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Adobe tosses in Flash towel after Apple limits iPhone dev

Adobe's developer relations manager says, 'iPhone isn't the only game in town,' suggests move to Android

April 21, 2010 07:04 AM ET

Computerworld - Saying that Apple "wants to tie developers down," an Adobe product manager yesterday said his company would toss in the towel on a tool that lets programmers port Flash applications to the iPhone and iPad.

The announcement was the latest in the escalating confrontation between Apple and Adobe. Apple has repeatedly claimed that letting Flash on its iPhone would degrade performance, with CEO Steve Jobs saying that Adobe's software "performs too slow to be useful" on the smartphone. Two weeks ago, Jobs flatly rejected the idea that Flash would be allowed on his company's mobile devices.

At the same time, Apple changed the language of its newest iPhone software developers kit (SDK) license to ban developers from using cross-platform compilers, tools that let them write in one framework -- say, JavaScript or .Net -- and then recompile it in native code for another platform, like the iPhone. Days later, an Adobe platform evangelist said, "Go screw yourself Apple," on his personal blog, which had been reviewed, if not vetted, by Adobe.

Yesterday, Adobe took the war up a notch with an unusual move: It gave up on a feature it had once loudly trumpeted.

"We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5," said Mike Chambers, the principal product manager for developer relations for Adobe's Flash platform, in a blog post late Tuesday. "However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature."

The feature Chambers referred to takes applications written in Flash's ActionScript and recompiles them to run natively on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Adobe calls it "Packager for iPhone" and includes it with Flash Professional, part of Creative Suite 5 (CS5), which launched April 12, just days after Apple modified its SDK.

Analysts said Apple's move was aimed right at Adobe. "It's primarily directed at Adobe. The two have an oppositional relationship that goes back at least 15 years," said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner, in an interview last week.

Some of the firms that market other cross-platform compilers agreed. "It's not a coincidence that this came out just days before Adobe launched CS5," said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Appcelerator, whose Titanium tool produces native iPhone applications from JavaScript and HTML.

Chambers said Apple had Adobe and Flash in its sights. "While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms, it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5," he said Tuesday. "Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store."

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