Apple’s easy ride from US authorities may be over

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The Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general are taking the first steps toward launching an antitrust probe of Apple, turning the iPhone-maker into the latest Silicon Valley giant to face legal jeopardy in Washington. Antitrust officials have spoken to several companies unhappy with Apple’s ironclad control of its App Store, the source of frequent griping by developers who say the company’s rules are applied inconsistently — particularly for apps that compete with Apple’s own products — and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. 

While Apple’s iOS smartphone operating system has historically been less dominant than Google’s Android, the trend is shifting. In September, Apple’s iOS accounted for about 47 percent of smartphones in the U.S., compared with 51 percent for Android, according to comScore. When tablets are included, Apple's share jumps to 58 percent. For an antitrust suit, that growing dominance may be a key factor, said Gene Kimmelman, who worked in the DOJ's Antitrust Division during the Obama administration. “It’s one thing to structure your services in a restrictive way or use exclusive contracts when you’re small,” said Kimmelman, now a senior adviser at Public Knowledge. “But the bigger you become, the more dominant you become in a market, the more likely those types of restrictions — unless they are absolutely essential to benefit consumers — will be viewed skeptically as harmful to competition.”

Apple’s easy ride from U.S. authorities may be over