Blog Post

Apple Crushes Adobe’s iPhone App Dreams

UPDATED So much for Adobe (s ADBE) trying to provide a workaround for Flash developers to create iPhone and iPad applications. Apple (s AAPL) today fired its latest salvo in its war against Flash, with an update to its iPhone Developer Program License Agreement that specifically bans the use of third-party compilers for creating apps that will run on the iPhone OS.

As pointed out by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, the language in the license agreement has become much more aggressive, if not downright antagonistic, against applications not written in Objective-C, C, C++ or Javascript. It states:

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 will come as a big blow to Adobe, which was pinning its hopes on its upcoming Packager for iPhone — an important piece of its Creative Suite 5 that was meant to allow developers to create apps in Flash which could then be re-compiled for use on the iPhone. Since the iPhone and the iPad don’t support Flash, Adobe saw this as a way to keep its developers coding for Flash while still being able to reach Apple’s mobile devices.

We’ve contacted Adobe for their take on the new language in the license agreement, and what it will mean for the future of the Packager for iPhone. We will update this post with any official word from the company as soon as we receive it.

Update: Adobe issued the following statement regarding the change in Apple’s license agreement:

“We are aware of the new SDK language and are looking into it. We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5.”

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Can Anyone Compete With the iPad? (subscription required)

31 Responses to “Apple Crushes Adobe’s iPhone App Dreams”

  1. I think they’re making a pretty serious mistake. Objective-C is an awful language that has a huge learning curve, and Apple’s dev tools are not nearly as good as things like Eclipse, Visual Studio, etc. And what does this mean for MonoTouch? At least it allowed you to use a modern language.

    That Apple has cultivated (emphasize on “cult”) such an enthusiastic developer base is surprising, considering how hostile and unfriendly they’ve been to devs since the start. The app store controversies haven’t helped either. Compare this to the dev courting for Google’s platform, and the enthusiastic response to Microsoft’s forthcoming Win Phone 7 Series dev tools. They just made millions of .NET devs phone developers.

  2. As a developer, I find this licensing change mortifying. If it’s about enforcing a better user experience, they could have crafted the legal language to more strongly enforce their HIG, rather than force me to use particular languages / tools.

  3. !!! CONTROVERSIAL ALERT !!!

    If this had been Microsoft or Google, they would have been taken to court for monopoly. Why isn’t Apple getting legal hits? They have a large mobile market share. Why can’t government courts tell them what to do with their with their company, just because they’re successful, like they do other companies?

    First, the court needs to loosen Apple’s grip for competition to come in. No exceptions!

    Second, Adobe…should stop making all software for Apple’s OS completely. Yes I said it!

    No more updates, not more Photoshop, Premier, video editing software. No more nothing!!! Apple can do nothing but convert or take heavy loses. The media, the movie industry and graphics artists generally use Macs. Adobe should hit them where it HURTS!

    OUCH, I could just feel it coming. Adobe would lose some money, but teach Apple not to mess with their money. The Mac media community would truly suffer and beg Apple to get Adobe software back. Apple has no replacment. Of course Apple will say no and people would switch to other computers. Apple is just that anal, but they need Adobe’s creative application suite like we need air to breath.

    People would hate Adobe you say? Well, I’m displeased that Apple is excluding Flash from my iPhone. There’s hate going on all over the place! Do it Adobe!!!! Apple has more too lose, because even though they are control freaks, they cannot stand on their own yet. Do it!!!

    I challege you to tell me I’m wrong.

    • Garrett

      Innovative companies don’t just look at what some customers/developers want here and now. They see an unmet need and look beyond what exists or what the status quo is and meet that need. That is why Apple is and will continue to be the most innovative, user-centric company around. The market will follow Apple and we will all have a better experience because of it.

      Adobe will not retaliate because that would be a bad business decision. Instead, they’ll have to innovate on their own and find a workaround. Ultimately, it will be a better experience for customers, which will be better for developers. In the meantime, it is a tough decision for some developers. But I wouldn’t bet against Apple.

      • Apple, a innovative company? Search for “apple sued” and tell me what you find?

        You are just another victim of the media. Apple is the second oldest company in the game (next to IBM). So why does Apple have such a small market share in the non mobile market? Recent reports show, Apple trails behind RIM in mobile market share. People install MacOS on non Mac hardware (since the guts are the same) and jailbreak their mobile devices for other carriers and app collections. How is that user-centric when consumers try to break away from you? Where they truly being satisfied? If so, they would stay under Apple’s control and be happy.

        Adobe will retort, and well as other former Apple partners. Some things are hard to forget/forgive.

      • And how is excluding Flash when 85% of the world uses Flash not a bad business decision from Apple?

        It’s okay to like these big companies. But try to realize when you’re being screwed. You’re so blind from the media, you don’t even realize you’re being screwed.

      • Garrett

        Well let’s look at the last 5 years. How has Apple been innovative? Considering the music, gaming, newspaper/print industry, consumer electronics, automotive, retail, financial services and even food and beverage industries have completely redefined they way they do business because of Apple’s products and platforms, I’d say it’s safe to say that they are an innovative company.

        Apple has always done what others were afraid to do or didn’t know how to do right and Flash and poor UX have been used synonymously for a long time.

        A few rogue kids who want to show everyone how they can “break” their device is hardly representative of the greater population.

        Who do you think is playing catch up right now? RIM or Apple? Every other CE manufacturer out there or Apple? Now we can sit and watch them move redefine advertising as we know it.

      • Well paid…I mean…well said.

        They brainwashed you good. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of the company you sold your soul to. I have an iPhone, but am not married to the company.

        A few rouge kids don’t just jail break their phone. I know of plenty adults doing it, excluding myself.

        Apple has a good marketing department. They’re products are not all that great to me. Wish I’d bought a blackberry, and know of several people who’ve swithed to blackberrys. People can learn from Apple’s marketing talent, but to say the world follows them is a bit cult-like.

        I believe Apple is against plugins in general, not Flash specifically. Buy my stuff, not theirs. Jobs quotes that 80% of MacOS’s issues come from Flash. Now that they are getting rid of it, the good thing is there is no one else to blame. They will have to take responsibility.

        If you want a great laugh, goto discussions.apple.com.

        But to think of only users and not developers cannot be smart. If you piss off developers, some may hide malicious code in apps for your app store. Then everybody loses.

  4. Apple just lost a potential developer. I was looking forward to using Flash CS5 to make iPhone and iPad apps on Windows 7.

    Unity3D seems cool, but who wants to do 3D all the time.

    Apple should remove all apps violating these new rules so that their total app count can go down, further pushing new developers away.

    Adobe and other companies did a good thing making their ones and zeros run in native MacOS code. I was foolish to think that Apple was interested in targeting new developers. The real developer economy does not conform to such controlling demands. New SDK perks don’t matter as much as this. Developers want to stay where they are comfortable.

    Microsoft gets it. All Windows Phone 7 apps will run .Net 4 and Silverlight 4 (live.visitmix.com) from their app store, so they don’t have to learn a new language. Oh yeah, and it runs Flash!

    If they change this rule back, or if someone makes a good enough business app engine for Windows, I’ll gladly develop for their platform.

  5. lol, Apple is just loosing market share with these decisions.

    Over 9,000 Android apps last month and 29% of new smart phone users plan to go Android, 20% iPhone.

    Right now is a bad time to be on team Apple, 80’s all over again =).

  6. With Apple it’s all about user experience. This is a good move.

    I will not miss all the converted-Flash garbage apps that would have resulted from Packager.

    • Yuvamani

      True be that.
      Except when it is illegal and anticompetitive AND hurts your platform … But illegal and anticompetitive is for the powers that be to decide, and by the time they act it is too late …

  7. This is really just the tip of the iceberg….
    Seriously this is pathetic and if you’re still holding on to iPhone development You’re just playing for the wrong team.

    This has to be the biggest slap in the face to the developer community I have ever seen.

    Apple You SUCK!!!
    YOU KNOW THIS MEANS WAR!!!!

  8. A few points:

    Apple is protecting and fostering the expansion of its own brilliant proprietary intellectual property – its hardware and software. I have great respect for them by doing this.
    Let’s not forget, Adobe built its fortunes on the back of Apple’s innovation for over 20 years, geared toward the same creative demo as Apple.
    Adobe then bit the hand that fed them by turning Flash into a developer tool, to create apps which compete with Apple head-to-head.
    Despite Apple’s clear warning shots over the Adobe bow, Adobe bit again.
    Hammer time.

    Am I surprised that Adobe’s naive-as-a-college-freshman strategy backfired? Uh, no. Am I cheesed off at Apple for protecting themselves? HELL no.

    It’s Adobe I take issue with. They’re the numbnuts jackin’ the neighbor’s cable!

    Now, WE’RE PAYING FOR IT!