Google's AdMob business could not deliver advertising through iAd if Apple began enforcing a policy that restricts the involvement of companies that have their own mobile operating systems, said Omar Hamoui, vice president of mobile ads at Google.
Apple's policy does not allow the collection of advertising analytics by companies whose primary business is not serving mobile ads, and it specifically singles out companies that have their own mobile operating systems. The policy has not yet been enforced but would keep AdMob from using iAd, Hamoui said at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco. It would prevent AdMob from even tracking clicks, he said.
"(With) the level of data that would be restricted ... you can't really do it. It's not technically possible," Hamoui said.
The iPhone represents about 30 percent of AdMob's business, Hamoui acknowledged. The company is working on contingency plans in case Apple cracks down, but Apple can do so if it chooses, he said. "We're hopeful we're going to find a solution," Hamoui said.
The spectre of those restrictions has caused uncertainty for publishers and advertisers, who are trying to learn more about the rules and how they would affect advertising, Hamoui said. He has slammed the iAd policy in the past, in a Google blog post last month.
Having criticized Apple's policies around iAd, Hamoui also praised the new platform for increasing excitement about mobile advertising. With its focus on attractive multimedia ads, it has gotten brand advertisers more interested in mobile advertising, he said. "Having Steve Jobs talk about it is an important thing," Hamoui said.
There are still more mobile ads being delivered on iPhones than on any other platform, but Hamoui expects Android to take over that position over the next year or so. Asked to guess when that would happen, he gave next June as the date.
Apple's restrictions are a bad idea and unlikely ever to be enforced, because they wouldn't pass regulatory muster at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, said mobile advertising analyst Seamus McAteer of Majestic Research.
"I think they're going to blink. Steve Jobs doesn't want the FTC in his shorts," McAteer said.
But McAteer doesn't think the uncertainty will hold advertisers back, because for large brands, investments in mobile advertising are still small and experimental anyway.
Even as Android gains on the iPhone for advertising, Apple doesn't have to fear Android gobbling up its share of the mobile market, McAteer believes.
"We're talking about the future of personal computing," he said. "There's not going to be one winner."