Stephen Foley: Apple must decide whether to stifle consumer choice

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The Independent Online

US Outlook: We are at a fork in the road for Apple's iPhone. The company has to decide if it is going to allow users to choose a rival to its Safari web browser for surfing the internet from their device.

The Finnish company Opera has developed a version of its mobile browser that it wants to offer for download from the iPhone app store. Apple has already taken more than 10 days to decide what to do, and there is concern it will block Opera. The browser is probably the most important app on a smartphone, and Apple has some form in denying approval for potentially competitive apps. It failed to allow the download of Google Voice, which would give iPhone users a way to reduce their phone bills by circumventing the phone service provided in the US by AT&T.

At issue, how closed a system is the iPhone (and, by the way, the iPad)? Apple may have thrown open its devices to app developers, but it maintains tight control over what is allowed on. In the long run, this will be to its detriment, because it is stifling consumer choice.

The most competitive landscape will come from Googlisation of mobile devices, unlocked from any particular phone network, with open platforms attracting a rich array of third-party applications including cheap voice-over-internet phone calls. Anything else shouldn't pass regulatory muster.

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