Fighting hard, Apple ends bumper scheme

Yet more proof we live in interesting times on news Apple will discontinue its free bumper case scheme on September 30, even while opening up to non-Apple development tools, prompting a critically-guarded but positive response from Adobe.

Apple's website states:

"We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought. A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case, and we want to continue providing them a Bumper case for free. For everyone else, we are discontinuing the free case program on all iPhone 4s sold after September 30, 2010."

The note adds: "We are also returning to our normal returns policy for all iPhone 4s sold after September 30. Users experiencing antenna issues should call AppleCare to request a free Bumper case."

In other words, if your iPhone is one of the units which suffers the left hand antenna death-grip problem, contact Apple and they'll send you a case. If you don't have the problem you won't need a case.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

We'll see how this goes:

  • I have no doubt that there will be some squawks of protest at this new move by Apple to limit its free case give-away.
  • I can only presume that when it comes to the number of units actually affected, Apple is taking a calculated risk. The company clearly feels that the vast majority of iPhone 4 users will not be impacted. I hope so, anyway.

If you really want to get a free bumper case, you're still in with a chance, Apple says it will provide a case to those purchasing an iPhone 4 before September 30, 2010.

If you got your Apple smartphone before July 23, 2010, you must apply no later than August 22, 2010; otherwise, you must apply within 30 days of your iPhone 4 purchase.

Intriguingly, it now looks like Apple is providing reticent iPhone 4 purchasers with an understated extra inducement to buy their phone this month -- buy your iPhone today, and get a free case.

You have to hand it to Cupertino, they sure know how to turn adversity into advertising.

Flash still ain't ready

Meanwhile, the Android and Adobe Flash army are reeling a following Apple's move yesterday to defuse the "Apple is a closed and proprietary system" argument, by opening up and being a little less proprietary.

Granted, Apple hasn't immediately moved to permit Flash on the iPhone, but it has now opened up its kimono just enough to permit third party development tools to create iOS apps.

The company's partial statement is below. I've little to add to this, as this has  already been heavily regurgitated, mulled over, picked apart and then repeated on every news outlet from the BBC to CNN and almost every technology website:

"We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.

"In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need."

That's the deal really. Apple is continuously listening to the feedback and changing its plans. There's no way it will hand an easy argument to its competitors. After all, as the company currently in the ascendant in the smartphone space, its every move is picked apart and criticized by a desperate competition.

(If Android were the leading smartphone system, I'm curious if it would attract the same level of criticism for any of Google's mistakes. That's life in the build 'em up to tear 'em down modern media, I guess.)

Adobe moves fast this time

Adobe issued a welcoming response to Apple's news. The company -- while still praying its developers eventually do manage to create a version of Flash suitable for mobile devices -- said it would immediately recommence development of its Adobe CS5 authoring tool, Packager for iPhone. This tool exports Flash apps as iOS apps.

 Apps created using this tool which had previously been submitted to Apple's App Store are now reportedly being approved, Adobe says.

"Adobe will continue to work to bring full web browsing with Flash Player 10.1 as well as standalone applications on AIR to a broad range of devices, working with key industry partners," Adobe's Flash rain song reads.

Apple's move to permit third party development tools to create iOS apps wasn't altruism in action, of course.

 The Wall Street Journal observes it took the action to see off pressure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who launched an inquiry in June as to the antitrust law implications of Apple's earlier policy.

Naturally, Apple's move is also designed to see off Android's constantly-muttered 'open' mantra.

That's because Android is likely to become the world's second-most widely-deployed mobile OS this year, Gartner has predicted. Apple's iOS and Research In Motion/BlackBerry get shunted behind.

Analysts can be wrong

However, Gartner's expectation that Android will be number one by 2014 could easily be confounded should Microsoft release Windows Phone 7 as a free mobile operating system, while leveraging its existing relationships with equipment makers.

(Which is what I was do if I was running things at Redmond. After all, it isn't Apple who undercut Microsoft's multi-partner OS provision business plan.)

What's the effect of all this?

Apple has proved it is capable of making aggressive moves -- such as its attempt to ban third-party development solutions, but is also capable of taking defensive steps and feinting to put opponents off balance.

Apple fights hard

What this means is that despite all the hyperbole concerning the (ridiculously over-simplified in my opinion) Apple-versus-Google Android-versus-iOS struggle, Apple is putting up a fight like we've never seen before.

This is not a repeat of the Apple v. Microsoft battle of yesteryear.

This is a new skirmish fought with different rules, in which only one of the combatants truly has a historic understanding of what the stakes are.

I recall reading a previous rumor somewhere in which Jobs is alleged to have said, on understanding the full consequences of Google's move into mobile "how could I let this happen again", referring to the Microsoft mistake of yesteryear.

Perhaps because this time Jobs has a chance to win. After all, he has the confidence of his board, his company and the wider technology, media and business communities.

This story may well write itself. Keep watching.

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