Adobe-Apple Feud Frustrates App Development

Apple has recently changed their license agreement to exclude Flash language programs and Flash to iPhone Compilers. This has created a great deal of buzz in the app development world. The i-Phone Developer Program License Agreement set out by Apple was modified to exclude such Flash related programs when the agreement was edited to include:

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).

This added language has caused an uproar in the app development community. As John Gruber, at Daring Fireball explains,“… cross compilers, such as the Flash to iPhone Compiler in Adobe’s upcoming Flash Professional CS5 release, are prohibited."

Depending on your involvement with apps, this ultimately means that all the apps that use Flash or intend to use Flash will either be discontinued or changed.

Most of the apps using Flash are video game apps, which is a market that is growing quite rapidly. According to CNet news, the portable gaming market is around a 10 Billion Dollar industry and Apple made $500 million off it last year - up significantly from $115 million in 2008. The list of affected apps is not insubstantial and includes some of the top selling apps at iTunes such as Monopoly, Simpsons Arcade, Skeeball, and it is even rumored that Tap Tap Revolution was partially written in the violating Lua Programming language (click here for entire list). It is unknown how much revenue these particular games bring in, but it is a bold move for Apple to potentially hinder their growth in this market in order to exclude such programming language.

Steve Jobs’ response to this change is relayed to the public in the Tao Effect blog, stating “We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.” However, as the author also continues, what will Apple do with the now restricted apps already in existence utilizingMonoTouchLua,NimbleKit or Unity3D (non-Apple sanctioned tools that allow developers to code for the iPhone in non-C languages). Will they continue selling these apps? Will they be forced to alter their code?

As some of you know, Adobe and Apple have not been on good terms for awhile, and this is just the latest in the battle between the two companies. Although a harsh change in contract language, some developers and bloggers, such as, Pascal-Emmanuel Groby with the Business Insider are curious if the change is illegal? According to sjvn at IT World, in his article Adobe vs. Apple is going to get uglier, a lawsuit is already in the works. No mention to what the actual claims would be, the folks at Geek-news and IT World believe Apple would likely be facing some anti-trust claims. With such deep pockets on both sides, a clear judgment would likely take a serious amount of time to resolve. As a result, it will be very interesting to see how developers react initially. With several Austinites and Austin-based companies focusing on app development, our local tech community will undoubtedly have an impact on the language app developers continue to use.