FTC OKs Google-AdMob Deal, Citing Apple’s iAd

Google (s GOOG) is now free to complete its purchase of AdMob, as members of the Federal Trade Commission have unanimously decided that the deal is unlikely to harm competition in the mobile advertising market. Ultimately, it was Apple’s (s AAPL) plans to launch its own competitor that paved the way.

Though the agency said Google and AdMob being independent from each other has enriched the young mobile advertising market, it also determined that Apple’s plans to launch its own ad platform, iAd, would create a worthy competitor to Google and AdMob combined.

Google announced plans to buy AdMob for $750 million in November, an antitrust investigation was launched shortly after, and Apple announced iAd in April.

In the meantime, there were indications the FTC was leaning towards mounting a case against the deal, including mobile developers blogging that they had spoken with investigators who seemed to have their minds made up against Google.

In a blog post about the FTC decision, Google VP product management Susan Wojcicki said the AdMob acquisition should now close “in coming weeks.”

The puzzle pieces could have come together very differently. Apple had hoped to buy AdMob before Google snapped it up. Then Apple went and bought Quattro as an alternative. Google had a lot riding on the deal, with reports suggesting it had promised AdMob a $700 million “kill fee” it didn’t go through. Yesterday at Google’s developer conference the company introduced new mobile ad formats for both native apps and web apps that closely resemble iAd.

But the FTC statement noted that Apple has a few advantages of its own in the market:

“Apple can leverage its close relationships with application developers and users, its access to a large amount of proprietary user data, and its ownership of iPhone software development tools and control over the iPhone developers’ license agreement.”

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Image courtesy Flickr user Mike Rowehl.