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Adobe and Gruber agree: Apple's app store policy should change

Matthew Nuzum —  — 1 Comment

Just to be clear, Adobe and John Gruber disagree on most of the issues around this “section 3.3.1″ incident, but they do heartily agree on the most important point.

First, to summarize what I’m referring to, Apple recently changed the wording in the contract developers have to agree to in order to develop apps for the iPhone. The wording prohibits developers from using tools other than Apple’s own sanctioned set which strongly steer developers towards creating apps that will only run on Apple’s products. This was done just a couple days before Adobe was scheduled to announce a product that allowed developers to create apps that run on a variety of devices, not just Apple’s. Developers, especially those at Adobe, got very upset and alarmed.

John Gruber is a die-hard Apple fan. He will tell it like he sees it but has a tendency to defend Apple. He certainly did in this case. I don’t know John btw, but if you read this article you’ll see that he berates app developers who create cross-platform apps because they’re inherently lower quality and feel non-native but completely side-steps the fact that Apple creates cross-platform apps such as iTunes, Safari and Quick Time. Therefore I’m going to say that he’s not an objective reporter of facts, but instead is editorializing to support a group he likes.

Adobe (or it’s influential supporters and employees) has said some mean things about Apple on this subject. There is a clear division between the groups that are supporting either Adobe or Apple. It’s ugly.

There is a third group that is not getting talked about. This group doesn’t care about Flash and instead wants to create apps for the widest number of devices. Many think this #section331 change was aimed squarely at Adobe, but if so it hit this third group too. I’ll disclose that as a user of Appcelerator Titanium I’m in this group.

Considering Gruber’s support for Apple in the past I was quite surprised to find him writing an article that directly supported the view of this third group and certainly overlapped with the views of Adobe.

Either way, something terrible is going on. But worse than anything related to this specific case is the bigger picture: we don’t know.

…what Apple is losing are iPhone OS apps that aren’t being made in the first place by developers who aren’t willing to take their chances … violating one of Apple’s unpublished and heretofore unknown rules.

Keeping the rules secret may make things easier for Apple, but it’s weakening the platform.

This is a good piece and there’s no way a brief summary can get the full meaning, but you can see here the gist.

Adobe’s employee Mike Chambers has a similar feeling, though a bit more strongly worded:

Essentially, this has the effect of restricting applications built with a number of technologies, including Unity, Titanium, MonoTouch, and Flash CS5.

To be clear, during the entire development cycle of Flash CS5, the feature complied with Apple’s licensing terms. However, as developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at anytime, and for seemingly any reason. In just the past week Apple also changed its licensing terms to essentially prohibit ad networks other than its own on the iPhone.

Again, this is only a brief summary, the two articles each take you to different conclusions, but where they agree is that developers, especially those unwilling to invest themselves into a single platform, are afraid to target Apple’s iPhone OS.

There is fear that if we use platform agnostic development tools we’ll be suddenly kicked out of Apple’s app store. How would you like to spend months of time working on an app only to be prevented from sharing it with others?

A friend of mine made a snarky remark that we can still use HTML5. He’s right, of course. But right now there’s currently no marketplace for HTML5 mobile apps. I’ll be writing about this further soon but for now, if you want to commercialize or promote an app on most of the mobile devices you have to go through the Apple AppStore or the Android Market. And that means using a tool to create a native app.

I was in the process of developing an app that would be part of an article for a developer magazine and had to put everything on hold when this issue blew through. It appears Phone Gap has been given amnesty so I will proceed cautiously, hoping that Apple’s whim doesn’t change.

Matthew Nuzum

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Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk and write. Front end web, mobile and UX developer for John Deere ISG. My projects: @dsmwebgeeks @tekrs @squaretap ✝
  • http://troy-sobotka.blogspot.com Troy James Sobotka

    The app developers are to blame.

    Apple has zero power here. It is an emperor without any clothes.

    Given all of Apple’s history (do your homework) and all of their overt machinations, the developers are the suckers here.

    There are compelling alternative markets. Go compete in them and let the more powerful application developers show the weak minded the problems with a corrupt distribution system.