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Apple Fortifies Walled Garden with Latest SDK

Fri, 04/09/2010 - 1:09pm
Andrew Berg

While end-users may be ecstatic about some of the new features Apple’s iPhone OS 4.0 will bring, developers are split on what the new SDK represents. Specifically, many are crying foul for changes Apple has made to the company’s developer license agreement.

According to article 3.3.1 of the agreement, which is available from a variety of sources on the Web, 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.”

The language might specifically hinder third-party platforms, such as Adobe and Unity, from porting apps onto the iPhone. Adobe went so far as to say in today’s Q-10 filing with the SEC that being banned from the iPhone and/or iPad could significantly hurt its business.

"To the extent new releases of operating systems or other third-party products, platforms or devices, such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, make it more difficult for our products to perform, and our customers are persuaded to use alternative technologies, our business could be harmed," Adobe said in its filing.

Another company, Unity, which provides a third-party platform developing and porting apps to the iPhone and now the iPad, also could be affected. Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason says his company has been assured by Apple that this won’t affect his business. He points out that these are Beta terms and can be easily changed.

“We have no indication from Apple that things are going to change. We have a great relationship with Apple and will do everything we can to comply with Apple's TOS so that we can provide uninterrupted service to our more than 120K users,” Helgason says.

Apple was unavailable for comment on the matter, but given Steve Jobs’ deadpan “No” yesterday when asked whether Apple would support Flash on the iPad or iPhone in the future, it looks like this could be the final word on Cupertino’s refusal of Adobe software.

Nothing Set in Stone
Avi Greengart, senior analyst at Current Analysis, doesn’t think anything’s been set in stone. However, he concedes that the language in the new agreement is less than positive for companies like Adobe.

“The way it is written, it does certainly look like Apple is trying to get developers to specifically focus on Apple and not just write once and port to the platform,” Greengart says, adding that he hasn’t seen any evidence that the new language is aimed at any entity in particular.

Greengart also questions whether Apple could feasibly enforce this kind of policy. “I mean, what are they going to do? Go in and search all the code for fingerprints,” he quipped.

Flash is Still Thirving
Dominique Jodoin, president and CEO of BlueStreak Technologies, a company that specializes in creating applications based on the Flash platform, felt the need to defend Adobe in a recent commentary given all the bickering about who supports Flash and who doesn’t. He contends that Flash is anything but a dead technology.

Jodoin notes that 1.2 billion mobile phones are Flash capable, 70 percent of online gaming sites run Flash and the platform boasts a developer community of 2 million to 3 million developers. He’s bullish about Flash even in the face of the increasingly accepted competing technologies like HTML5.

“To displace a technology as deeply embedded as Flash is in the worldwide market would take a tremendous momentum shift. HTML5, as it stands today, doesn’t offer all of the same capabilities as Flash and it will take several years before it can catch up,” Jodoin says.

Jodoin’s doesn’t think Apple products will ever see Flash, but he’s not of the opinion that it has anything to do with the technical reasons cited by Jobs, such as draining battery and overloading the CPU.

“The reality is that Apple simply doesn’t want developers to have an alternative platform for developing applications for the iPhone and iPad. They want everything to be built using the native SDK and sold through iTunes. It would take a pretty intense consumer uprising to change that vision for the future,” Jodoin says, adding that the only “outside” chance of Flash on the iPhone would be if more smartphones, like the NexusOne that does support Flash, create enough competitive pressure that Apple is left without a choice.

 

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