Apple’s IPad Rivalry May Ward Off Antitrust Probes, EU Says

Apple Inc.’s growing competition from Google Inc. and tablet makers may shield it from possible antitrust concerns over its iPad newspaper subscriptions services, said European Union regulators.

The European Commission, which probes alleged abuses of monopoly power in the 27-nation region, said it couldn’t judge whether Apple has a dominant position because the tablet market is “relatively new and evolving.”

“Alternative applications platforms exist and several companies have recently launched or are expected to launch in the near future a number of devices similar in terms of functionality to the iPad,” Andris Piebalgs, an EU commissioner, wrote in a response dated Feb. 11 to questions from a Belgian member of the European Parliament.

Apple said on Feb. 15 it was starting a subscription service for publishers to sell newspapers and magazines on the iPad and other devices through the company’s online App Store. It will take a 30 percent cut of any subscription purchased through the App Store. Publishers that participate will have to offer their lowest subscription rates within Apple’s store.

The following day, Google unveiled a rival service in which the company would keep 10 percent of fees charged by publishers. It will run on tablet computers made by HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and others, running Google’s Android operating system.

Belgian lawmakers have made antitrust complaints about Cupertino, California-based Apple after European newspapers raised concerns over changes to its iPad subscriptions policy.

Apple’s App Store offers more than 350,000 applications to users of the iPhone, iPod and iPad, according to the company. About $1.1 billion of applications were sold through the App Store in 2010, making Apple’s revenue share about $317 million, according to estimates from Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. in San Francisco.

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