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Apple's modified iOS terms allow outside advertisers, limit AdMob

Apple on Monday changed the terms of its iOS developer agreement to allow outside, independent advertising agencies to collect data with user consent, but the change also has a provision that appears to exclude Google's AdMob.

In April, Apple updated the terms of its mobile operating system developer agreement, restricting outside advertising agencies from collecting information about users. Last week at the D8 conference, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the changes were made to protect user privacy, and were not anticompetitive.

Jobs singled out Flurry Analytics, which, unbeknownst to Apple, was collecting information about devices through App Store software. That allowed the firm to boast in January that it had tracked a number of devices on Apple's campus running an unreleased version of iOS. Those devices turned out to be Apple's then-unannounced iPad.

On Monday, Apple officially changed its stance and modified the terms of its developer agreement. The new section 3.3.9 reads that applications "may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent," and gives a list of conditions under which the sharing of data is allowed. Agencies will now be allowed to collect user data, but only after receiving their consent.

As noted by Peter Kafka at MediaMemo, the modified section 3.3.9 says that information can only be provided to "an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads."

"For example," it continues, "an advertising service or provider owned or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems of development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent."

The largest mobile advertising firm, AdMob, was recently acquired by Google. Google is also the maker of the Android mobile operating system, which would seem to suggest that AdMob is qualified as a "developer or distributor" of mobile operating systems.

"The language also appears to disqualify potential rivals — if, for instance, Microsoft tried entering the mobile display market," Kafka wrote. "I've asked Apple for comment, but I’m not expecting any."

Before Google bought AdMob, Apple tried first, Jobs admitted in April when iAd was introduced. But AdMob was "snatched" by Google before Apple could close the deal, he said.

Google ultimately paid $750 million for AdMob — a premium price that the search giant was reportedly willing to pay to keep the company away from Apple. Apple then settled for Quattro Wireless for $275 million, a purchase that paved the way for iAd.

Apple has big plans for its own mobile advertising venture, set to debut July 1. The service already has $60 million in commitments over the next six months, and is estimated to take nearly a 50 percent market share of the mobile advertising space in the second half of 2010.