FlashCanon Flash Platform stuff from Jason Fincanon


My thoughts on Apple’s new rule

By now I’m sure you’ve heard (and taken part in) all of the discussion about the upcoming rule change in the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. The understanding is that it basically says you must write your iPhone OS 4.0 apps directly in one of a few select languages and that if you’re using tools such as the Packager for iPhone in Flash CS5, Titanium, Corona or any of several others out there, you’ll be in violation of your agreement with Apple. Also, according to another new rule, you’re in violation if you talk about this so I’ve held off on agreeing to the updated terms thus far. (we’ll see if I have to remove this post after I agree at a later date)

The new (reworded) rule:
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).

Because I’ve been working with the Flash Platform for so many years now and because it has essentially built my career, it’s honestly a little hard to be completely subjective about this matter and I can tell that there are others out there struggling with the same issue. I mean really, don’t you think that suggesting Adobe should stop shipping/supporting their products on the Mac is a little bit of a childish, schoolyard slap-fight approach? I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this was a complete dick of a move by Apple and even more so when you consider that they did it just days before the CS5 launch event. However, it’s their toy and regardless of how much you or I disagree with them, that really kinda makes it their choice. By the way, the 4.0 OS is still in beta and that means terms could still change before a full launch. They most likely won’t, but they could. So if Apple lets this rule stand beyond its current beta state, what in the world will we do as Flash Platform developers? How will we possibly carry on? As far as I can tell, we have a few options (in no particular order):

Option: Completely boycott Apple
If you want to stop giving your money to Apple over this issue, I can understand that. If you want to purge yourself of your sweet MacBook Pro and your Apple TV and all of the rest of the nice products that I’ve heard so many of you brag about and swoon over through the last several years, I guess I can understand that. BUT, if you’re going to “boycott” Apple, then don’t half-ass it… go all the way and throw away all of those toys that you love so much. On second thought, how about if you just email me so I can give you a shipping address to send them to? Didn’t think so.

Option: Don’t develop for the iPhone 4.0 OS
Ok, so the iPhone and iPad are super hot products right now. They’re the cool kids in school that everyone wants to be and hang out with. They’re the crème de la crème. They’re the blah, blah, blah. So what? “But Jason, clients are asking for iPhone apps.” Well, I guess you’ll just have to tell them that you don’t offer that service and you’ll lose that project and that money… unless you want to consider the next wacky option. Besides, the iPhone OS is only one of MANY development targets out there so you still have lots and lots and lots of playgrounds where other cool kids are playing other cool games… and those kids actually want you to come play with them.

Option: Learn Objective-C
“*GASP!* WHA? HUH? BUH! You mean… spend my own time… to increase my own knowledge… and my own skill set?!? Why that’s absurd!” Ok, so that’s a bit of an over-dramatization, but I have seen people acting a little bit like that. Look, I understand that doing development in an environment your comfortable with is very important and I feel the same way. But imagine if you had that attitude when you came from a different background and started learning Flash or Flex. Besides, I subscribe to the thought that the more you know, the more you’re worth to a potential employer or client.

Personally, I was very excited and looking forward to having the option of using the Packager for iPhone, but I had also decided to start learning Objective-C so I would have the option of either one when a project called for an iPhone app. As a matter of fact, I had actually built an app in CS5 and had it approved in the App Store back in January. I was recently told it was ok to talk about it, so I finally wrote a little post to “announce” it as well as my first Obj-C app. The timing on that post couldn’t have been more… ironic(?) because it was only hours later that the new rule was announced. I guess I won’t be going back to make that app look better.

In the end, we developers are FAR outnumbered by non-developer users of the iPhone and iPad. Those users don’t know (and don’t care) what technology was used to build an app so I’m afraid that when the market decides, it will not decide in our favor in this case. But don’t forget, this is not the only battle… this battle doesn’t even touch on the Flash Player in mobile Safari issue.

So there you have it. My thoughts on Apple’s new rule. Like I said before, Adobe IS my career and I completely disagree with Apple’s choice to block them (and other companies) out of iPhone OS 4.0 development, but there may not be much that can be done about it (obviously I can’t speak to the legal side of it) so my personal choice will be to continue to learn Obj-C (since I’ve already started). But don’t worry, the Flash Platform will ALWAYS be my first and main choice. Besides, I don’t think I like the sound of ObjectiveCanon… just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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Comments (13) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Completely valid thoughts of course, but personally I am more moved by the ethics of this case.To me the i-OS is now in the same division as a t shirt company employing child labor. It makes complete sense financially to buy from them, but its wrong morally. And yet these companies grow and florish. But this move will (hopefully) move a certain number of competent developers to the Android platform which definitely needs the new blood from more people with design backgrounds. Will be interesting to see how this plays out in a couple of years.

  2. I think the issue with learning Obj-C is that it’s just not a big enough market. You’re right, it takes a lot of time to learn a new language and I don’t think the return on investment is going to be worth it. At least not for me. And it would be work learning Obj-C. From what I’ve seen it doesn’t look like fun at all. On the other hand Processing looks like fun. I won’t make any money from it but that’s okay if it’s just to play around.

    But my number one issue with learning Obj-C is that it’s really only any good for developing iPhone/iPad apps. Then you have to go through the whole Apple submission process and agree to that Terms of Use thingy of theirs. I’m really not the sort of person who can handle asking for permission. I would submit an app and demand that they accept it. They wouldn’t. Then I’d have to go down there and do something that would get me life in prison. Pretty much a lose-lose.

  3. I completely understand what you guys are saying and if I hadn’t already started down the Obj-C path, I may feel different about continuing to learn it. With that said, I’ve also kicked around the idea of checking out Android development, but I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel developing and testing only on the simulator. Until I can afford to actually buy an Android phone, it will have to wait. And even then, I’d still have to justify spending the $$ on that instead of something else that may be deemed “more important.” Oh well.

  4. If you learn Obj-C you can deploy OS X apps as well. It’s not a bad move to learn Obj-C at all.

  5. What resources would you recommend for learning objective c?

  6. Hey Abraham. I’ve personally found these two books very helpful:
    Beginning iPhone 3 Development
    The iPhone Developer’s Cookbook

  7. I agree that the move by Apple was nasty, but then Jobs has been adamant all along about no Flash on the iSeries of products. The cash cow for Apple is controlling the devices AND the App store through iTunes.

    I believe your closing statements about the non-developer, i.e., consumer, really makes the most relevant point for developers. The consumer isn’t up in arms about what’s going on. It doesn’t impact them directly, and frankly if they like the device they’re going to buy it.

    This is one reason I’ll be looking at an iPad even though I don’t really want one.

  8. Apple has always been a bit quirky. Always secretive. And many times “holier-than-thou” in their approach to their market. This is mostly the influence of Jobs. But, even with that, they remain a private business and can make decisions about what can and can’t run on their hardware.

    To be fair, Adobe hasn’t kept up their end with Flash either. On the windows side Flash has been worked and reworked to be a fairly clean and efficient platform. Adobe has neglected Flash on the Mac side and, quite frankly, it’s crashy and quite a resource hog. It’s no wonder that Apple doesn’t want it on smaller devices with limited resources.

    I think the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot and agree with you Jason that it can be seen as an opportunity to expand your skills and learn a new language. If that’s not on the table then there are going to be many many non-Mac devices coming our way very shortly. I think we sometimes fall prey to Apple’s mystique.

    I like my Macs and wouldn’t go back to Windows. But that doesn’t mean I have to be an Apple fanboy and gaze in wonder as Steve descends the mountain, two iPads in his arms… “Thous shalt not bear Flash against thy neighbor!” LOL

  9. I am, have been, and will continue to be a Flash developer. I also have been an Apple fan boy since I was a kid. I think the thing that bugs me most about this whole situation is that people are trying to equate the lack of Flash on Apple devices as the death of Flash. That’s just ridiculous. Silverlight has never been on Mac devices and will never be on Mac devices, but it continues to grow in usage. So if something like Silverlight is still moving forward, then why would Flash crap out? It won’t. For anyone out there who is worried about Flash going away, the best thing we can do to keep moving it forward is to keep developing with it. If you need something that runs on an iPod or iPhone, develop alternative content for those devices. It is possible to build something for one platform and serve up alternative content for another. We have the technology, it can be done. It might take more time and be more expensive, but it can be done. In fact, that is how it has always been done. There has never been and will never be a universal operating system or browser. So, do what you need to do and work with the technologies you like. Snoogins.

  10. quote from Gene:
    “To be fair, Adobe hasn’t kept up their end with Flash either. On the windows side Flash has been worked and reworked to be a fairly clean and efficient platform. Adobe has neglected Flash on the Mac side and, quite frankly, it’s crashy and quite a resource hog. It’s no wonder that Apple doesn’t want it on smaller devices with limited resources.”

    Yeah, but Gene is that entirely Adobe’s fault? How many times has Adobe asked Apple to come to the table to help them with this and Apple has balked? When you’re not given access to the resources needed to make it more stable, you get what you get, you know?

    I think Adobe should still support Mac but I agree that this was a real juvenille maneuver by Jobs et al to do just days before April 12 announcements by Adobe. I’m thinking that right now a small proportion of Mac users are left in a lurch and want to abandon Macs but don’t want to reinvest in Adobe software. I say that Adobe should offer those folks the option to exchange those licenses for Windows licenses. I know they can upgrade to CS5 at cheaper price. But what if they could just get an even exchange CS4 MAC for CS4 Windows? This would only apply for those who could provide records that prove they signed a contract to design for Apple. I don’t know. This way John Doe couldn’t apply for this. Someone smarter than I could figure this out.

    Talk about a symbolic shot across the bow by Adobe. Instead of focusing on Apple Adobe, let’s work with Android and when Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 are supported, parter with them as well. You will have your hands full.


  11. from Kevin:
    “But what if they could just get an even exchange CS4 MAC for CS4 Windows?”

    When my wife bought CS4 for the house (Windows) we were looking at eventually replacing the home office machine with a Mac Pro. She asked the Adobe rep if it would be possible to switch the license from Windows to Mac and they told her that you are allowed to switch the license once without penalty.

  12. Jason thanks for the resources and being cool.

  13. You’re very welcome! Thanks so much for reading! (sorry for the delayed response) :)

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