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Apple's new developer license terms simply leave no other option, says Adobe

Its been a bitter couple weeks between Apple and Adobe.  While the pair's relationship has long been icy due to Apple's lack of desire to support Flash on the iPhone, in recent weeks Apple vocally attacked Adobe and more.  

Apple's latest SDK version -- 3.3.1 -- add terms prohibiting developers from porting Flash apps to iPhone binaries.  Reads the terms:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

That prohibition appears to ban the ports made with Adobe's CS5 iPhone linking tool.  That tool replaces Flash calls with iPhone OS X calls that yields a binary that looks almost identical to a C-language app, but was originally written in Flash.

Yesterday Adobe's Mike Chambers, Principal Product Manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform at Adobeannounced that the company would be officially dropping support for iPhone ports after CS5.  

Chambers makes it clear he has little respect for Apple's moves mentioning many examples of Apple's App Store restrictions and censorship.  He writes, "However, as developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at anytime, and for seemingly any reason."

Chambers expresses his frustrations as he comments about the reasoning behind Apple's move.  He writes, "The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."

He warns developers to prepare to have their apps developed in Flash to be kicked out of the iTunes store.  Many developers mention on their sites or promotional materials that they use the Flash porting tool.  That indiscretion could make Chambers prediction come true in many cases.  After all, it's hard to recognize a port via the binary, but if the developers itself has talked about porting it, it's an easy catch.

Chambers concludes, "Personally, I am going to shift all of my mobile focus from iPhone to Android based devices (I am particularly interested in the Android based tablets coming out this year) and not focus on the iPhone stuff as much anymore. This includes both Flash based, and Objective-C based iPhone development. While I actually enjoy working in Objective-C, I don’t have any current plans to update and / or maintain my existing native iPhone applications (including the AS3 Reference Guide, and Timetrocity). As I wrote previously, I think that the closed system that Apple is trying to create is bad for the industry, developers and ultimately consumers, and that is not something that I want to actively promote."

Steve Jobs has defended his stance on Adobe several times.  He say it's "buggy" and virus-prone and crashes Macs.  He's dodged the question of ports, but has alleged that the Flash platform in general leads to deficient code.

Updated 4/21/2010 @ 2:48 pm

According to CNET, Apple has responded back to Mike Chambers' comments regarding Apple and Flash. "Someone has it backwards--it is HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and H.264 (all supported by the iPhone and iPad) that are open and standard, while Adobe's Flash is closed and proprietary," responded Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller.

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By DFranch on 4/21/2010 12:59:12 PM , Rating: 4
How much money was Adobe supposed to spend to develop state of the art programs for the Mac? The Mac was like 2% of the market for most of the last 15 years. What was the cost benefit to Adobe. Apple is lucky Adobe supported them at all. Now that Apple is doing well they crap all over Adobe by banning them. Real nice!

By Alexstarfire on 4/21/2010 6:37:29 PM , Rating: 2
How exactly would Adobe "take over" app development on the iPhone? If by "take over" you mean alternative then yes, they will take over. Although given that they would be able to use it for cross-development most people probably would start using it, but that's the way things work when your product is superior in certain aspects, being compatibility in this case.

I don't use Apple devices so I could care less what happens between them and Adobe. I just find it retarded the stuff Apple can get away with that Microsoft couldn't even dream of without being sued.

By Tony Swash on 4/22/2010 6:35:02 AM , Rating: 1
How exactly would Adobe "take over" app development on the iPhone?

OK lets spell this out for you. Lets say developers are allowed to use Adobe's development platform for iPhone apps. The whole point of Adobe's system, the way it would have been marketed at app developers is that by using it you could write once and deploy everywhere - that is a developer could write an app using the Adobe system and churn out an identical version for Android, iPhone, Microsoft Phone 7 (unless blocked by MS of course). Lets say a significant number of developers go the Adobe route - that's the intention otherwise why would Adobe bother.

So far seemingly so good.

Lets assume that Adobe's system is upgraded on roughly the same cycle as its other major products - so we are talking perhaps 18 months or two years between major upgrades.

Lets also assume that in the interim between Adobe upgrades Apple rolls out a major new version of iPhone OS and/or a major hardware upgrade to its iDevices and/or a major new category of iDevice. Apple's record in doing these things is that they are moving pretty briskly with a minimum of a major upgrade to the iPhone OS and hardware once every 12 months. So Apple introduces some swish exciting new features (a central plank of Apple's strategy is to move faster that its competitors to stay ahead of the crowd - that's the basis of their recent amazing success) and naturally Apple would want the App developer community to implement these new features as quickly as possible - thats the whole point.

However Apple now has a major problem. A big chunk of its App developer community is now using the Adobe development platform. Adobe announces that they won't be able implement the new features for at least 18 months, it has to fit into Adobes product development cycle and anyway Adobe would like the the non-Apple market to catch up so that its product continues to be cross platform (remember - thats the basis on which its is marketed).

So Apple are fucked. They have lost control of the development cycle of their own products. Their unique selling points have disappeared, they can no longer sprint ahead of the competition.

This is not such a very hypothetical situation. Imagine Apple's iPad introduction if a significant section of the App developer community was using the Adobe development platform. Apple's announces the product and explains the new iPad devices features, its new screen resolution, etc, and urges all developers to start developing apps with a launch date set four months in the future. Adobe says it won't be able to support the new device for at least 12 months. Apple are fucked.

The idea that Adobe is slow (some would say down right shit) in supporting new Apple technologies is not exactly far fetched. There are many examples - the Creative Suite is only now partially making the transition to the MacOSX native code base tens years after it was introduced.

Now given all this, given the possible way this could pan out for Apple - what conceivable reason would they have for allowing such a thing to come about. If they did they would be idiots.

If you want to know what brings Apple and Steve Job's to worry about the scenario I have sketched out its because they have been here before. See this:

By Alexstarfire on 4/22/2010 10:58:12 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting. Without knowing how flash works on mobile devices I don't think I could say anything definitive, BUT if it's anything like what is available for computers then I don't think there would be anything else they'd have to add support for a long time. Computers have long since have more functionality than phones, hence it should be supported by Flash already. The gyro might be the one thing they'd have to add support for, but that's in every version of the iPhone already so no problems there. What do you anticipate them adding that support in Flash shouldn't already be there?

Anyway, Apple also isn't supporting Java which is also cross-platform. Might be easy to look at them not supporting Adobe and saying what you said, but Apple just doesn't want cross-platform in general. It's no wonder why they don't want that and/or Flash support. Apple is by far the greediest company around. Makes Enron look like a joke.

By ekv on 4/21/2010 8:53:07 PM , Rating: 2
Essentially Adobe would then be in a position to dictate the pace and nature of app development for iDevices.
But instead it is Apple dictating to Adobe ... and that does chaff the latter's hide.

The audacity of Adobe is providing crappy software, (seemingly) in perpetuity. Teh audacity of Apple is Steve Jobs doing to others what Gates did to him.

I don't care for either company. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find alternative products that are better and cost less, across both their entire lines. It seems that both have a certain corporate ethos .... It's like you're buying a brand and not a product, like Gap and Nordstrom's and all the other teeny-bopper stuff. If you can afford that then it's a free country -- well, kind of. [Certainly not on the iPhone, where the dev contract is positively Machiavellian]

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