Last Friday Apple, Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone would not support applications developed using the new Adobe CS5 compiler. Now while to many of you this seems like a mundane thing, to me it’s a big deal. Not only does it once again show just how arrogant Apple has become with all of their draconian controls on everything related to application development for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch; It shows just how far they are willing to go to kill off any contact with the Flash development community.
Here is my problem with all of this. Myself , my team, and a large portion of my company develop in Flash, we don’t want to have to hire a bunch of Objective C programmers to re-develop everything we have just spent months working on. It hurts our bottom line. It’s counter intuitive. Lets say I am developing a media rich, Action Script 3 Flash application that is browser-based. Lets say my client comes to me and asks for an Adobe Air version, I can do that quickly using the same source files and code with FLEX, Flash, and AIR. Now the same client comes to me and says, “Hey can you port this to the iPhone and iPad so I can take advantage of that massive user base?”. Well up until last Friday, I could do that by using the new Flash CS5 Compiler for the iPhone. It might have involved a few tweaks, but it would have worked.
Why is this important? Well there are a couple of reasons. First, because it means I don’t have to waste precious time and money learning to program in Objective C, or hire a developer that knows this code to begin with. Second because it allows me and the people I work with to continue to develop the highest quality product using tools we have been working with for almost 15 years. Flash, and Action Script.
I know that Apple is claiming Flash will allow for sub-par applications to be developed, but sub-par applications have been developed and approved using Apple’s own iPhone development kit. Anyone with an iPhone knows for a fact that they have installed some crap application at one point. An app that is either buggy, or fails to follow Apple’s very specific UI standards. So When they Say Flash will allow this to become more common, I call bullshit. Apple controls what gets out the door and in the app store. They allow bad applications to hit the store on a weekly basis. I have installed and deleted a number of apps myself that left me scratching my head asking “What was Apple thinking when they approved this junk?”
In addition to how limiting all of this is for interactive designers and developers, there is an ethical issue here as well. Remember how the FTC smacked Microsoft over embedding Internet Explorer into Windows, and basically saying to everyone you will use our browser? Well what Apple is doing is really know different. They are forcing you to use what their tool. They are saying if you want to play ball with us you will use our dev tool, or your app will never get approved. This is the equivalent of saying, “We think Kodak cameras take inferior pictures, therefor Apple iPhoto and Aperture will no longer support Kodak cameras. If you want to use your digital photos with our software you must use a Canon, Nikon, or Leica camera.”
At the end of the day this feels like it has less to do with the tool developers use, and more to do with Apple’s ongoing feud with Adobe and Flash on the iPhone. Apple you need to wake up. The Flash community is huge and you just pissed off every one of us. Adobe gets almost 7 million requests a month for the Flash player to be installed on the iPhone or iPod touch. Flash is installed on 99% of all computers in the world, and there have been over 100 Million Adobe AIR installations. If Apple thinks they are going to kill off Flash development they are dead wrong. All they are going to do by diss-allowing the Flash iPhone compiler is lose a large number of application development to their arch rival Android.