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Apple blocks Adobe's iPhone 'end around' plans

New SDK license bans cross-platform compilers -- like the one Adobe will unveil Monday

April 9, 2010 02:54 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple on Thursday banned developers from using rival programming tools, including one from Adobe that was called an "end-around" last year, to create iPhone and iPad applications.

First reported by John Gruber, who writes the Daring Fireball blog, Apple modified the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement to bar programmers from using cross-platform compilers, tools that turn code for other systems, as well as Java-built software, into native iPhone apps.

According to Gruber, the license agreement, which developers must accept before downloading the new SDK, or software developers kit, for iPhone 4, reads:

"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)."

The change is designed to quash developer allegiance to Adobe, said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner. "It's primarily directed at Adobe," he said. "The two have an oppositional relationship that goes back at least 15 years."

Apple and Adobe have been wrangling at ever-higher volumes over whether Flash Player should be allowed on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Apple has repeatedly claimed that Flash would degrade the performance, with its CEO, Steve Jobs, saying that Adobe's software"performs too slow to be useful" on the iconic smartphone. Yesterday, during a question-and-answer session immediately after the iPhone 4 preview presentation, Jobs flatly rejected the idea that Flash would be added to his company's mobile devices.

Last year, Adobe announced that Flash Professional CS5, the company's top-of-the-line Flash development framework, would include something dubbed "Packager," a tool that takes Flash applications and recompiles them to run natively on the iPhone. At the time, another Gartner analyst, Van Baker, said that Packager was an Adobe "end around" Apple's decision to ban Flash from the iPhone.

Today, Valdes said Apple's language gives developers no real wriggle room. "Apple is clearly saying that you can only develop in C, C++, Objective C and JavaScript, and that you can't translate the code to native iPhone," he said.

Adobe acknowledged the change in Apple's SDK licensing agreement and promised it would move forward, at least for now. "We are aware of the new SDK language and are looking into it," Adobe spokeswoman Wiebke Lips said today. "We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5."

The company plans to officially launch its Create Suite 5, of which Flash Profession CS5 is a part, on Monday, April 12.



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