Apr 12 AT 11:28 AM Matt Demers 40 Comments

iAd, and what it means for Android


To borrow an old Canadian adage, owning a phone other than Apple’s iPhone is like sharing a bed with an elephant. No matter what it does, or how much you want to ignore it, you are affected by its every movement.

Yesterday proved no different, as Apple revealed details about its iPhone OS 4.0. With the announcement comes many improvements, many of which (folders, dedicated e-mail app, etc) are already present on Android. However, Apple made one move that’s going to be causing a few waves: iAd. As a mobile advertising platform for iPhone apps, it gives developers a chance to split the revenues of advertising 60-40 with Apple. Thankfully, the developers get the 60.

Stupid naming scheme aside, iAd is part of Apple’s recent strategy to set precedents. Apple, as many people in tech will point out, dislikes working with Adobe product. This has resulted in a lack of Flash support for both iPhone and iPad. This lack of support became a large issue when the company decided to release their iPad tablet, as Adobe claims that Flash is installed on 98% of Internet enabled desktops, and 75% of all video online is viewed through their technology. How would they be able to tout the iPad as the “ultimate browsing experience” if it could not see half the videos and a large amount of ads that are on the Internet?

Apple then did what it does best, and set a precedent.

Enter HTML5. Slowly gaining steam within web circles lately, this update to a developing language makes videos and ads a plugin-less experience on the Internet. Gone would be the days of users having to install Flash and (shudder) Shockwave in order to view content. As long as a browser were up to date, users would be able to see what site designers wanted.

Android is not averse to HTML5, as any device with 2.0 or better has support for the format. Hell, Ian Hickson, the HTML5 Editor (yes, that’s a formal title) is a Google employee. This should mean that we, as Android users, should have nothing to worry about… right?

Not necessarily.

Along with the iPhone 4.0 came its software development kit (SDK), which included the following lines:

3.3.1 – Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

This segment of the agreement effectively locks out the use of Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler. Developers have used this program to import their designed apps into a format which the Apple App Store can, in turn, process. This means that developers who have been developing using this tool will have to find another way, just because Apple doesn’t enjoy that platform.

The company is looking to send a statement which is “You work our way, but if not, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

This was especially evident with the iPad launch, as developers were scrambling to grab a piece of the early-adopter pie. Because everyone doesn’t want to be late to the party, they’re all the more quick to adopt whatever Apple tells them to. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t have HTML5-compliant video and adspace? Well, it better damn well get some if it wants to be part of the tablet revolution.

Apple has little to lose if publishing body doesn’t want to play by their rules; they’d have about five thousand other publications willing to make the changes so they can enjoy the “Featured App” space on iTunes and the money involved with being available at launch. The advantages of a company complying with these demands are huge – they get to be part of the new wave, and in some cases, set precedents on how they price their apps.

However, the setbacks Apple brings to developers who have been doing everything “right” by their standards (up until now) rubs me the wrong way.

My main concern is Apple’s ability to just impose these new standards. It would seem more beneficial to the web in order to have a standard (such as HTML5 or Flash) that maximizes accessibility, instead of a splintering between the two mediums. It’s as if Apple’s snubbing of Flash turned on big red signs in newsrooms and development studios around the world, flashing “DROP EVERYTHING AND CHANGE YOUR VIDEOS TO HTML5 IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR TRAFFIC UP.”

What I don’t want to see in the future is Apple eventually deciding that HTML5 is not as good as something they could do in-house. Suddenly at Apple’s behest, developers will have to make another switch to iPlugin 2.5x, and devices that aren’t compatible (and aren’t selling as well anymore) are left crippled. The developers have no incentive to include apps for older hardware (because of labor costs or the elimination of features), and early-adopters get shafted.

It’s worth to mention that Admob, the largest SDK for mobile ads, is both owned by being acquired by Google and is available to develop for Flash. At the moment, it has three SDKs: Flash, Android and iPhone. Now that it’s directly competing with Apple’s iAd, it will be interesting to see if Admob will change to Apple’s new standards or perhaps cater more to Android developers.

Ultimately this situation seems to be similar to the argument that people have been making between the Android Marketplace and Apple App Store have been making for a good long while now: what freedom of development are they willing to sacrifice in order to reach both greater audience and greater profits? Are developers going to allow themselves to be influenced by one company’s actions? How will people react to Adobe’s response?

Some part of me enjoys just being caught in the middle of it.

UPDATE: At the time of this posting, Google has acquired Admob, and is going through proceedings with the FTC to legalize the sale. The Federal Trade Comission is concerned about the lack of competition for the merged companies, but with iAd emerging, this seems less likely to be an issue.

Matt is a Toronto blogger who enjoys writing opinion columns about culture, comics and of course, Android. You can find more of Matt's work on his personal site.

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  • http://Website Derek

    All mobile ads can fuck off in my opinion. I absolutely hate seeing ads on my cell phone. With the amount that I pay per month for cell service and the phone itself I should be able to browse the web unfettered and un-annoyed by stinking ads!

    • http://clarklab.net Clark Wimberly

      the problem is none of that money paid makes it back to the content creators or app developers. at this point ads are a necessary evil for lots of people. I’d rather see an ad displayed than see a creative dev or project fold under lack of funds.

      • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

        It seems like the only comments I write on Android and Me any more are grumpy ones.
        I really do love Android and Me, but maybe opinion pieces should only be written by Clark Wimberly.
        All the other opinion articles seem to be pretty much crap.
        Clark, get control of your writers!
        We, as the Android community, need a good, reliable Android site. You were quickly becoming that site, but I’m starting to worried when you publish articles like this one.

        • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          See my below reply to your comment.

          • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

            The deal has not gone through. From the article you linked. “Today we announced that AdMob has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Google for $750 million. ”
            Notice how it says “to be acquired” NOT “has been acquired”.

            Actually you did NOT do your research. From an article written today: “With the Federal Trade Commission reportedly assembling an internal litigation team to mount an antitrust challenge to Google’s PROPOSED $750 million acquisition of mobile advertising network AdMob” – http://www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/google-ceo-credits-apples-iad-boosting-admob-deal/2010-04-12
            (I added the caps)

            The FTC has not cleared this deal and it has to go through the FTC before it happens.

            I understand how you could be confused, I just expect higher quality reporting from this site.

          • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

            Alright, valid; it could be surmised that Apple’s iAd presents the competition needed for Google’s acquisition of Admob to go through, though.

          • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

            Its hard to figure out were to reply in this comment scheme. I hope that gets fixed in the new layout.

            “it could be surmised that Apple’s iAd presents the competition needed for Google’s acquisition of Admob to go through” YES! I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, that is not what your article states. You are now onto something that is worth writing an article about.

            Also, “At the moment, it has three SDKs: Flash, Android and iPhone. ” AdMob also has an WebOS SDK. I know that the AdMob website sucks, but you didn’t even contact them to find out which SDK’s they have right now?
            BTW the Flash and WebOS SDK’s are both in beta.
            Not to mention that AdMob also supports web ads for mobile and iAds does not.

            But you haven’t convinced me in the slightest how any the things in your article are related to Android. I can think of some indirect ways that iAd might affect Android, but none of them are spelled out here.

          • http://Website ken

            Here’s the thing: Google knows that Apple has been eyeing admob for past year so they decided to buy it even before Apple did. iAd – is the product of Apple’s ever desire to drive the cash cow money out from users through mobile ads.

            Still don’t believe me? Look how iAd performs? Instead of it, just resting calmly at the bottom of your screen, its now ‘alive’ and it even gets your attention before you play an APP.

            Oh, I just hope that the new iDevices (iPhone 4G), will have a good procs and upgraded memory, bcoz those iAds looks like it will eat a lot of I/O jobs. To think that, there’s some sort of multitasking going on. iPhone OS 4.0 Reactions.

    • http://Website Mike

      Here’s the sad fact, Derek: Less than 1% of the owners of Android phones will pay for an app. The other 99% are happy with free. I am guessing you are in the 99% camp.

      Guess what? Developers don’t work for free. Get used to it. Ads are not only a better way to derive revenue for the hard work put into developing an app, it’s perhaps the only way.

      • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

        Actually about 21% of Android users BUY at least 1 app every month.

        • http://www.dizware.blogspot.com Diz(WARE)

          So? That’s still an extremely low margin, meaning Android development is going to continue to be just a hobby for a lot of developers and not a real source of income. This is a huge problem when you oppose that to the iPhone and the wicked success that handfuls of individual developers and development companies have been experiencing.

          This iAd is a big deal because it’s just another reason to lean towards the iPhone platform over anything else, due to the multiple pipes of cash flow. On top of this, Apple is locking in the developers by requiring that what you make for Apple must be written in the “Apple”-way hence, blocking devs from bringing their apps cross-platform easily.

          This is the issue, and why this is bad for Android. You are going to start seeing one of two things:
          1) Developers are going to move from Android to iPhone for revenue benefits
          2) Developers are going to be forced out of using cross-platform tools just so that they can be allowed to develop for the iPhone.

          So in short, this article does pertain to Android, and in a very much, serious way. Developers are always going to be less apt to write more programs, if they are forced to pick and choose between platforms…and trust me, they will always pick whatever is most profitable.

          • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

            In the short term you are correct but in the long run I think you are dead wrong. Android will be a larger market in the end. See Mac vs PC.
            I’m a developer and I currently only target Android. Yes, I am a hobby developer. I was thinking about branching a project I’m working on over to the iPhone but now I’m probably not going to.
            See this article as why: http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2273-five-rational-arguments-against-apples-331-policy

  • http://Website d3vkit

    As a web developer by trade, I see this as good and bad. I absolutely hate when a company forces a consumer into a corner like this. However, I also hate proprietary software and requiring some new plugin – flash was everywhere, so a necessary evil. I think an overall switch to HTML5 is a very good thing, but I agree that eventually we will see Apple try to reign this into something of their own. It’s what they do, to create an overall Apple-Branded ‘experience’.

    If not, then I actually applaud them for this. But we will see.

  • http://Website robb

    While I agree that Apple is wrong for imposing a restriction on development languages for their iPhone OS platform, I can’t disagree with their choice to move to HTML5 over allowing Flash for content.

    HTML5 is in fact an open (draft) standard while Flash is proprietary to Adobe. Although Flash has become the most widely adopted platform over the years, HTML5 is being seen as a fast approaching (open standard) alternative.

    If Apple eventually drops support of a standard like HTML5 for a proprietary solution, then that is a different and valid argument.

  • http://Website archboy69

    Aren’t most of whom decided to develop for Apple already sold their soul to the devil? They practically leap when Apple tells them too and run when Apple tells them too for the sake of profit.

    What a little deeper into Dante’s inferno going to matter if you can make more money right?

  • http://Website Jason

    Apple is such a piece of shit. Apple has been doing stuff like this for a long time. I’m a firm believer in the fact that Android is a better and more capable platform, but unfortunately that’s never going to be enough. Apple has such a tight grip on the community it’s astonishing! Personally I’m very happy that Google is behind Android, because if anyone had the power to de-throne Apple, it’s definitely Google. It’s time that people start learning about what’s really better for them, not what some corporation wants to done down your throat. I have never been, and probably never will, be a supporter of Apple. Android, Google, and Linux are my chosen platforms.

  • http://www.ronaldparisi.com Ronald Parisi

    One thing that could potentially bring some good for us Androiders is that, yes, developers are getting flustered and down right pissed with Apple, and in turn they will (hypothetically) bring their apps over to google instead.

    • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      It depends how many people are exclusively using Flash to make their apps. If a developer can avoid re-tooling their entire app to meet the iTunes requirements, they will. Apple still has the biggest market share, biggest audience and biggest potential for profit.

  • http://Website Colin

    I wouldn’t really say that Apple choosing to use an open standard (HTML5) over a proprietary one (Flash) in their product counts as “imposing a standard”, least of all an abuse of market power.

    The fact remains that Flash as a video container is kind of pointless, and flash as an interactive layer is designed to be used with a mouse, not a touch interface. It’s probably a good thing for non-computer devices in general for the internet to move away from flash.

    Apples TOS change does have the effect of making it more work for developers to write apps that work on multiple platforms, but given Android’s current rate of growth, this may end up hurting Apple more than it hurts Android in the long run. Especially if the iPhone stays handcuffed to AT&T.

    In short, I could complain about a lot of things Apple is doing right now, but pushing HTML5 over flash isn’t one of them.

  • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

    What affect does iAd have on Android?
    No directed affect. Very little indirect affect.
    Maybe I’m missing something here but from what I have been reading iAd is exclusive to Apps on iPhones. It doesn’t even spill over to the browser on iPhones, much less the desktop web.

    Why are we even talking about iAds on this website? You will never see one on your Android phone…

    Its possible that iAds will affect AdMob and that will in turn affect Android, but you are incorrect in saying that Google owns AdMob. They do not. Google has PROPOSED to buy them.

    Even the facts of this article are wrong, much less the opinions.

    • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Erm, what? Sorry man, I did my research.

    • http://Website Sunil


      iAd most certainly does affect the android platform. You have too look at it from a developer’s perspective and not from a users. It’s hard to say for certain what will happen with Apple’s announced changes, but we can be sure development of some android apps will be affected by the Apple’s restrictions on 3rd party toolkits and compilers. With these restrictions, it’s going to be harder for IPhone developers to port apps to android.

      The contentions of html5 is also very relevant. With Apple setting a precedent to adopt HTML5 it reduces the need for android phones to adopt flash as well. It is basically putting pressure on content providers to adopt HTML5. Since android already supports HTML5 and not flash, it’s great that Apple is setting this precedent.

      From a business standpoint Matt’s point about adMob is also valid. The legitimacy of the Google’s acquisition of adMob was called into question by the FTC because of Anti-Trust concerns. The iAd platform introduces more competition with mobile advertising and actually clears the way for FTC approval of the acquisition.

      • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

        Sunil, I also posted another comment above. But I’ll say something here as well.
        First, I am a developer, so hopefully I will be able to think like one. ;)
        I think Apples restrictions on 3rd party toolkits for iPhone will defiantly affect Android. I just don’t think iAds will. Apples new NDA and iAds are not related. I think Apple’s new NDA has far reaching consequences for all mobile platforms and even the future of computing. However, iAds is relegated to apps on the iPhone. I don’t see how that’s relevant to an android website…

        The switch to HTML 5 from Flash video also affects Android users, again, unrelated to iAds.

        Also the acquisition of AdMob by Google and subsequent approval process by the FTC and how that relates to iAds *is* interesting. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t mention anything about that.

        My chief complaint here is that I expect good journalism when I come to Android and Me and this story is sub par for the site.

        We need a good Android news site. I hope this site will be it.
        Also, apparently, I’m grumpy today.

      • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

        Oh, I’m glad to see that the article has been updated to mention the FTC approval process of the Google AdMob deal.

        • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

          I thought I might edit it; you know, because we’re irresponsible journalists, and all.

  • doncalamari

    Leaving the HTML5 vs. Flash argument aside for a moment, isn’t anyone else bothered by the idea of a form of ad-ware built right into ANY operating system? Admittedly, it’s probably going to be pretty benign, at least at first, but I’m kinda surprised at the lack of consumer outrage over this.

    Then again, maybe it’s just my burning hatred of all things marketing tainting my view of things…

    • http://Website Darkseider

      The reason there is no consumer outrage is because the consumers that Steve Jobs is catering to are generally toe walking, mouth breathing imbeciles. They have no idea what adware is. No idea what a REAL smartphone is be it WinMo/Android/WebOS/Symbian. They know it’s shiny, it blinks and it makes pretty noises and changes colors when they poke it. They oooh and aaaah and believe it is magical just like Uncle Steve said and that a Unicorn is going to pop out of it if they play with it enough.

  • http://Website Derrick

    I think everyone should embrace HTML5, it’s an open standard. Flash isn’t. The problem I have with Apple is none of this is about open standards. I mean look at who Apple is. They can care less about openness and standards, just look at their app store approval process.

    This is about control and that’s all it has and ever will be. They want to control the phone, the apps, the users, and now ads for profit and profit alone. Using flash means people might have another method for circumventing their app-store. They won’t be able to have the same granular control they have now.

    As far as iAd. Again this is about generating revenue. The only reason they market it as revolutionary, awesome, etc is because they have to put a spin on it imposing additional restrictions on their operating system. Now they’re saying they’ll have to approve your ad just like they have to approve your app.

    This is starting to remind me of American Online vs “The Real Internet”. Remember when those not technically savvy though AOL WAS the Internet? Remember? They didn’t know about Netscape, newsgroups, IRC, etc. All they knew was what AOL allowed them. That being chat rooms, email, and other crap which has slipped my mind. Eventually the Earthlink’s of the world started advertising and slowly people transitioned from a moderated Internet experience to a real full blown Internet experience.

    That’s what this iPhone is starting to feel like. AOL babied you my shielding the Internet away from you, making email easy by providing you with ONE email client instead of giving you options, do I use Netscape mail or Eudora (remember them). The point is AOL was successful because they did cater to the uneducated consumer in a sense. Others simply joined AOL because that’s what their friends were using. The same thing applies here with the iPhone. Steve Jobs tells you what you want and need, he creates another niche market (much like the convertible tablets that never sold well) but does it better/well.

    I give Jobs credit, everyone loves shiny eye candy. And his iPhone and iPad can appeal to those with no aptitude for understanding technology. There are those people who want to send emails, or surf the web but don’t want the complications associated with learning about antivirus, spyware, etc etc. They just want it to work. I think the iPad would work well for these people.

    Then you have people like me. An Information Technology Professional who has owned 2 iPhones, the original and the 3G but having come from a Windows Mobile environment a long time ago I realized the iPhone was lacking in many basic functionality and I couldn’t function with this walled garden “you get what we give you” sort of attitude.

    I remember when the first iPhone was released and Jobs said it wasn’t 3G because 3G eats up too much battery life, only to later come out with a 3G iPhone. Later he told us apps weren’t happening, the only apps would come from Apple. Later that changed to If you want an app, then web apps were the way to go because phones that run third party software are flaky, slow, hang/crash often. He later changed his mind on that one too and look at the app store now. Billions of apps downloaded.

    This guy knows how to flip the script and make it sound good. Who else can make something like COPY & PASTE look revolutionary? I mean he drops an iPhone 4.0 OS event drawing so much attention to let us know they’ve mastered multitasking and people still don’t realize it’s not true multitasking. This guy is a master manipulator, a true pimp. <– Think about that analogy for a minute.

    • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      The AOL analogy is surprisingly valid.

    • http://Website gad

      Well said Derrick. couldn’t agree with
      you more. that guy is a manipulative bastard.

    • http://Website Antwan Reynolds

      Damn Derrick that was long, but it was a good read indeed. I couldn’t have articulated such thoughts any better.

  • http://Website HunterA3

    With the iTunes app store becoming more restrictive with all apps to be written in Objective C, and the number of Android handsets being pushed to market, time will tell if things remain the same, Apple chokes itself with its own rules and walled garden, or if Android naturally eclipses iPhone OS and the market placates to it rather than Apple because of its larger overall market share.

    My money is on the latter.

  • http://danielkinsman.wordpress.com the 327th male

    For me there’s a bigger issue than flash in the statement:

    “Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited”

    This make it impossible to use a cross platform APIs that let devs easily port apps between iphone os and android. So devs will have to choose which platform to develop for and stick with that, because porting will be too much work.


  • http://Website SJ

    The way I see it, Android can use Flash AND HTML5, while apple is limited to just HTML5. Android wins either way!

    - Adobe actually had a big hand in HTML5, so they won’t worry too much

    -Isn’t Youtube Flash based anyway, and could be taken away from ifans anytime Google wants? I highly doubt they will, but if apple want to play silly buggers…

    Actually, as Youtube develops, won’t it use/need later versions of Flash plugins anyway? I suppose they could sit down and rebuild it in HTML5…

  • http://Website glo

    well youtube already has an HTML5 version of their http://www.youtube.com/html5

  • http://Website Jose G.

    The problem with iAD, is that it’s so far exclusive to the iPhone, iPod Touch, & the iPad. No iAd’s will be used on non-Apple devices. The impact to Google will be marginal if non existent.

    The fact is that people are choosing Android in much larger numbers than the iPhone. In a matter of months, Google will over take the number of iPhone users, web traffic, & the apps will reach parity.

    Apple however by the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK, has opened itself up to litigation from Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, & the U.S. Department of Justice. By banning both Flash, Oracle Java, & Silverlight, Apple is in violation of the attempt to monopolize provision of the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. I am aware that some JavaScript can be used, but it’s on Apple’s terms not Oracle’s. Not necessary as a monopoly but the anti-competitive behavior language of the Anti-Trust act.

    I think Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, & the DOJ have a very strong & good case against Apple here. This harms plenty of websites because 75% of the current Internet websites uses Flash. Most importantly, it denies the individual user from making a decision on Adobe, different Java implementations, & Silverlight on their Apple purchased products. Many of them also use different JavaScript implementations outside of the ones allowed by Apple. This attempt to monopolise & create exclusive platform deals harms the competition & web sites world wide with impact for everyone & needs to be settled in court.

  • http://www.kid-genius.com delayne

    Once the android tablet comes out with flash (hopefully), it’ll take over.

    • http://www.mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      It won’t have the brand awareness, the marketing or the “it’s a new device!” factor. Even though there are tablets that came out before the iPad, everyone still managed to think that it was the first of its kind.

  • http://Website Darkseider

    iAD. With the soon to be closed deal between Google and AdMob it really doesn’t matter. Yes I know the FTC is going to investigate and pull the whole monopoly bit BUT Apple already owns iAD which can be used as an argument against the FTC’s stupid ant-trust investigation. Just a matter of time before all is said and done.

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