The iPhone OS, Apple, Adobe…and All That Jazz

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Revelations from last week’s iPhone OS 4 announcement have rekindled the ongoing debate regarding Apple’s control over what can and cannot find its way onto iPhone OS devices. Actually, the most provocative revelation wasn’t from the special event itself but was contained in the iPhone OS 4 developer license agreement (as first spotted by John Gruber) released immediately afterwards.

The now infamous Section 3.3.1 of the agreement prohibits cross-compiled third-party apps in the App Store: “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 clause effectively crushes the usefulness of Flash Packager for iPhone, a new feature of Adobe’s Flash Professional CS5. To be clear, Apple currently offers no support for Flash on any iPhone. That’s why Flash components of Web pages do not work within iPhone OS’s Mobile Safari. Apple shows no sign of changing its position here any time soon, if ever. Rather, via Section 3.3.1, Apple has extended its opposition to Flash. Apparently, Flash-based apps will henceforth be blocked from the App Store, even if Adobe’s CS5 compiler modifies the apps so that they would otherwise successfully run. Recognizing this, Adobe was forced to admit that the effectiveness of its compiler is “subject to Apple’s current requirements and approval.” 

The current consensus is that Apple will not be offering any such approval. The only question is whether a Flash-based app might sneak in, undetected by Apple’s approval process. This doesn’t seem likely. This is why Adobe’s Lee Brimelow (Platform Evangelist focusing on the Flash) angrily told Apple to “go screw yourself.”

All of this has resulted in a predictable outpouring of angry blog postings from a segment of end users, developers, and journalists, many of whom have had long-standing grudges against Apple’s “Draconian control” over everything. Dan Grisby is “abandoning iPhone development” as a result. Some, such as John C. Bland, have had a negative but overall more tempered reaction.

At the opposite extreme, many of the most respected voices within the Mac journalist community have strongly come to Apple’s defense.

I find myself somewhat in the middle.

I am not entirely opposed to Apple’s stance, especially as regards Flash. Too often, I have found that Flash-based Web sites load annoyingly slowly and sometimes fail to work at all on my Mac. Further, I don’t much like that a significant component of many Web sites is dependent on one company: Adobe. I would not be sad to see Flash fade into oblivion, replaced with something like HTML 5.

If Apple chooses not to support Flash in Mobile Safari, that’s its call to make. The market will ultimately determine if it’s a smart move or not. However, I have more trouble with Apple’s plan to reject Flash-based cross-compiled apps, as this overlaps with some general objections I have to the App Store and Apple’s approval process.

Overall, it’s a tough call for me. Here’s a rundown of how I see the various issues:

• Adobe has screwed Apple in the past. It’s payback time. The innerdaemon blog makes this case as effectively as anything else I have read: “Adobe made a wrong bet in 1996 and is suffering the consequences in 2010 and has no one to blame except themselves.” As I well recall, Adobe pretty much abandoned Apple back in the 1990’s, focusing its software development almost entirely on the Windows platform. Recall that a Mac OS X version of Photoshop did not even arrive until 2005. 

There are some commendable reasons for Apple to do what it is now doing, but Adobe’s past behavior should not be one of them. Spitefulness is rarely a good justification. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as they say. Adobe’s decisions back then were just as much based on what it thought was best for Adobe as Apple’s current behavior is based on what it thinks is best for Apple. It’s a bit hypocritical to criticize one but not the other. “It’s just business. It’s not personal.”

Still, I see the applicability of one more quote here: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The logic here is that Apple wants to prevent itself from ever again being in a position where the decisions of a company such as Adobe could have an overwhelming impact on Apple’s business. Apple’s 3.3.1 clause helps ensure that this goal is met. I can’t argue with that.

This, in turn, leads to the next (and probably the most compelling) argument for Apple’s position…

• Apple doesn’t want another company to gain control of its OS. This view has been ably detailed in numerous articles, ones by John Gruber and Jason Snell being two of the best. The crux of the argument is two-fold:

(1) Apple wants to encourage native development for the iPhone. Why? Because this tends to produce the highest quality software for the device. Flash-based apps, indeed almost any cross-compiled software, do not generally make the cut. As John Gruber stated: “Cross-platform software..(has)…generally been downright crummy.” Any long time Mac user would likely agree with this. Remember having to put up with barely acceptable “Mac” programs that were essentially inferior ports of Windows versions? That’s what we are talking about here.

Confirming this viewpoint, a BBC article quotes Apple as claiming that the change to the license agreement was “made to improve the quality of applications appearing (in the) App Store.” Of course, native software comes with no guarantee of quality; it’s just more likely that such apps will make better use of the iPhone OS interface.

(2) Allowing cross-compiled apps, especially from Adobe, could mean “losing control” of the iPhone OS. The logic here is that, if Flash-based cross-compiled software ever became the standard for iPhone development, third-party developers (and indirectly Apple) would then be dependent on Adobe for the ability to update and write new apps. Apple could provide tools in Xcode that offered great new features, but they might be largely ignored — unless Adobe adopted them. Further, if versions of Flash-based apps ran equally well on other mobile devices (can you say “Droid”?), the iPhone would lose a significant part of its competitive edge.

Jason Snell effectively summarizes this view: “Apple doesn’t want Flash-created apps on the App Store for a simple reason: It reduces the iPhone to a lowest-common denominator platform, and at that point Apple loses all control over the iPhone OS experience.”

While I am sympathetic to this argument, I have some hesitancy about how real the threat is. Despite the events of the 1990’s, and despite its ability to run crappy and cross-platform software, the Mac is doing quite well today. Jason indirectly acknowledges this, citing TweetDeck as an example of a “horrible Mac app,” largely due to its origin in Adobe AIR. Yet the availability of software such as TweetDeck has not seemed to have a damaging effect on the Mac’s reputation or sales.

More generally, would you support Apple blocking such software from the Mac (assuming it even could)? If not, then you should reflect on whether you want to support this same move on the iPhone. Do you really want Apple to be the sole arbiter of what is an acceptable level of “quality” for an iPhone app?

There is also the issue of the enforceability of Section 3.3.1. As pointed out in by Hank Williams: “It is perhaps reasonable to specify the nature of the programs that can be sold in the AppStore. It is not reasonable to specify how developers create those programs so long as the end result meets the specified end result criteria.” Joe Berkowitz makes a similar argument: “I think the outrage should be over the metaphysical angle here, not the business angle…What if Ben writes a Flash app, shows it to Amy, who codes it up in Objective-C, compiles it and submits it to Apple? Should it be rejected since it was not “originally written” in Objective-C? If you think Apple’s answer would be ‘no’ — a good guess — then substitute Adobe’s iPhone Packager for Amy. Now should it be rejected according to the rules? What, at the end of the day, makes Amy different from a machine translation tool?” I can find some flaws in this analogy, but it makes a worthy point.

All of that said, if I became convinced that Apple would indeed “lose control of the OS” by abandoning 3.3.1-like restrictions, I would side with Apple. No question.

• Flash-based apps will not work with iPhone OS 4’s multitasking. This argument has been forwarded by Daniel Dilger in an AppleInsider posting. I don’t have enough information to know for certain whether or not this concern is justified. It’s probably too early to tell. However, it does seem plausible. If this proves to be accurate, I would likely support restrictions needed to ensure that apps are compatible with multitasking.

However, this raises a more general question. Why not let the market decide? That is, if a developer makes an app that doesn’t work with iPhone OS 4’s multitasking, why not assume that iPhone users will reject it? End of story. That’s the way it would likely play out on a Mac.

The problem is that the iPhone is not a Mac. Much more so than on a Mac, iPhone users would blame Apple for the lack of multitasking support in a given app rather than the app itself. This is particularly so because all apps must be approved by Apple before they show up in the App Store. A user could legitimately ask: “If Apple knew an app didn’t work with multitasking, why did they approve it?” With a Mac, there is no App Store; users thus know they must assume a greater responsibility for what software they install. The upside is that they get to install whatever they want on their Macs.

This, at last, brings us to a key matter that goes beyond the specifics of Flash-based software: the role of the App Store and its approval process.

• Regardless of what you think of the wisdom of Apple’s decision in this case, Apple has the right to determine what is accepted or rejected from its App Store. According to Apple’s defenders, Apple not only has the right here, but we should be glad Apple exerts this right as forcefully as it does. For one thing, it keeps undesirable apps from the Store (such as pornographic software). These defenders point to the availability of close to 200,000 apps with billions of downloads as evidence that innovation is not being stifled and that the public is largely content with the available choices.

As John Gruber argued in reference to 3.3.1: “Perhaps iPhone users will be missing out on good apps that would have been released if not for this rule…My opinion is that iPhone users will be well-served by this rule. The App Store is not lacking for quantity of titles.” Jason Snell adds: “Apple would rather be seen as a heavy-handed arbiter of app approvals than be seen as the purveyor of a product that runs bad stuff.”

Of course, as even John and Jason admit (and as I discuss more in a moment), Apple’s decisions are not primarily motivated by an unselfish desire to provide its users with the best quality content. It comes down to money. Apple is doing what it believes will be most profitable.

In so doing, I believe that the App Store approval process does keep out some useful and innovative apps. It’s a subject I have written about many times before (here is just one example). Did you see Steve Jobs demo the iPhone on a large screen at last week’s special event? Would you like to be able to do the same thing? Are you irritated by the confusing and complicated procedure needed to share files between iWork apps on an iPad and a Mac? Would you prefer something simpler? Are you puzzled as to why the iPhone is just about the only Bluetooth-enabled phone that cannot share files with a Mac over Bluetooth? Would you like the iPhone to be overall less restrictive about what Bluetooth peripherals will work with it? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions (or many others I could have posed), I have good news and bad news. The good news is that all of these things can easily be done with the iPhone you now have. The bad news is that it cannot be done without jailbreaking your iPhone. Apple rejects apps that could do these things.

Personally, I am not a big fan of jailbreaking. I don’t like all the hassles, complications, and risks involved with the process (assuming a jailbreak is even possible on your particular iPhone OS device). I would prefer if there would no need for it. My preferred solution would be for Apple to offer some semi-hidden advanced mode, one that would allow motivated users to install apps that bypass the App Store. That way Apple could do whatever it wants with the App Store without preventing me from doing whatever I want with my iPhone OS device.

Steven Johnson, writing in the New York Times, makes this same point, noting that the iPhone OS “must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history…Apple could certainly quiet a lot of its critics by creating some kind of side door that enables developers to bypass the App Store if they wish. An overwhelming majority of developers and consumers would continue to use the store, retaining all the benefits of that closed system, but a secondary market could develop where more experimental ideas could flourish.”

I don’t see this as having a significant deleterious effect on the iPhone. In some cases, such as with Bluetooth support, Apple is probably worried about developers introducing multiple proprietary APIs. This is a possibility, but such APIs would be restricted to the backwater “side door.” If an API ever showed signs of becoming widely adopted, that would be a sign that Apple should step in to meet the demand. Apple could implement its own version of the API in the next OS update — making the third-party APIs superfluous. Otherwise, Apple could safely ignore it.

This also gets around the argument that Apple should be able to limit what it carries in the App Store, just as retail stores decide what products to carry (or not carry) on their shelves. I have never entirely bought this analogy, as it ignores the fact that iPhone users have no other store to go to for apps. Turn the analogy around: If you don’t like the selection of iPhone cases at the Apple Store, you can find more cases at dozens of other stores. For iPhone apps, there is only one store: the App Store. However, even if you buy into the original analogy, the “advanced mode” offers a way to satisfy both camps.

As long as Apple continues to make a healthy profit under its current rules, I have no expectation that Apple will ever implement any sort of advanced mode. But I can dream. My only real hope is that the iPhone’s future success may ultimately be the catalyst for change. If the day ever comes that the iPhone dominates the market the way Windows dominates desktop computing — or if the day ever comes that the iPad evolves into a product that largely replaces laptop computers for most Mac users — we will hopefully see end users and perhaps even the government become uncomfortable with Apple’s level of control.

At some point, if and when all your computing devices run the iPhone OS, I suspect many (most?) users won’t be pleased that their software options are entirely dependent on what meets Apple’s approval.

As for the government, remember Microsoft’s plot to kill QuickTime? Apple could one day find itself in similar legal hot water if the iPhone OS ever attains Microsoft’s monopoly-like status. We’ll see.

• Apple is in the business to make money. Making customers happy is a secondary goal at best. In response to complaints that Apple’s ______ action (you fill in the blank with whatever your current objection may be) will “piss off developers” or “upset users who expect a more open platform,” someone points out the obvious: Apple’s primary objective is not to please all of its customers, except to the extent that pleasing customers translates into sales. Jason Snell sums this up: “Apple is neither a charity nor a public utility. It’s a profit-making corporation with a whole lot of shareholders and billions of dollars in the bank. Apple exists to make money…It’s not remotely interested in pleasing everyone.” Although Jason does not make the leap to the next step, I have seen numerous comments from others that use such logic to claim that Apple’s behavior should be immune from criticism if it is making money for its shareholders.

I agree with Jason but not with those who take the next step.

There are many things a company could do in the pursuit of profits that I believe we would all readily criticize. For example, imagine that a pharmaceutical company decided that it was more profitable to continue selling a drug that it knew to be dangerous — on the logic that any fines and legal fees it would subsequently pay would be less than the money it stood to make in the interim. I don’t think you would excuse this on the grounds that the drug company is not a “charity or a public utility.”

I don’t mean to suggest that Apple’s behavior is this odious. I just want to make the point that there are limits. And you don’t have to go as far as the drug company example to potentially cross them. While I understand that Apple is not in the business of addressing my every whim and desire, a profit motive is not an immunity clause against legitimate criticism.

• You can always vote with your pocketbook. This is a corollary to the previous item. If you disagree with Apple’s profit-motivated decisions, if you’re unhappy with Apple’s almost obsessive control of the iPhone OS, there’s a simple solution: Don’t buy from Apple. As a bonus, if enough people follow your lead, the market will force Apple to change.

True enough. No one is forcing me to buy an iPhone. There are alternatives.

The problem for me is that I live in the Apple universe. I have owned a Mac since 1984. Virtually every computing device I have owned since has come from Apple. I stuck with Apple in the dark days of the 1990’s and I “bleed six colors” (as they used to say when Apple had a rainbow logo) even today. In most respects, I am immensely happy with Apple products. They are invariably better than any alternative I might consider. That’s why I buy and use them. I don’t want to vote with my pocketbook. I have virtually no interest in shifting to another brand.

Apple is not perfect however. It is a company that I greatly admire but that occasionally does things that infuriate me. On those occasions, I’ll express my frustration and implore for a change. After that, I’ll go back to enjoying my new iPad.

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25 Comments Leave Your Own

Ion_Quest

I’ve been Apple-only for 25 years.  Two years ago I made a hard decision to go cross-platform.  Glad I did.  My next computer may be my first PC.

James T.

Kudos to Steve Jobs for keeping the iPad free of Adobe’s buggy piece of obsolete bloatware.

Apple should buy Adobe, absorb anything good (if there is anything) and break it apart like it never existed, casting Flash’s corpse into the sea of irrelevance, forever…

FLASH IS DEAD - JOIN THE HTML5 REVOLUTION!

FT240

Nice article. Long time Apple users may laugh at the thought of Apple’s tyrannical desire for control! Apple doesn’t listen to users?  Apple stifles innovation?  Really? Apple launched the iPhone without Apps and then built the App store.  Apple has been criticized for failing to support Flash, and that the iPad does not have USB ports! Perhaps SCSI connectors would be useful.  Now that’s innovation. Businesses, developers and users rely on a stable platform. It may be a left-brain, right-brain thing, but the product speaks for itself, while Android is flourishing as well. It is a wonderful paradigm shift in personal information devices.

Jon Alper

I am deeply conflicted in this situation for two reasons:

Adobe is making a real investment in accessibility. In some ways, an investment only better by dint of invested money, but a a visible real effort nonetheless. I happen to feel Adobe’s access work is inherently and irreparably hamstrung by Flash but that’s another topic. What matters is that Adobe’s effort in this area is, in some ways, better and more sincere than Apple’s. Adobe spends REAL money on and REAL brains on accessibility issues. They are active in the community and they do make a difference. Apple does access only in fits and starts and, in my opinion, without a global-over-arching plan. Apple’s internal secretiveness and segmentation is a MAJOR impediment to a coherent accessibility plan and it’s disappointing that products so delightfully usable and empowering to users without disabilities are still falling short for those with them.

Adobe also makes some truly joy-making tools. I am a big fan of Adobe’s products. I have never been a fan of Macromedia’s products. If you take this apart, what you see in their lock-in and node-locked copy protection schemes is not the Adobe that made Photoshop, Illustrator and PageMaker but the Macromedia that made and abandoned Action and Director.

CS5 looks REALLY cool in ways I think their misguided pre-launch hype has obscured. I feel *bad* for them because CS5 can and will stand on it’s merit. They, Adobe, do usefully, and usually elegantly innovate with their tools. Photoshop, the Adobe tool I use most, has stayed remarkably ‘on the rails’ for such a mature product and really generally does get markedly better and more useful every other version or so.

Adobe goes wrong with their promotion of Flash as something it’s not. It’s a great tool for many things you can’t now, or in the foreseeable future, do with HTML 5. HTML 5 has been fraught with politicization and missed opportunities but it is an open standard and it will, if we MAKE it be, the basis of good things to come.

In the the end though, Apple really has no choice but to advocate for standards-based media because it’s the only way a minority platform can remain relevant. That quest for open standards in media and communications protocols benefits EVERYONE, Sun, Redhat, the FOSS community and even Microsoft who’s in a knock-down-drag-out war with Adobe over PDF that *nobody* reports on.

So… yeah.. Section 3.3.1 can be read as petty, lame, closed and draconian. It does, in fact, harm Apple’s image to be in this fight but, in the end, I sincerely believe they simply have no choice. That’s really what it boils down to. Adobe *chooses* to try and lock their users in with closed formats while Apple, by dint of their place in the market (yes, even with iPhone), has no CHOICE but to force open standards and keep closed platforms from wedging between them and their users.

All that said, Apple may make the iPhone SDK but it is essentially FREE to learn and experiment with and the languages are publicly documented and in some cases completely open. (anybody else making any ActionScript compilers?) Nothing stops Adobe’s products from being useful in the iPhone app tool chain. Heck, nothing stops ANYONE from animating, user testing, prototyping in Flash and exporting graphics to open formats to use as assets in an iPhone app. In fact, doing so might be damned good idea and that can and will sell Adobe products. Nothing stops anyone from writing their code in BBEdit and Eclipse. Apple only insists you do your BUILD with their supported languages and their supported SDK.

- Jon

Janet Tokerud

I was sold first by John Gruber and then further and more decisively by Jean-Louis Gass?e’s analysis yesterday. Apple has a right to make the best products they can. The diagram of the A B C circles with overlap between the 3 and that overlap being what can be done with a cross-platform piece of software like flash was clear and succinct. Steve J says he doesn’t support and won’t support a lowest-common denominator overlay. I agree with the argument that that kind of software lessens the greatness possible for A, B or C when they *go for it*. And, don’t forget the Multitasking choice Apple made for OS4 requires native code to run the APIs.

I don’t believe Apple is vindictive. They have bigger fish to fry. They just aren’t going to do Adobe any favors unless it is a deal that would be mutually beneficial. And, they don’t want to compromise their visions if they don’t have to.

And, I have to say Apple is not in business to make a profit. Profit is a constraint for a publicly held corporation, not its reason for being. Clearly Steve and his top people don’t need the money. All they have to doing what they love and keep changing the world and making great products is to stay profitable. That requirement forces a discipline that they take in stride as part of the deal.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

In addition to voting with our pocketbooks, people who are disgusted by Apple’s stupid wars will continue to point out Apple B.S. On a technical point, Ted, that multitasking concern is total, utter B.S. In fact, so are all of the apologetic justifications offered by 3rd parties. Yeah, Apple has a right to do what it wants. But its brand’s value is not subject to Apple control. These kinds of actions will turn a love mark into a hate mark for many. I have another phrase too, which sounds like the German currency.

But I can tell that in Apple circles, the faith is weak. Because everyone is circling the wagons looking for a logical argument to explain a very arbitrary exercise of power. Deep down, you’re uncomfortable with it, because to be comfortable with it means you’re uncomfortable with end-users and 3rd party developers making those choices for themselves grin.

Ted Landau

And, I have to say Apple is not in business to make a profit. Profit is a constraint for a publicly held corporation, not its reason for being. Clearly Steve and his top people don?t need the money. All they have to doing what they love and keep changing the world and making great products is to stay profitable. That requirement forces a discipline that they take in stride as part of the deal.

Overall, I have no argument with what you said. However, I have a minor quibble with the above quote. Certainly there are employees within Apple that fit your description. But there is a potentially separate function of Apple as a corporation. It’s a bit like a University; the goals of individual faculty may not be the same as that of the institution as a whole ? although they all work together at some level. As a publicly-traded corporation, profit remains the primary goal of Apple, as I see it.

vpndev

For those less familiar with details of iPhone development etc, here’s a useful discussion of the way various things have an impact on iPhone performance and battery life. Look at the section “Let’s get To It”

Flash on the iPhone

JulesLt

Even if Daniel Dilger’s point is accurate - that Flash compiled apps don’t behave correctly within the expectations of the operating system, then it should simply be a case of specifying what those expectations are, and rejecting apps on that basis.

I really have no interest in Flash, but I am interested in the potential for developing in Ruby and Python (compiled down to Obj-C, not having them as native languages on the phone) ? and there are less mainstream languages that are also interesting. 

And I also think there is some value in tools that let ?unskilled? developers create applications ? i.e. should you really need good C coding skills in order to implement a relatively simple point and click adventure game, or something a stupid ? yet popular ? as iFart?? Apple?s development APIs are great, and XCode gets better with each release too ? but it?s all very focused at people who write code.

I think Gruber mentioned ?Hypercard for iPhone? as a concept ? equally, Quartz Composer, or the Flash IDE are examples of other approaches, or Scratch and similar educational programming environments.

Obviously, web apps are always an option ? but to be honest, there?s a similar issue with the tools there.

And the same actually applies with iAds ? it?s easy to say ?it?s just HTML 5? but where?s the tooling to let designers produce iAds and iTunes albums, etc ? it?s all very much code-based right now.

Secondly, a lot of the good reasons for rejecting third-party toolkits could still be managed through some form of toolkit licence ? i.e. terms that would ensure the vendor had motivation to keep up to date (such as threatening to remove apps from the store if the vendor violates the licence) and to not present a crippled view of the OS (“must allow developers full access to all underlying APIs in a toll-free manner?).

It can?t wholly be about preventing cross-platform apps, as most games are OpenGL/C++ anyway ? hence why it?s ?easy? to port titles from console and other handheld games machines (by ?easy? I mean easier than rewriting into a different programming language and API calls).

Even with the current criteria, many developers are going to address the ?lowest-common denominator? anyway, in order to keep the core of their applications as portable as possible. 

But all that said, and despite the creative opportunities being missed - I can see what concerns them. We make heavy use of Flash in technically inappropriate ways because it was the cheapest option to do what we needed to do, even though it means our site isn?t accessible (possible with Flash, but we didn?t) and doesn?t work on mobiles, etc. Even a firm as big as HP looks like it wrote it?s Mac software in something like Qt, Huawei?s modem management software is Java-based on Windows and Mac (and badly written to boot). There are a lot of firms out there where, given a choice, will take the cheapest option, rather than the best option for the customer - even when it affects hundreds of thousands or millions of users (to the degree that the thousands of pounds saved are irrelevant).

JulesLt

One small further thing - a lot of the people outraged, are outraged in theory i.e. they’re not active mobile developers, or affected by this clause - they just have a political interest in open platforms.

(And like to repeat the unproven assertion that open platforms foster creativity better than proprietary ones)

scott

As for the government, remember Microsoft?s plot to kill QuickTime? Apple could one day find itself in similar legal hot water if the iPhone OS ever attains Microsoft?s monopoly-like status. We?ll see.

this statement caught my attention.  how could the iPhone OS ever attain M$ status.  There are 100’s of cell phones out there by numerous manufacturers.  M$ has/had a near monopoly over the desktop market.  the iPhone on the other hand is sole in the US by 1 of the 4 large cell providers, and is 1 of several phones in ATT’s store.  Are you seeing a future where other cell phone mfgs start using the iPhone OS?  Apple would never allow that as it is primarily a hardware company.  And there are tons of users out there who will NEVER want an iPhone.

Ted Landau

I really have no interest in Flash, but I am interested in the potential for developing in Ruby and Python (compiled down to Obj-C, not having them as native languages on the phone) ? and there are less mainstream languages that are also interesting.

So many good points to be made. So little time. smile

Yup. There are more cross-compiled options out there than just Flash. And Apple will be hard-pressed to police all of these. I doubt it even wants or intends to do so. More likely, it will selectively enforce 3.3.1 ? which will only lead to more complaints, as has happened whenever Apple is perceived as having rejected one app but accepted another with the same attribute.

geoduck

And, I have to say Apple is not in business to make a profit. Profit is a constraint for a publicly held corporation, not its reason for being.

The purpose of a corporation is ONLY to make a profit. There is no other function for a corporation. Freedom, choice, open standards, human rights, customer satisfaction, corporate image, all are tools to increase profit. If a Corporation especially a publicly traded one were to sacrifice profit, especially if they were to lose money, they would be subject to a stockholder revolt and possibly even an SEC investigation. To assert that a corporation, even Apple would put anything above profit is ridiculous. Don’t believe this? Look into Shell Oil’s behaviour in Nigeria, Nestle’s actions with infant formula in the third world, or that coal company in West Virginia where they just paid, or ignored the fines for safety violations because it was less expensive than fixing the problem, up until the disaster last week. Look at the companies that close plants and call centres in the US to move them overseas. Quality is often lower as is customer satisfaction but the bottom line is better. Ted’s hypothetical example of a Pharmaceutical company that would sell a dangerous drug just to make a profit is not so hypothetical. A friend of mine is involved with a class action lawsuit over a drug that was sold to treat her dog when the company knew it would often kill them and figured it was more profitable to settle with the owners than to pull it off the market. It’s my understanding that there are a number of examples of human drugs that were the same but I do not have the citations at hand.

So to assert that “Profit is not <Apple’s> reason for being” is nuts. If it weren’t they would not have incorporated. To paraphrase Warf “If winning is not important why do you compete”. If profit were not their primary motivation then why run a for profit business. Corporations are all about profit. Being a nice guy has nothing to do with Business except as a tool to aid the bottom line. You are correct to say that “Profit is a constraint”. It is a constraint in the same way that food is for us. Profit is what powers a corporation so any corporation that is to survive has to put profit above all else. That’s how successful businesses stay successful.

As far as whether Apple is right in doing this: I think it is. Adobe thought that they could make more profit from telling Mac users to switch to Windows and for a decade they were right. Now that decision is coming back to haunt them but in a corporate culture where CEOs live and die by this quarters numbers it was the right decision for Adobe. It is now the right decision for Apple to free themselves from dependance on Adobe’s profit motive. I agree with you that “Apple is not being vindictive”. It’s all about the bottom line.  There are likely technical reasons to support this decision, battery life, multitasking, resource hog, etc. But Apple having the freedom to be Apple is the ultimate motivation. IMO the core of the issue also goes back to Apple’s history. Apple needed Microsoft to make software. In the deal they gave up their rights to the “look and feel” of the GUI and that ended up hurting them. Apple was dependant in the early ‘90s on Adobe then in the late 90’s Adobe abandoned them and left Apple hanging. There are other examples but SJ and company remember how dependance on other companies has hurt Apple. They are not going to let that happen again. If Apple has to revolutionize the Web and get HTML5 to be accepted by most sites then that’s what they are going to try to do. Personally, knowing Apple’s history I think they are right to try and I think SJ and company have what it takes to pull it off.

Nemo

While I agree with the positions taken by Monsieur Gasse at http://www.mondaynote.com/2010/04/11/the-adobe-apple-flame-war/ and Mr Gruber at (http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/why_apple_changed_section_331 and think that Apple would prevail in any lawsuit by Adobe or other makers of cross-compilers and translators for the reason set forth by Mr. Dilger at http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/04/13/blogger_insists_adobe_will_sue_apple_over_cs4_iphone_app_tools.html, I think that Apple and Adobe can compromise their dispute in this way:  Apple will allow third-party intermediary compilers and/or translators that use, incorporate, and fully support the latest documented APIs and other features of the current iPhone OS, while prohibiting those that don’t. 

Each side gains and lose something in this compromise, but I think that the gains for both exceed the loses.  In this way, Apple’s avoids having apps written with apps that dont’ support the latest innovations in the iPhone OS but only support a inferior subset of the least common denominator API that are just sufficient to produce a barely functioning app and maintains control of its iPhone OS and the pace of innovation on that OS.  While Adobe and others makers of interpretative frameworks would have to support Apple’s innovations in its iPhone OS, they would get to write and offer tools that the ability to write for several platforms from the same source code.

Ted Landau

Are you seeing a future where other cell phone mfgs start using the iPhone OS?

No. But I am imagining a future where in the SMART phone market, as opposed to the entire phone market, Apple attains a dominance similar to what the iPod currently has in the MP3 player market. It may well never happen. But that was the thought behind my comment.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Yup. There are more cross-compiled options out there than just Flash. And Apple will be hard-pressed to police all of these. I doubt it even wants or intends to do so. More likely, it will selectively enforce 3.3.1 ? which will only lead to more complaints, as has happened whenever Apple is perceived as having rejected one app but accepted another with the same attribute.

The problem with giving Apple the benefit of the doubt of reasonableness on this is that the clause stifles investment and creates uncertainty. I point to my tool of choice, REAL Studio. The morning of the 3.3.1 discovery, they sent out their monthly newsletter noting that their ongoing switch to LLVM-based compiler would eventually get iPhone and other ARM phones in their sites. Uh oh.

Let’s pull REAL out of the equation and say that there is some hypothetical company that goes to Apple for clarification on 3.3.1 and gets assurances (whatever those are worth) or some special contract allowing their tool to step around 3.3.1. They’re going to need a round of funding to afford being Adobe’s star witness.

BTW, I bought what I figure will be my last iPhone app last night. South Park Avatar Creator. It’s made with Flash to iPhone. It’s just as fast and responsive as any of the other silly apps I have. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone, because 3.3.1 is about c*ck-blocking Adobe and nothing else. That app will provide tremendous entertainment for me and the other kids, er adults, when we’re out to dinner if I have my iPhone that night.

spudgeek

The purpose of a corporation is ONLY to make a profit. There is no other function for a corporation.

I am not suggesting that profit is not a corporate objective for Apple, but it is only one of many of Apple’s purposes. If it was the ONLY purpose as you put it, Apple would seek other revenue streams like patent infringement for example. Of course Apple wants to make money for its shareholders but as SJ has often said, the Apple mission is to create great products and services and by doing so, the bottom-line will take care of itself. Apple has become synonymous with “quality” and “expensive” and they have very few products in relation to their wealth; had they just chased the bottom-line don’t you think they would have marketed a broader range of products at more affordable prices to grow their market-share at a faster pace?

Apple is also noted for taking risks. I don’t think it has become complacent by thinking its next product will be a success because of the superior brand it has created. The iPhone is a good example, it could have failed as it was priced way above what cell phone users were usually willing to pay. When users cried out for more developer tools they set about with the app-store plan. I don’t think the app-store was ever thought about until the iPhone was in the public’s hands. Apple developed the app-store and the eco-system that came with it due to public demand for something, and in doing so put profit as an important factor to it’s function… but not ONLY profit, they created a market-place so developers could publicize and sell their products with relative ease… for a cut of course - but the cut was not the ONLY purpose; service was a priority and thus the bottom-line takes care of itself.

geoduck

I am not suggesting that profit is not a corporate objective for Apple, but it is only one of many of Apple?s purposes.

Actually I agree with most of what you said, except that I would put that profit was the motive, not doing something to help the developers for the sake of it. They saw a need for the AppStore and filled it and made a lot of money in the process. Somebody in the organization said “If we build an AppStore we will make a cut of the sales and also sell more iPhones” and that was what prompted them to go ahead. They could have decided the iPhone environment was all they would make and just let anyone code and sell apps for it, just like the Mac environment but they didn’t. They decided that it would be better for the bottom line to keep the OS closed and act as gatekeepers for the AppStore themselves. I agree they hadn’t thought of doing that until they saw a demand. Apple is good but not clairvoyant. They do miss things. And they do take risks, they have more guts than most companies of their size. All this is to the good.

I just assume that profit is the primary motive in a corporation and if good things come out of that then all the better. Apple did not go into the patent troll business because that’s not what they do. They make computerized things, not lawsuits. After SJ and the other people that were with Apple in the old days retire that may change. Corporate culture works from the top down. Years of experience in various corporate environments has taught me to expect that the bottom line to the final arbitrator of corporate decisions. If a company does something that is good, like the iPad or donating to charity, or pushing the adoption of HTML5 that’s cool. I just don’t assume that any company will do so just because they want to do something beneficial to others, the industry, or the country. If you scratch the surface there is always someone who pushed the idea and showed how it would add to the bottom line of the company.

Corporations are neither good nor bad. I think of them as utterly amoral biological organism. They feed on money and grow. If they don’t have enough money coming in they die. To expect anything else is IMO fairly naive.

I should add that I am pleasantly surprised when a corporation does something that I think of as good in the same way as i’m pleased if the deer in the neighbourhood come into my yard and eat weeds out of the garden. I don’t EXPECT a company to do something like that but it’s nice when they do.

aaron parr

My concern is how this will affect the middleware tool I use, Unity. So I have mixed feelings about this. I certainly don’t want to compete with Flash made shovelware on the appstore, but I also don’t want to lose my ability to use Unity for making iPhone games.

In this light, I really like the idea of a licensing agreement between apple and a third party tool provider. It seems rational to me, but perhaps that puts Apple in a dangerous position with the potential of clear evidence that they are singling out Flash.

For the time being however my plans to develop with Unity on iPhone are squashed, as are many others who use it. This uncertainty has seriously upset Unity developers many who have been empowered by Unity to work in small teams developing games that compete with the big boys.

And its this uncertainty which really hurts developers.

vikurotozi

http://www.votefm.com/vid.php?v=0r3r25r

JulesLt

Sometimes companies engage in activities that cost them money, in order to cut off the oxygen of their competitors (Google Docs vs MS Office, IE vs Netscape, XBox 1 vs Playstation) - of course the long term view is profit.

I do wonder what’s going to happen with Unity, because I understand that it is quite widely used (i.e. the anger over Flash is largely from Flash development shops that would like to be able to use Flash on iDevices, but a lot of Unity developers are already iPhone app store developers - and sometimes using Unity to develop for iPhone only)- and as other people have pointed out, most 3D games tend to have some kind of re-usable games engine above the OpenGL layer.

It’s possible the clause is so technically vague as to be unenforceable.

spudgeek

I would put that profit was the motive, not doing something to help the developers for the sake of it.

I think we agree on the general principle of what drives Apple geoduck. Revenue & profit are decision makers of whether to go forward with the development of a product or service; but there are other deciding factors too. I was coming from the perspective that ideas come from trying to fill a need. Apple’s methodology is a good example of determining a marketable product, fine-tuning it to do it better than its ever been done before considering function, ease-of-use, aesthetics, etc., and how to stream revenue from it. If one of these or other apple-esque factors are not deemed viable, then the product is left on the table.

Put aside financial organizations, venture capitalists and the like; many companies, if not the vast majority, are born from ideas within the founders field of expertise on their perception of how to do it better than the next guy and do so in the interest of making a profit; as opposed to founding a company to make money and then deciding what to develop to make as much profit as possible.

I guess my point is the desire to make money does not make money alone but vision + ambition + passion + dedication + confidence + hard-graft + marketing +/-luck = revenue & profit.

When a company goes public, there is an increase in pressure to focus on the bottom-line which ironically can hurt the bottom-line because too much emphasis is put on protecting current revenue streams which can lead to lack of focus on the evolution of the company and thus vision and innovation become stale. You see it everywhere but not at Apple. Apple risk new products eating into existing streams and they don’t seem to care too much because it seems their belief is to continue to evolve and innovate. The stale companies are all of those who follow Apple but never quite catch up because their chasing the market that apple continues to invent. If Apple is not the first to supersede its products then someone else will and why should they let that happen. Apple’s primary objective is to survive and that means making profit as you so well put it, but the Apple mindset is that the bottom-line will take care of itself as they continue to produce top-class consumer products and services.

Janet Tokerud

A corporation is made up of a bunch of people. The Corporation has stockholders and in theory so the accounting rules/law says they are supposed to maximize shareholder wealth. Lots of thinking has been done on this stuff - there are other stakeholders besides shareholders.

The *corporation* as a legal entity (or legal fiction) wants to maximize profit as if it were a living thing not made up of people. Now we are back to economics 101 but economics is all made up (I have a UC Berkeley MBA so I studied this stuff a little bit). It’s not THE TRUTH. It has all sorts of simplifying assumptions and ignores massive numbers of factors that it calls externalities.

The point is that as long as Apple makes adequate profit, the board will let Steve lead the company where he wants. Secondly, Steve likes profit just like we all like money as a resource that we can use to make things happen. Fine.

Steve made up the term insanely great and that?s his #1 thing. When he came back to Apple and spoke at WWDC 1997 he was all about passion and craftsmanship. In 1982-3 he inspired the Mac team with a Bosendorfer piano and Harley Davidson motorcycle. This is what he cares about. He is competitive for sure and is not a saint. But he does brilliant work and has indeed changed the world like he asked John Sculley about in the famous sugar water conversation.

He knows however, that if you ignore Wallstreet and all the rest you can?t attract the best employees for one and the game doesn?t work as well. Success and profitability fuel the fire. Go back and look at Steve?s speech to Developers when he first came back. He talked about profitability there and about great products. I actually couldn?t find the whole speech on Youtube. Just a short clip about how he was a product guy.

It?s crazy to demean Apple saying ?Apple?s decisions are not primarily motivated by an unselfish desire to provide its users with the best quality content. It comes down to money. ? You are collapsing things together. Apple is all about doing great work and making great products. And you are saying, noooooooooooo, it?s all about the money. WRONG. These guys are among the great technology innovators of all-time.

The easy way is to ignore financial considerations and make great products. That lasts about 5 minutes. You can?t be a purist in business if that?s your point. But don?t criticize Apple for making hard decisions. You say, oh they have plenty of money—why don?t they leave a little more on the table so we can have fun with jailbroken iPhones, Flash and a free-for-all. All I can say is that people who really, really care about something. Devote their lives to it. Who are independently wealthy and could do anything with their time aren?t real flexible about the things things they hold dear. This is what Steve and his best people think is best. This is what gets them off. Money is in there too but it is a practical reality is all, not the main event.

OK. And yes, on a personal level as a computer professional, I wish I could do whatever I want with my iPhone and iPad. In my dreams, yeah, that would be good. But I know how easy it is to complain while sitting safely over in the peanut gallery. And, it doesn’t hurt to raise other issues. You’ve raised some good ones over the years.

Henry Douglas

Oh please get a grip.

Cracks me up how haters seem to camp out in this section just salivating at the latest Apple misstep.

See! It proves Apple sucks! The only difference between Apple’s missteps - forbidding a book because it can access a classic erotic text? - and Microsoft (let’s talk about Vista, ok?) is response time.

C’mon, clearly there’s no agenda or the other sources for the text would also be unavailable.  Alta White Teeth

WetcoastBob

Well Said!

Unfortunately the current business model puts profits ahead of product excellence.

Apple should now be in a position to balance this out.  Could be a revelation.

Who knows.. could be profitable.

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