After Apple about-face, Adobe resurrects Flash tool

Will resume work on cross-platform compiler it sent to limbo last April

Adobe on Thursday said it would resurrect a tool that lets developers port Flash applications to the iPhone after Apple did an about-face earlier in the day.

The move came just hours after Apple reversed an April decision that blocked programmers from using popular tools and technologies to build software for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

"Apple's announcement today that it has lifted restrictions on its third-party developer guidelines has direct implications for Adobe's Packager for iPhone, a feature in the Flash Professional CS5 authoring tool," Adobe said in a statement on its corporate blog. "We will now resume development work on this feature for future releases."

Adobe put Packager out to pasture on April 20, saying that it was halting all further work on the tool, even though it had released its host, Flash Professional CS5, just days before.

The decision had been prompted by Apple's revision of its iOS developer program license agreement, which suddenly barred the use of cross-platform compilers to create apps for iOS, which powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Cross-platform compilers are tools that let programmers write once -- in Flash, for example, or JavaScript -- and then recompile to produce native code-based applications for multiple mobile operating systems, like Apple's iOS or Google's Android.

Most analysts saw the April injunction against cross-platform compilers as a direct attack on Adobe.

Adobe saw it that way too. At the time, the company complained that Apple changed the rules on the fly. "During the entire development cycle of Flash CS5, [Packager] complied with Apple's licensing terms," said Mike Chambers, the principal product manager for developer relations for Adobe's Flash platform. "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 any time, and for seemingly any reason."

Chambers also argued that Apple wanted to "tie developers down" and "make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."

Although Adobe didn't retract those statements Thursday, it welcomed Apple's lifting of the ban. "This is great news for developers," Adobe said.

Adobe also reported that developers using Flash Packager to build iOS applications were getting their programs approved for the App Store by Apple on Thursday, suggesting that such software had gotten nixed previously.

Other cross-platform compiler makers had had no such trouble, even during the monthslong stretch when the now-obsolete Apple policy had supposedly been in effect. Both Appcelerator and Unity Technologies, which sell iOS programming tools, stressed on Thursday that developers using their compilers had been able to get ported programs into the App Store since April.

In comments appended to Adobe's Thursday announcement, one Flash developer crowed that his Flash-built iPhone app, CoolerKreator, had been added to the App Store. According to the online mart, the free iPhone wallpaper-maker first appeared Thursday.

But neither Apple's U-turn nor Adobe's resuming of work on Flash Packager have changed the status of Flash itself on iOS-powered devices.

"We do want to point out that Apple's restriction on Flash content running in the browser on iOS devices remains in place," Adobe said.

That dispute, which has been heated at times, is less likely to be resolved. Apple and Adobe have traded blows this year over Flash content on iOS, with Apple CEO Steve Jobs trashing Flash in a rare public missive in late April and the co-chairs of Adobe's board of directors accusing Apple of undermining the Web in mid-May.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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