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Thursday, August 05, 2010, 11:10 am PT (02:10 pm ET)

FTC believed to be investigating Apple's anti-Flash stance

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has denied a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to a complaint filed by Adobe against Apple, stating that the release of the information would impede the commission's "law enforcement" duties.

Nearly 200 pages of records regarding Adobe's complaint were requested by Wired this week, and rejected. Adobe filed the paperwork with the FTC after Apple announced it would not allow iOS applications ported from other languages or development environments, such as Flash.

The FTC justified its decision to keep the documents, stating that making them public "could reasonably be expected to interfere with the conduct of the Commission's law enforcement activities." The FTC said that 189 pages are related to the case, but the records are exempt from the FOIA request. The response strongly suggests that the FTC is currently conducting an investigation into the matter.

"The FTC never publicly confirms or denies when an investigation is open or closed, except when it sues or reaches a settlement with a company," author Ryan Singel wrote. "However, both Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal reported in May that the FTC had gotten a complaint from Adobe and opened a formal investigation."

The fight between Apple and Adobe came to a head after Adobe announced it would create an application that would allow developers to port software written to Flash to the iPhone. That software would allow developers to circumvent Apple's ban of Adobe Flash from iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

But Apple changed its developer agreement, banning applications written in non-native languages and ported to the iPhone. That prompted Adobe to abandon development of its Flash-to-iPhone porting software, and file a complaint with the FTC.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs publicly commented on the matter in an open letter published in late April, in which he slammed Adobe Flash as a Web tool that is unfit for the modern, mobile era of computing. He also said that an intermediary tool for converting Flash applications to the iPhone would produce "sub-standard apps," and would hinder the progress of the platform.

Jobs said he knows from "painful experience" that allowing developers to become dependent on a third-party tool, such as Adobe Flash, rather than writing natively for the iPhone is restrictive. "We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers," Jobs wrote.