David Prosser: Apple not facing an apps crunch yet

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The Independent Online

Outlook At first sight, it looks like a famous victory. Campaigners in the US have succeeded in persuading the Government to change the rules to give greater freedom to owners of an Apple iPhone. Previously, customers were breaking the law by unlocking their iPhones: changing the software on the handsets in order to bypass Apple's ban on downloads of apps from anywhere other than its own iTunes store. Now the company will have no legal recourse against customers who choose to do this.

That ought to be a win for competition and the free market. The stunning success of the iPhone – the reception hiccup on the latest model notwithstanding – has given Apple huge power in the apps market, which was worth more than $4bn last year alone. There are competitors – the merger of two rivals yesterday will help too – but as long as Apple has the biggest selling smartphone and remains able to stipulate what can be downloaded on to it, it will have a stranglehold.

Unfortunately, however, yesterday's victory is only a beginning in limiting this power. Apple will still be able to cancel the warranties of those who unlock its phones and to publish software updates that might disable such models. Only those iPhone owners happy to risk such problems will be able to look beyond iTunes. Not such a breakthrough after all, then.

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