Adobe on iPhone: Will Apple allow it?October 15th, 2009 by Jeremy Chone
Apple is undeniably the most proprietary and closed technology company in the software industry. In fact, Apple makes companies like Microsoft and Adobe look like nonprofit open source organizations in comparison.
Apple’s iPhone product and marketplace have been the latest example of Apple’s excessive control. Apple ingeniously controls its iPhone platform at both the production and distribution levels. In practical terms, this means that iPhone developers must have the Apple SDK (which only runs on a Mac computer) to be able to produce an iPhone application (even if developers use other application SDKs, such as PhoneGap). Developers also must get the application approved by Apple in order to distribute it. Microsoft would not have even dared to dream of such a market scheme.
Nevertheless, at its annual event last week, Adobe demonstrated how developers can circumvent iPhone application’s production restrictions by using the upcoming Adobe Flash CS5 to produce native iPhone applications. And while this has little to nothing to do with putting Flash or AIR on the iPhone, it is big news for mobile developers. It will allow any developer on any platform (such as Mac or Windows) to develop iPhone applications.
As of now, Adobe’s solution lacks many of the most interesting iPhone APIs, but it is safe to assume that if Adobe is serious about promoting AS3, its language for native iPhone development, Adobe will provide full iPhone API access in the final release.
Now the big question is, will Apple allow Adobe to fork its iPhone developer community?
It is fair to assume that Adobe did not ask Apple’s permission, and that Apple probably sees this initiative as a competitive threat rather than an opportunity.
Apple cannot afford to ignore Adobe anymore, and must respond to this initiative by carefully weighing the risks of each course of action. Apple has the following three options:
1) Let it go
The first and most unlikely option for Apple will be to let the matter go and allow the Adobe developer community to develop native iPhone applications with Adobe’s technology without needing Apple’s SDK.
By doing so, Apple will definitely change its reputation for maintaining strict control of its technology. However, ignoring this event will set a dangerous precedent that Google may use to enable Android developers to do the same. While Apple might not consider Adobe a direct competitor in the mobile market, Apple definitely does not want to get “Windows’d” by Google.
While this would be the best option for developers, it will be astonishing if Apple goes this route. Apple will probably offer excuses to justify why this option would be a detriment to the iPhone developer and user communities.
2) Block it
The obvious approach for Apple would be to stop Adobe from releasing this product, either by making it technically unreliable, by denying any applications built with it, or by legally harassing Adobe.
The problem with this approach is that it could create a similar insurgence from the developer community as Google Voice did from the user community. This outcome would generate good PR for Adobe and raise awareness among developers about the need for more openness in the iPhone development environment (note how Apple is making anybody look open).
3) Control it
The most likely outcome is that Apple will attempt to control Adobe’s new product by entering into some sort of partnership with Adobe, and, most importantly, keeping Google out of such relationship.
This result could actually benefit Adobe, since Adobe’s true agenda is not to cross compile its Action Script programming language to iPhone byte-code, but rather to distribute its Flash and AIR runtime to the iPhone.
Perhaps Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone application support might be part of its master plan to get Apple’s attention in order to bring Flash runtime(s) to the iPhone. If so, this “show, don’t tell” strategy is a smart and modern way to influence bully market players such as Apple.
Anyway, what’s your take, what do you think Apple will do?
- 2009-10-15 – InsideRIA – Scott Barnes: Could Adobe potentially harm the iPhone AppStore
- 2010-04-07 – We got our answer, Apple is blocking it: New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone Compiler