Apple snubs third-party app-creating tools

The Cupertino company revised its software developer's kit agreement to disallow apps not made using its proprietary software in tandem with its iPhone 4.0 OS announcement.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Following Apple's announcement of its latest iPhone operating system (OS) update, the company also released a beta software development kit together with a new license agreement for developers to adhere to.

The New York Times reported on Friday the changes made to Apple's license agreement for developers working on applications for the iPhone 4.0 OS. Among them, a stipulation under the "APIs (application programming interface) and Functionality" section stated that apps created outside the Cupertino's proprietary software will no longer be accepted into the App Store.

The license agreement read as follows: "Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. 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)."

What this means is developers can no longer make use of third-party software to quickly create applications that can run across multiple mobile operating systems.

According to the NYT report, one company likely to be impacted by this new license agreement is Adobe Systems. It has announced it is creating a technology that will allow Flash programmers to develop native apps for the iPhone, as well as iPod Touch and iPad, called the "Packager for iPhone". This will be included in its upcoming Adobe Flash Professional Creative Suite (CS) 5 product.

"Adobe has been working feverishly to build a feature into its Flash authoring platform that will give developers the ability to output applications in a format that will work on the iPhone and iPad. The new developer agreement is likely to put a stop to that," the article stated.

When questioned by ZDNet Asia on this, the company reiterated the statement made in the NYT report: "We are aware of Apple’s new SDK language and are looking into it. We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5."

Blog site, TechCrunch, also reported on the impact of this development on Adobe, with Jason Kincaid stating it's an "especially vicious move" by Apple. He pointed out that the CS5 product is due out "in less than four days" and Adobe, having marketed the Flash-to-iPhone software for months, had not been aware of Apple's plans to disallow such software.

Apple and Adobe have been at loggerheads in recent times, with the former's CEO Steve Jobs remarking that Flash technology is a "CPU hog". The latter, meanwhile, has been reportedly cozying up to another Apple competitor, Google, by including its Flash technology in Google's Chrome browser and upcoming Chrome operating system.

However, according to blogger Jason Gruber, this new rule affects other companies, too. He said: "My reading of this new [licensing] language is that cross-compilers, such as the Flash-to-iPhone compiler in Adobe's upcoming Flash Professional CS5 release, are prohibited."

He went on to clarify that while Apple may not be singling Adobe out, he thinks the latter's product represents "the sort of meta-framework Apple is not going to allow" and that the Cupertino is not going to let others "define the framework for native iPhone apps".

Gruber pointed out other existing tools that could fall foul of Apple's new ruling, including Appcelerator Network's Titanium software and Unity Technologies' Unity multiplatform game development tool.

TechCrunch's Kincaid summed up the development with this perspective: "If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, it certainly is now: Apple is playing dirty. It doesn't care what the developer community thinks. It has the users, it has the media's undying love, and it has an incredibly impressive line of products."

He added that if a developer quits creating apps for Apple products, it just means less competition for the developers who are.

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