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C4 Cancelled: A Loss for the Community

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Everything changes as it grows, some things for the better, but others for the worse. Anyone who’s been a part of the Apple (s aapl) community for the past 10 years can testify how Apple has changed, and changed radically, over that time. Most of the change has been for the better, bringing us faster machines, amazing portable devices, and beautiful software. The changes that Apple has made for the better have caused it to become hugely popular, and gigantically profitable. Unfortunately, change at such a rapid pace always brings growing pains.

Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch has, apparently, cancelled his incredible C4 conference. In a recent blog post, Rentzsh states…

C4 was my attempt to push on the Apple community from the bottom-up.
With that background in place, I hope you can understand how Section 3.3.1 has broken my sprit.

Section 3.3.1 that he is referring to is a change made to the iPhone Developers License Agreement, declaring that any app that runs on the iPhone needs to have been originally developed using the iPhone SDK and the Objective-C, C, or C++ programming languages. What that means for developers is that they are not allowed to use Adobe’s Flash CS5 or any other language or development environment to create their apps. What that means for Apple is that it keeps complete control over its platform. What that means for consumers is less choice, and fewer apps. Then again, considering the wealth of applications available on Windows, and the general level of quality of those applications, maybe it’s not all that bad after all.

The change to Section 3.3.1 happened several weeks ago, but Rentzsch has just posted his goodbye to C4. He didn’t take this decision lightly. Rentzsch is a leader in the developer community, to see his conference go is a huge loss. If he is right or wrong is up to him to decide, but I honestly hope that other developers do not follow his lead. Apple has built a brand on solid hardware and amazing applications, on the iPhone OS and Mac OS X. To see some of the best minds abandoning or taking away from the platform, if that is indeed what Rentzsch is doing, is worrying to say the least.

I hope that if any good can come out of the loss of C4, it will be for Apple to hear their wake up call, and realize that perhaps this time they’ve taken the change a little too far.

Image courtesy of Flickr user somegeekintn

15 Responses to “C4 Cancelled: A Loss for the Community”

  1. Mike Reed

    I’m afraid I don’t understand the backlash here. He has become disillusioned with Apple and disagrees with the philosophy he sees them operating under. He is exercising the exact same choice people who argue that no one HAS to develop for the iPhone claims he has. So which is it?

    He has a choice and can develop for whatever he chooses, or no – he should be locked into Apple’s ecosystem?
    If he is free to choose, then do we really expect him to continue to run a conference for the platform he is now choosing to leave?
    If he is free to do that, do we expect him to simply cancel it without ever giving a reason?

  2. George

    GET A HELMET. OMG I can’t believe anyone could be so petty as to cancel an entire conference just because Steve put a stop to all this insane hacking of the iphone development software. What a baby move.

    You’d think he is working for adobe. 3.3.1 broke your sprit? Are you insane? Is your conference so flash/mono touch/LUA centric that you would have NOTHING to talk about?!?! What about mac desktop development? Nothing is being restricted there. Apple made the right move for it’s mobile platforms. This will prevent a lot gnashing of teeth later on.

    And if you want porn get android.

  3. Jim Glidewell

    This may be a loss for the Apple developer “community”, but I am not really sure if it is a significant loss to the Apple community as a whole. From the point of view of a consumer, Apple appears to be doing everything right – the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad ecosystem is delivering high quality software at exceeding reasonable prices. I have been buying Mac software since the mid-80’s, and have seldom felt like I really got my money’s worth from the software I have purchased. My experience with iPhone software is the exact opposite.

    The petulance being displayed by the developer community makes it quite apparent that their interests don’t align with mine. I think that a continuation of this constant bellyaching by the developer community will only serve to reinforce the perception that the developer community is a bunch of self-important prima donnas who care not a whit about their customers, but only themselves.

  4. The problem with Wolf’s position is that it’s fundamentally irrational and ego-centric.

    He’s not canceling the conference because of 3.3.1. He’s canceling the conference because the developers don’t agree with him on 3.3.1. Since the developers won’t jump on his “attack Apple” bandwagon, he picks up his toys and goes home.

    I guess it never occurred to him that just because HE doesn’t agree with something that it might not necessarily be bad. Maybe if he’d learn to LISTEN to the other developers (and maybe even let the conference continue as a means of facilitating communication), then he might learn something.

    Instead, he throws a 2 year old tantrum and runs home.

  5. varun

    “Then again, considering the wealth of applications available on Windows, and the general level of quality of those applications, maybe it’s not all that bad after all.”

    Have you recently looked at the apps you’re running on Mac OS? Can you tell me without a bit of doubt in your mind they’re all Obj-C/C/C++? Because I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m running apps written in a bunch of languages, ranging from Python to AIR to Perl to even Pascal.

    Don’t be a tool Jon.

  6. central squared

    Apple does what’s best for Apple’s coffers, nothing more.

    This whole war pains me as I’ve been a huge apple fan boy since my Apple II+ to my macbook air. Apple products have been essential to my career as a designer. But they’re just wrong on this (as well as not at least giving users an option for flash in safari on the iPad). You can write a bad (or good) apps in actionscript or in objective-c, it makes no difference. Anybody who really knows anything about cross-compiled apps knows this to be true.

    • Yes, but… Apple is one of the (very few) companies that have learned (the hard way) that looking out for your customers’ best interests is the best/easiest/fastest/cheapest (pick any 4) way to look after your own.

      Back in the day, I was fortunate enough to work for a division of Sony. I was extremely fortunate to hear a speech given to the Sony people at my division by Akio Morita, the founder of Sony. One of the things that Morita-san said has been seared into my mind forever: “The purpose of Sony is to create products which delight the customer.” He went on to say that “Sony would rather sell a great product late, than be first to market with a mediocre product. We have seen that, if we were to sell a product that was less than superb, even though it was ‘early,’ the customer would take it home, find the problems, the rough edges to cut himself on, and would never again buy a Sony product. Worse, he would tell all his friends and colleagues, ‘Don’t buy Sony. I bought their new product and it was junk. He then goes and buys a competing product, as do his friends. If Sony ships a great product into a market where we are not the first, then soon our potential customers will see our new product in stores. They will pick it up, see how sublime it is in all respects, buy it, and recommend it to their friends…even if they already own a competing product that they have been happy with.” The decline of Sony since the retirement of Akio Morita, in my view, merely confirms his point; it’s now about Hollywood imagery and delivering the illusion of greatness, rather than greatness itself.

      Apple have learned that lesson in ways that Microsoft and their partners have made clear they are institutionally incapable of. I trust Apple, as the Sony of old, to consistently deliver products that do what they do better than anything else on the market. Since coming back to Apple some three years ago after twenty years of wandering in the Windows wilderness, every time I pick up an Apple product — my iMac, my MacBook Pro, various iPods (including a Touch) — that lesson is reinforced once more.

      Microsoft could do the same thing, but they’ve made a deliberate, and so far very profitable, choice not to. One corporate-IT manager I worked with, several years ago, said “Macs are designed to be used. Windows is designed to be sold.” Far fewer people buy a BMW 535i than a Ford Taurus; even fewer would claim the Ford to be the superior car. Microsoft is the software Ford, or more likely, General Motors. We’re seeing GM come back from a near-death experience brought on by inertia and arrogance. It will be entertaining, and instructive, to see if Microsoft manage the same.

  7. fatcake

    Apple does what is best for Apple users
    Cross compiled apps are buggy and don’t run well and don’t use resources well.

    But isn’t this what the app-store approval process is there for, to filter out the rubbish? Besides, Apple has already featured a couple of Flash-built apps as their “Staff Picks” on iTunes so either you are implying that Apple were actively recommending buggy resource-hogging apps (if so, that’s not an example of Apple doing what is best for their users!) or perhaps the apps simply ran well? I’m not sure you can have it both ways.

    Of course this goes beyond Flash. Jobs demoed Tap-Tap Revenge on stage. TTR was scripted using Lua. ArsTechnica summed it up pretty well:
    “Some of the very applications that Jobs demonstrated at the Apple event appear to use techniques that are now forbidden. Tap Tap Revenge makes use of Lua scripting, for instance … this has significance because some commentators have speculated that the framework ban is somehow due to an inability of programs using these toolkits to support multitasking. Clearly, that is not the case.
    If an application is good enough for Apple to highlight on-stage, it seems disingenuous to suggest that the app is sub-standard. If high-quality applications are what Apple is after, then that is what Apple should insist on; native code is no promise of quality.”

    • Cold Water

      For all I care, the iPhone platform can rot under Apple’s heavy-handed control, but your comment is well put.

      I’ll add:
      * Developers pay for the approval process, so cost is no excuse for rejecting a “flood” of crappy apps.
      * Crappy apps sneaking through the process won’t make any money.
      * Replacing Flash for video with HTML5 + H.264… itself a proprietary standard Apple has an interest in… isn’t about openness.
      * The rest of the world does not run on ObjC. Casual games on the iPhone are often ports from cough Flash.

  8. Alexis

    yeah…what a little cry baby…cuz someone took away his lego’s because he was trying to swallow one…

    the fact is…Apple does what is best for Apple users…not what is best for tech geeks that think they know everything

    cross compiled apps are buggy and don’t run well and don’t use resources well…and therefore will not freeze when exited so they will crash or have to start over when gone back to…and that is not what the multitasking is all about to Apple…

    I have seen multitasking on other phones…and it’s crap…the other day I watched one of my managers spend 3 whole minutes trying to get an app to respond (and I was a built in app on Palm Pre)…and a friend of mine told me that yes pandora works in the background…for maybe one song on her blackberry…

    so if you want to create substandard and crappy apps…feel free to move over the Blackberry or Android but don’t cry to us who love what Apple has done with the iPhoneOS