Adobe Revives Flash Dev Tools for iPhone

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Hot on the heels of Apple’s policy changes that relaxed restrictions on the tools developers can use to write iPhone and iPod touch apps, Adobe announced that it plans to start working on updates for its Flash Packager tools for iOS apps.

Adobe’s Packager for iPhone tools let developers create apps in Flash Professional CS5 and then compile them as native iOS apps.

“This feature was created to enable Flash developers to quickly and easily deliver applications for iOS devices,” the company said in a statement. “The feature is available for developers to use today in Flash Professional CS5, and we will now resume development work on this feature for future releases.”

Since the iOS compiler feature is already available in Flash Professional CS5, some developers have apps that started life as Flash code already in the App Store review process.

Apple changed its iOS developer agreement on September 9 so coders could use most any tools they want to create their iOS-based apps. “In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need,” the company said.

The change came as particularly good news to Adobe since the company had already spent time and money developing its Flash to iOS compiler.

The change of heart at Apple doesn’t, however, open the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to run Flash-based content. Adobe pointed that out in its statement, too. “We do want to point out that Apple’s restriction on Flash content running in the browser on iOS devices remains in place,” the company said.

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It sounds like the boys made nice now doesn’t it, at least partially. The ball is in Adobe’s court really. If they make the tools work, and keep up with development, maybe one day there could be a change in stance on Flash. Good deeds beget good things.

This is a pretty nice carrot after the stick.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Funny, Tiger. The tool in question works now just like it worked in May, when it was released. And it works a little better than in February, when it was in beta, and several iPhone apps made with it were sales leaders in their categories and even featured apps in iTunes. Example: Alchemist.

BTW, the buzz this morning is that the change to the tools rule and the attempt at “transparency” of the process reflect EU regulatory concerns. Jobs may have experienced a temporary laps of cranial-rectal inversion and reacted before this blew up with the regulators, but it wasn’t benevolence toward Adobe. When you look at Adobe’s reaction, which is tempered and business-like, you can see who holds the cards.

One thing to watch… How long until Steve’s “Thoughts on Flash” disappears? The letter is most certainly at odds with the policy change. I quote from it:

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn?t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor?s platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe?s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple?s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.

Philosophy does not square with action here.


I think their reversal of policies has to do with Adobe making a similar feature for Android. By allowing Adobe to export to iPhone, Apple assures that the iPhone will get any successful Flash Android apps, as well as a slew of potentially less then stellar apps, while retaining their control to pick and choose which apps they allow. Basically the new policy prevents Flash apps from giving the Android store more apps then the Apple store.

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