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iPad's growing competition from Android could quell Apple antitrust talk

Growing competition from tablets running the Google Android operating system may help Apple and its iOS subscription plans for the iPad avoid antitrust probes, at least in the eyes of the European Union.

Regulators with the European Commission have said they cannot yet judge whether Apple has a dominant position in the tablet market, according to Bloomberg. Though Apple sold millions of iPads last year and took the vast majority of touchscreen tablet sales, it is a market that is "relatively new and evolving," they said.

Apple caught the ire of European newspapers before it even formally announced its iOS recurring subscription plans, of which the Cupertino, Calif., company takes a 30 percent cut of all sales. Concerns from European publishers prompted Belgian lawmakers to file formal antitrust complaints with the European Union.

But in a response from EU commissioner Andris Piebalgs earlier this month, the possibility of an antitrust probe was downplayed: "Alternative applications platforms exist and several companies have recently launched or are expected to launch in the near future a number of devices similar in terms of functionality to the iPad."

On Tuesday, Apple unveiled its subscription plan for the iOS App Store on the iPad and iPhone. In addition to allowing content providers to offer recurring subscription billing, the company also takes a 30 percent cut of all sales and has banned links within App Store software to external websites that would allow users to purchase content or subscriptions at a lower price and without Apple's share.

Android-maker Google quickly countered by announcing its "One Pass" service for subscriptions just a day later. In the competing product, the search giant takes a smaller 10 percent cut of transactions and offers users the ability to view content in a Web browser on a variety of devices with a single login. But Google has also agreed to allow publishers to control subscribers' personal data, while Apple gives customers the option of providing a publisher with only their name, e-mail address and zip code when they subscribe.

While regulators in Europe for now do not seem convinced that Apple is engaged in antitrust practices, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are currently looking into Apple's terms in a "preliminary stage." However, a formal investigation has yet to be launched. The report also cited the European Commission as saying it was "carefully monitoring the situation.