Adobe Nixes Flash for iPhone, Ups Ante in Apple Feud

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-04-21

Adobe Nixes Flash for iPhone, Ups Ante in Apple Feud

Just a little more than a week after an Adobe employee told Apple to go screw itself over its new restrictive developer policies for the iPhone 4.0, Adobe has now officially come out and announced plans to move on and focus Flash at competing smartphone platforms such as Android.

In an April 9 blog post, Lee Brimelow, a platform evangelist at Adobe focusing on the Flash, Flex and AIR development communities, in response to the now infamous clause in the Apple iPhone developer program license known as Clause 3.3.1, Brimelow said:

"Speaking purely for myself, I would look to make it clear what is going through my mind at the moment. Go screw yourself Apple."

Now, in an April 20 post, Adobe product manager Mike Chambers made it official. Said Chambers:

"We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5. However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature."

Apple's Clause 3.3.1 reads:

"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)."

According to Chambers, Apple's goal here is clear:

"Essentially, this has the effect of restricting applications built with a number of technologies, including Unity, Titanium, MonoTouch, and Flash CS5. While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms, it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5. Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications (100+ on the store today) created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store."

Brimelow was a bit more direct, saying:

"This has nothing to do whatsoever with bringing the Flash player to Apple's devices. That is a separate discussion entirely. What they are saying is that they won't allow applications onto their marketplace solely because of what language was originally used to create them. This is a frightening move that has no rational defense other than wanting tyrannical control over developers and more importantly, wanting to use developers as pawns in their crusade against Adobe."

Brimelow went on to compare Apple's actions to a bad shopping experience. "But this is equivalent to me walking into Macy's to buy a new wallet and the salesperson spits in my face. Chances are I won't be buying my wallets at Macy's anymore, no matter how much I like them."

Gripes over Apple's restrictive policies vis-a-vis developers are nothing new. Yet, this has taken on a different tone. Al Hilwa, an analyst and program director for applications development software at market research firm IDC, said:

"From a developer perspective the new legal language is bad news. The application development field is very diverse and many platforms are inherently layered with API's often stacked on top of one another as application platforms evolve. Apple's legal language to preclude even Apple evolving its own platform down the road when new languages or interfaces become more popular as computer science evolves. What is puzzling and bothersome about this legal language is that it seems arbitrarily aimed at cutting a whole swath of existing languages and cutting off the developers skilled in them. Aside from the difficulty of actually implementing it, it seems somewhat arbitrarily discriminatory, analogous to scrutinizing the genetic code of person and saying you can't get into this club. While this restriction can be seen in the prism of the Apple and Adobe relationship around Flash, this is not just about Adobe, but potentially a problem for every developer runtime or language that wants to hold on to developers and maintain its longevity. It is about programmers maintaining their livelihood. Probably even more importantly, it is about the flexibility to evolve computer science and software development."

Chambers said: "The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."

iPhone Not the Only Game in Town


However, Chambers emphasized that "Fortunately, the iPhone isn't the only game in town." He said Adobe has been working closely with Google to bring Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 to Android devices. And, "Because this is Flash, it is rather trivial to port games created with Flash that target the iPhone to target other operating systems, such as Android," he said.

In a tweet, Mike Sax, founder and president of, said, "Business opportunity: identify the most successful Flash games in the AppStore and write native versions (because they will all be yanked)."

Meanwhile, Adobe has pledged to continue efforts to add Flash support to all the major smartphone platforms. And Chambers says he believes the open platforms will win out "over the type of closed, locked down platform that Apple is trying to create."

Responses to Chambers' post were almost all in support of Adobe's move to stand fast in the face of Apple's policies. However, one responder, who identified himself as Scott Barnes, a "former Microsoft Adobe compete lead," said:

"This is a very biased post and a weak response to the problem. Bottom line is Adobe were warned to knock off immature passive aggressive behavior or Apple would respond in kind. The warning was ignored and as a result Adobe has polluted the well for the industry.

"Instead of coming out with 'ya know our bad, Apple we apologise let's make up' negotiations, staffers are now attempting to insight a digital riot against the evil Apple empire."

Chambers responded that Barnes was making assumptions he had no knowledge about and that there were negotiations that must remain private.

And Chambers ended his post with:

"We are at the beginning of a significant change in the industry, and I believe that ultimately open platforms will win out over the type of closed, locked down platform that Apple is trying to create. I am excited about Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 and all of the opportunities that they will make available to Flash developers across multiple platforms (desktop, Android, Palm, Windows Phone 7, RIM, etc...)." 

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