The future of analytics on the iPhone

The announcement that iAd will be included in iPhone OS 4.0 has caused a certain amount of speculation as to the future of other ad platforms on the iPhone. I can see that Apple might be tempted to make life difficult for a company like AdMob now that it is being acquired by Google. However a number of other companies like Flurry could also get caught in the cross-fire.

Flurry makes it easy to add analytics to an application and do not themselves serve ads. However they could fall foul of changes to the iPhone SDK agreement that prevents disclosing device data to a third party without Apple’s consent.

A lot depends on how you define device data. Apple has consistently rejected apps that collect a users location for no other reason than analytics or advertising purposes. Additional privacy controls in OS 4.0 shown in the recent keynote make it obvious that Apple intends the user to have full control on what information an application can use. However does sending a device ID with basic application usage data that cannot be tied back to an individual user constitute a violation of the agreement? Flurry are still seeking clarification from Apple:

Flurry has contacted Apple and is seeking clarification on the language. Our goal is to move forward in a way that continues to provide valuable insight to developers about how to build better apps, while complying with the new Agreement. We believe this is possible, and in a way that still serves your needs for real-time information.

This seems to be another example of the risks that companies take when building a business on top of another companies ecosystem. The recent purchase by Twitter of the Tweetie iPhone client will make life difficult for other Twitter client developers. I can also see issues for a company like Urban Airship now that Apple will allow local notifications without the need for an external server to coordinate the interactions with Apple’s push notification service.

As a developer my first concern is that Apple clarifies the rules before OS 4.0 is released or there will be a lot of App Store rejections as developers submit apps that contain third party analytics and Ad services. My preferred outcome would be if Apple allows competition in this space but that remains to be seen.