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EU Plans To Make Apple, Adobe and Others Open Up 389

FlorianMueller writes "After pursuing Microsoft and Intel, European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes is now preparing an initiative that could have an even greater impact on the IT industry: a European interoperability law that will affect not only companies found dominant in a market but all 'significant' players. In a recent interview, Mrs. Kroes mentioned Apple. Nokia, RIM and Adobe would be other examples. All significant market players would have to provide access to interfaces and data formats, with pricing constraints considered 'likely' by the commissioner. Her objective: 'Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future.' The process may take a few years, but key decisions on the substance of the bill may already be made later this year."
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EU Plans To Make Apple, Adobe and Others Open Up

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  • Great News (Score:0, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:49PM (#32759100) Journal

    Apple is the single largest abuser of open technology, standards, formats and platforms. To create anything for any of their platforms, you need to use Apple tools, Apple hardware and pay Apple. It's not even technical limits on the hardware, but all artifical barriers created by Apple.

    I have no idea why Microsoft always gets yelled at because other third parties don't implement their support fully, but Apple gets a free pass on it.

    The great thing about the "Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future." is that it can also mean that Apple needs to open iPhone and iPad for third party developers not just via their App Store, but fully without jailbreaking.

    This is great news for independent developers or hobbyist.

  • NOT great news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:58PM (#32759242)
    How is Apple an "abuser" of open technology? Their open technology was licensed under the BSD license which explicitly allows the type of stuff Apple is doing. If you don't like it then use the GPL or another license that has copyleft when you license your OSS.

    You do realize that you don't have to use Apple products don't you? The main way to open up competition is to kill software patents and weaken copyrights.

    When government fucks with free markets, the customer loses, always.
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:58PM (#32759252)
    So now cell phones will be the size of buildings so that they can support the massive array of antena and dishes so they can comunicate across the full radio spectrum. Still, it will be interesting having a cell phone that supports microwave OC3 communication.
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jim_v2000 ( 818799 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:59PM (#32759272)
    "Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future."

    What does that even mean?
  • Frickin' great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sandor at the Zoo ( 98013 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:00PM (#32759276)
    When the government starts dictating requirements and the price, we're all screwed.
  • Re:NOT great news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki.cox@net> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:02PM (#32759308)

    I'm stuck in the position with agreeing with the fact that no, Apple isn't abusing FLOSS, and disagreeing with your libertarian nonsense.

    You do realize sometimes with the Free Market, the customer's largely not in a leverage point due to inelasticity of most goods? Food, housing, fuel, etc?

  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:03PM (#32759326) Homepage

    Do the various "services" have to be able to communicate with any kind of "IT product"?

    I haven't asked the commissioner but even without doing so I have no doubt that she meant this both ways. Interoperability goes both ways. The only problem is that obviously some companies in the industry want it as a one-way street: others have to open up, they stay closed. I can't imagine a piece of legislation would be one-way. Even if some companies tried to lobby for one-way rules, I don't think they'd get very far.

    What's more likely is that the rules may only apply to certain segments of the diverse IT market. But again, within the scope of the rules I can't imagine there would be anything other than quid pro quo, give and take on equal terms.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:08PM (#32759396) Journal

    When government fucks with free markets, the customer loses, always.

    Well, except in the case of energy regulation, every state that has deregulated has instantly had massive price spikes (or are these good for the consumer?)... and insurance where the companies kick you out as soon as you file claims unless regulated.

    The US government usually asks the market players to regulate themselves and hopes that works (think of movie ratings). It is only after the players show they have no interest in a fair market that it gets regulated.

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:09PM (#32759414) Journal

    if you don't know what it means, its probably something that you don't know much about?

  • by xororand ( 860319 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:10PM (#32759454)

    Can you imagine how much inertia an Apple & MS embargo would bring for FOSS? So yes, proprietary software vendors, get out of the EU ASAP please ;)

  • Re:Great News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uprise78 ( 1256084 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:21PM (#32759644)
    Sometimes I wonder why I even read /. comments. They are so fucking predictable. First off, you don't have to pay Apple anything to make Mac apps (besides owning a Mac and honestly if you don't own and use a Mac you have not business developing for it). There is a paltry $99 per year fee to make iPhone/iPod/iPad apps but no one is forcing you to make iPhone apps. On a side note, you have to pay RIM, Palm and Google money if you want to get in their app stores as well so they must be "open technology abusers" as well. Here is some of Apple's open source code: [] Maybe you should download a few Gigs of source code before you start talking shit about something you don't know about. Apple makes iOS which is based on OS X and puts it on iPhones, iPads and iPods. They took their own OS (which I might add has a large amount of open source code in it and more coming at fairly steady intervals). Read that again, "they took their own OS". The OS they spent years making and invested tons of time/money into. They give every person who owns an OS X license a free copy of their entire development stack: Xcode, Interface Builder, Dashcode, Instruments, Quartz Composer, PackageMaker, FileMerge, etc, etc, etc. They arguable provide the most complete set of frameworks available for any platform (Cocoa/CoreFoundation) to developers. You can build a Mac or iPhone app with GCD (open source). Apple has provided piles of code to the GCD project. You can now build Mac and iPhone apps with LLVM (open source). Apple has provided piles of code to the LLVM project. So, given that information (and taking into account that Apple is a business that needs to make money to survive) why on earth do they need to allow someone to make Mac apps on Linux/Windows? You don't make any fucking sense man. None at all. Have you seen the cost of Microsoft's developer tools recently? And don't bother mentioning the "Express" versions of their software that don't allow commercial products. To sum things up, many readers of /. would like every company on earth to make everything "open and free" no matter what the cost to said company. If a company does not do this, they will get piles of complaints from slashdotters who wouldn't do anything different even if said company did make something "open".
  • Re:NOT great news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:26PM (#32759730)

    You're talking about HEAVILY REGULATED goods and services.

    I do want either standards to be enforced (not a good first idea, avoidable) or that file/protocol/.. specifications to be open and free by law - seems to be ideal and dismisses the need for standards enforcement. I applaud that, if that's really what they want.

    BUT... price controls don't work as advertized. Never did, never will. They distort and hurt everyone except politicians who don't and will never know what they're doing.

    Leave Microsoft and the rest alone. Reform patent and copyright law. Watch competition and innovation flourish on its own as you remove its shackles.

    FYI, Debian user here.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:26PM (#32759734) Homepage

    The Mac has a good degree of openness. However, that doesn't seem to be Apple's strategic direction. The
    idea that the "platform of the future" could be something that's entirely under Steve's thumb is probably
    an idea that doesn't sit well int he EU. It might have even been the thing that triggered this idea.

    Between Adobe and Apple, I could see why EU regulators might want to stop the madness.

  • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:27PM (#32759756)

    Why is the parent post modded troll? I'm sorry, but "troll" is not a substitute for "holds an opinion opposite to me".

    The parent is entirely factually correct, and is talking about the very heart and idea of OSS: if you release something under the BSD licence, anyone can use it. If you release something under the GPL, anyone can use it as long as they follow the licence. So, when Apple uses BSD and GPL code, somehow it is "abuse"? Come on! You are either for the idea of OSS, or you are against it. You *cannot* be "oh, well, I love OSS, but Apple is not allowed to use any BSD code and get rich off it! That's just not allowed, but other companies can use BSD code since it is open source."

    This also doesn't address the benefits the OSS community has seen from Apple. Far from being an "abuser" Apple has contributed an enormous amount to OSS - isn't that one of the benefits of a large entity getting involved in the community: provision of resources? Companies like IBM, Apple, Red Hat, Mozilla Foundation are promoting open source. You can't turn around and say "I don't like Apple, so they are abusing OSS!"

    If you really hate them that much, write your own OSS code and release it under a modified BSD licence that permits anyone except Apple to use it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:29PM (#32759768)

    It may not be what's she's suggesting, but it's probably the language that she's going to put it in. Language that will likely be perverted for some financial/political gain in the future. The free market has it's issues, and so does regulation. Legalism and regulation opens up an especially bad can of worms when open ended statements are thrown in the case of regulation, we have to be especially cognizant, precise, and diligent with respect to how legal language is deployed for regulating markets...lest we get cronyism, favoritism, protectionism, etc etc etc.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:29PM (#32759778) Journal
    I find it so interesting that Anonymous Coward constantly appears to have no concept of the difference between a government-enforced monopoly and a property right.
  • by Haffner ( 1349071 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:30PM (#32759806)
    I wonder which companies will run the calculations and decide that they will lose more profits opening up than they would by simply leaving the European market. While this sounds nice, companies who do a smaller percentage of business in Europe than they do elsewhere may decide it is worth it to keep their code locked. After all, no one will be able to implement interoperability exclusively in the EU, the US + rest of the world will get it too.
  • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:44PM (#32760056)

    This is true - it is clear that Apple would like you to use an iPhone, with a Mac, with an iPad for the lounge etc, but it does not force you if you want to leave by using totally awkward and non-open formats.

    If you want out of Outlook, you are in for a world of hurt - the .pst is a pain in the ass. If you want out of, you just take your .mbox files to a new client on a new OS.

    The App Store though, is a whole different ball game. The only thing I can see the EU being able to enforce is the ability to install third party apps without using the store, if the iOS ecosystem grows too large.

    I don;t think they have to worry about Apple on the desktop - they are already in a similar position to a fully OSS OS, albeit with some patented formats as their open formats of choice (such as AAC, H.264 etc).

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by irishPete ( 21197 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:52PM (#32760228)

    Ok, point of sanity here, if you are going to target a platform for development, shouldn't you own at least one machine to test on?

  • Re:Opening up.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:54PM (#32760276) Journal

    The government shouldn't force a company to support certain standards by making other formats illegal, what they should do is impose certain open formats/standards on government IT operations, and then companies can choose whether or not to support those standards, and then as a result of that support be able to sell their product to the government.

    Governments are generally large enough customers that by adopting something internally, it will create a significant incentive for the market to follow.

  • Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:58PM (#32760376)

    It's hilarious how many see this as an "attack on free market".

    Let me run a few facts down through your skulls:

    1. There is no free market for IT goods referred to in the statement. The market that exists is heavily controlled and regulated, essentially being a monopoly market on per-product basis, or interconnected market where vendor uses monopoly control over one aspect of the market to openly destroy freeness in another market.
    2. Neelie Kroes is probably the most pro-free market person you will find in EU. It's more of her life's philosophy then just a law enforcement on some level.
    3. Suggestions include OPENING the CLOSED MARKET, to make it... that's right, more OPEN!

    So do share, in what way is this "evil EU abusing US companies by closing free market"? I can see this being "good EU abusing evil US companies who like to close market to competition by forcing them to actually compete", but to actually claim the exact opposite, you have to either be ignorant, stupid, or have a deep vested interest in status quo.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:00PM (#32760412) Journal

    Price controls is a red herring - the choice is already reduced. In many cases you don't have access to interface documentation etc at all.
    What they are now saying is that in the majority of cases you will have access to interface documentation. And BTW the company won't be able to circumvent the law by charging you 400million per API.

    Price controls are an irrelevant to the real issue - no more expensive proprietary lock-ins, reducing choice, stifling business, with the ultimate result of the consumer losing.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:02PM (#32760462) Journal

    The energy sector deregulation is a bad example, because it's not a case of the government going in and messing with a free market, it's with them taking something very far from a free market and trying to turn it into one overnight.

    Anyways, the way the world works, there's really no such thing as a free market, and across various industries I think that various levels of "free market" ideals make sense. For a utility like energy or water it doesn't make sense for many reasons. As is usually the case, ideologues screaming for one side or the other tend to drown out the useful discussion we should be having about the middle ground, and really dumb decisions end up being made.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:03PM (#32760476)

    Yeah, how dare anyone make students more employable by making it easier for them to have access to / learn the by far dominant software used in the business world.

    Seriously, you can hate Microsoft, you can hate Office, you can hate the Office UI, you can hate the closed standards on which Office is based, (and all those things have their share of validity) but at least make an argument that doesn't bury its head in the sand and try to ignore the fact that damn near everyone who gets a job in an office will end up using Office in some way.

  • by WARM3CH ( 662028 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:06PM (#32760540)
    Well, I don't know what you mean by open. Do you mean open as in people can buy the license and even get the source? (e.g. H.264). Then I guess we live in an open world. Just as a comparison, here is the list of open formats on Windows:

    Audio: WMA (open)
    Video: WMV (open)
    Mail: .pst (open)
    Address book: .pst (open)
    Office apps: .docx, .xlsx, etc. (open)
    OS API: .NET (open)
    OS API: Win32 (open, shared source)
    OS core: NT (open, shared source)

    Hell, why stop there? Everything is open if you can buy it! Did you know that Google's search engine is also open? You just need to afford to buy Google Inc.
  • Re:NOT great news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rufus t firefly ( 35399 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:09PM (#32760596) Homepage []

    They've been around for a while. Apple just doesn't like to play nice. It's similarly pain-in-the-ass to develop for Blackberry on Linux, if I recall correctly.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:10PM (#32760598)

    Consumers have more computer choice now than they had in 1995 or 2000.

    You really think so? I'd say we have less choice now than in either of those years, although the choices we have now are more accessible from a consumer viewpoint. I will agree that the dominant (and ascending) player in 1995 and 2000 is waning, and that's a good thing.

  • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QX-Mat ( 460729 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:10PM (#32760614)


    This is good news and it goes to the heart of the treaty of Rome - that competition is a fundamental part of the EU, and the EU will move mountains to promote it. I suspect this will be in the form of a very long winded piece of guidance regulation that sits in parallel with Art 81. As someone who has read, reread and read again EU competition regulations and their directives from an academic point of view and professional one, it is mightily refreshing to finally see the EU do what I was told it did well... fight concerted practice and actively promote competition where the market fails.

  • Re:NOT great news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Draek ( 916851 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:12PM (#32760636)

    Just one, though, not one for each developer you plan on assigning to the project.

    And then there's also the productivity penalties with having to learn an entirely new toolset from the ground up, which again could've been avoided had Apple not determined from their almighty throne that "Thou shall not have any other IDE before XCode".

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:19PM (#32760746) Homepage Journal

    It's at best disingenuous to call a patent-encumbered file format "open". Yes, it is open insofar as it is documented, and if the designers decided to withhold licenses, could *eventually* be implemented by someone to get your data out of it, but that's not open in the same way as, for example, JPEG baseline is open. The difference is that the JPEG folks started out trying to create an open standard, whereas the H.264 folks started out trying to develop a proprietary codec, then opened up only the minimum amount they could get away with and still get adoption.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:21PM (#32760786)

    Why is the parent post modded troll?

    Because he's trying to turn an issue of morality into one of legality just so his favorite company gets in the clear.

    To make an analogy to a company Slashdot is less obsessive about, it's similar to when IBM asserted its patents against Open Source: it was allowed by law, but that didn't mean "biting the hand that feed them" with their patent portfolio wasn't morally objectionable.

    Same with Apple, the OP argued that using F/OSS to develop an entirely closed ecosystem was inmoral regardless of the legalities of the case. Now, you could make an argument that nothing legal can be inmoral, but any Philosophy student could tell you why that's a load of self-contradicting bollocks in an instant.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:27PM (#32760912)

    When the alternative is living under the thumb of our corporate overlords, yeah that sounds pretty nice actually.

  • My 2c... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by El Fantasmo ( 1057616 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:39PM (#32761156)
    However poorly the EU words words it, I think, what they are trying to avoid is lock-in. i.e. iPhone = Apple app store ONLY, or iPhone = ATT service ONLY. I know the iPhone is carried on many carriers across the EU; it's just an example. They are trying to prevent a single purchase from locking customers into a single supply chain / company, essentially negating other competing services.
  • Re:Free market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:58PM (#32761560)
    I would also add that copyright and software patents are the result of government interference, and the significant players are using both of those quite a bit. in a truly free market, I could freely distribute copies of Windows in their original or a modified form, and i'm sure MS wouldn't care for that. If someone is pushing that agenda, i can't say i'd really have a problem with it, but advocating regulation only when it is convenient for your business and advocating the supposed free market at other times is dishonest.
  • Re:Opening up.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:59PM (#32761598)

    Wow, this sounds like _such_ a way to foster innovation, amirite? Hey, Innovaco, you can't invent a new mechanism to do that, we have this other one everyone else has been using for the last 10 years!

    Your point is ridiculous.

  • Re:Free market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:05PM (#32761694)

    You seem to not grasp the difference a free market a controlled market. Maybe you should look into that sometime.

    If there's one thing that annoys me, it's the "I'm really for free markets because I want to put all kinds of restrictions on it for its own good!" brigade. Spare me.

    At least be honest and say you want a controlled market and that you value consumer rights over market freedom instead of trying to pretend to be a freer marketeer than thou.

    The point of the free market is that individual actors acting in their own best interests will tend to find the best efficiencies. Once that market is controlled by outside parties, it becomes "less" free. See how that works?

    You can pretend that a controlled market is a free market and wave your hands about pretending that market controllers are _really!_ the biggest pro-free market people, but pretty much anyone who thinks about it for 30 seconds will see how full of shit you are.

  • by LaRainette ( 1739938 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @07:11PM (#32765974)
    I would gladly mod you as troll but : A. you would instantly get moded back up by any Apple fanboy cruising and B. It's so much more fun to respond.

    So, young one, what part of this article did you not understand (i.e. read) ?
    Because NOBODY ever said anything about the formats or software projects that Apple USES to implement its crazy shit closed business model.

    The fact that Apple relies heavily on FLOSS as core elements of its software solutions, or that it uses and supports formats that can be used by others if they pay (that's apparently what Open means to you...) is agreed upon by everybody. And By the way were Apple using only closed proprietary software the EU commission couldn't do SHIT about it because that's a perfectly valid and legal business decision.

    What the EU can do is kick Apple's ass for LOCKING customers into an eco system where competition is flawed by malpractice like what we called Vente liée (I never could find the correct translation for this sorry)

    Basically, it's OK to use whatever components you see fit in your product, but it is not OK to build a business model which is primarily about getting people into your eco system with very attractive products and then squezzing every last drop of blood from them with crap.
    There are laws that protects customers from that in the EU and in the US, and when the US governement has dealt with their other concernes (i.e. never) and when they grow the ball to go after a major company that has so much public support (i.e. again NEVER) maybe you'll see this happenning.

    What's great about the EU Commission is it's not a government, so they don't care about public support, they are about the law and protecting the consumer and competition
    what sucks about the EU is we don't have a government so we don't have fiscal, monetary or economic federal governance, and when we are in deep shit nobody is here with all the powers to make the good choices but that's another debate.

    It is not OK for to use their advantage in any given market to flaw the competition they have with other companies on another market. Form the exact same reasons that Microsoft had to get rid of IE.
  • Re:Free market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:23PM (#32768032) Journal

    Historically, there have been various definitions of "free market" in the first place, so don't assume that you and GP share it. The most common one these days is indeed "free from regulation", as you describe, but another fairly prominent one is "free to compete", which implies outside intervention to prevent anti-competitive practices.

  • by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk@gma i l . c om> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:43PM (#32768194)

    Software Defined Radio. []

    It is the future.

  • by Meski ( 774546 ) * <> on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:04AM (#32768714)
    And the DRM formats that iTunes supports? Are they open? (substitute Media player for iTunes if you wish)
  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:00AM (#32769930) Journal
    How about letting an enterprising app developer create a JVM for the iPhone? So that others can create simple Java games and tools?
  • Re:NOT great news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kavafy ( 1322911 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:34AM (#32770366)

    Leave Microsoft and the rest alone. Reform patent and copyright law. Watch competition and innovation flourish on its own as you remove its shackles.

    But how will that solve the problem of lack of interoperability? Don't you think there's value in standardisation sometimes?

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.