New iPhone SDK EULA A Shot Over Adobe's Bow (and Everybody Else's Too)

Apr 8 2010
Darth Apple

In one of my favorite scenes in Star Wars (not calling it “A New Hope” that’s revisionist garbage), the ever-plucky and courageous Princess Leia and the evil imperial governor Grand Moff Tarkin have one of my favorite exchanges in all those movies (yes, cheeseball but I still love it):

Governor Tarkin: Princess Leia, before your execution, you will join me at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.

Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Now substitute Steve Jobs for Tarkin, and you’ll get a good idea of what is going on at Apple today.  Notice I didn’t say Jobs was the Emperor; that would be his ego.

The ongoing battles between Apple and, well, anyone else who wants to do anything on their hardware have just taken a new turn for the nasty.  The iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, as of today, has a wee little change that has enormous ramifications.  As of today, that agreement bans all third party compilers.  This is a transparent shot over Adobe’s bow, and I have a feeling it will mean war.

A much-touted part of Adobe CS5 is Packager for iPhone, which lets Flash developers create and compile iPhone apps in Flash, using the Flash IDE and Actionscript 3, then cross-compile them for use on the iPhone.  Now, I never expected this sort of development paradigm to be nearly as efficient as native Objective C, but there are enough competent AS 3 devs out there, and more than enough talented artists working in Flash these days, to create an explosion of interesting apps.  If Apple gets its way, no longer.

Apple and Adobe have been feuding for a while now, primarily over Flash as a video solution; Flash isn’t supported on the iPhone at all, and now with the iPad out, same deal.  Nada, zip.  Apple doesn’t want their walled garden being polluted by any sort of tech that they don’t control, or at least have access to in an open framework (preferably with a dominant role in defining said framework.)  But this new tactic raises the bar in anti-competitive tactics on the part of Apple, who, regardless of their advertising campaigns and fanboy furor, are fundamentally a worse monopolist than even Microsoft was back in the day.

Actually, I’m starting to think that Microsoft wasn’t so bad.  At least they never tried to dictate the programming languages that people could use on PCs, or control and restrict any hardware that their OS runs on.

So I’m assuming this means war.  As much as I think Adobe has made some dumb decisions in the past, I have one basic observation.  Adobe may be dumb at times, but Apple is just plain wrong.