political) muscle of JP Morgan Chase or any of the other four remaining giant banks on Wall Street?"

Reich wrote, "Our future well being depends more on people like Steve Jobs who invent real products that can improve our lives, than it does on people like [JPMorgan Chase chief executive] Jamie Dimon who invent financial products that do little other than threaten our economy."

If Apple is wrong on Flash, it will fail

"Apple’s supposed sin," Reich notes, "was to tell software developers that if they want to make apps for iPhones and iPads they have to use Apple programming tools. No more outside tools (like Adobe’s Flash format) that can run on rival devices like Google’s Android phones and RIM’s BlackBerrys.

"What’s wrong with that? Apple says it’s necessary to maintain quality. If consumers disagree they can buy platforms elsewhere. Apple was the world’s #3 smartphone supplier in 2009, with 16.2 percent of worldwide market share. RIM was #2, with 18.8 percent. Google isn’t exactly a wallflower. These and other firms are innovating like mad, as are tens of thousands of independent developers. If Apple’s decision reduces the number of future apps that can run on its products, Apple will suffer and presumably change its mind."

If big banks go wrong, everybody fails

Reich notes that among the massive banks, "if one of them makes a bad decision it can take us all down."

"So why is the FTC nosing around Apple and not around Wall Street? Because the Federal Trade Commission Act allows the agency to stop 'unfair methods of competition' almost anywhere in the economy except in the financial sector. Banks are explicitly excluded. Another reason for financial reform."

Reich concludes, "Hands off Apple. But cut the big banks down to size."

Adobe seeking antitrust help to preserve its Flash monopoly

Adobe has recently intensified its complaints against Apple related to the company's refusal to distribute Flash. Adobe's strategy for using its Flash and AIR platforms to allow software to be written once and run on multiple devices is taking a beating by the iPhone OS' lack of support for third party plugin platforms, including Flash, AIR, Java and Silverlight.

Adobe chief technology officer Kevin Lynch recently described the current landscape as being like 19th century railroads, where "people were using different gauged rails." The problem for Adobe is that in the 19th century, that problem was solved by government decree that railroads adopt a free, open standard for interoperability, and not by forced adoption of a third party vendor's proprietary rail gauge.

Apple has already adopted HTML5 and related free, open web standards as the common rail gauge for web applications on the iPhone OS, even developing frameworks to assist in the creation of web pages that look and act like native apps.

At the same time, Apple also operates its native App Store as a custom, proprietary platform that operates on its own gauge, much like high speed rail, where interoperability with common rail traffic is not necessary or even desirable.

Adobe's Flash is a proprietary rail gauge of its own, and despite its monopoly over dynamic content on the desktop, it simply does not yet run on mobile devices.

In the video below, an Android prototype tablet is presented as running Flash, "unlike the iPad," despite crashing on an attempt to play YouTube videos. Like other iPhone OS devices, iPad plays YouTube without need for Flash.