Apple Gets Sneaky In Blocking Flash From iPhone

In the iPhone 4.0 SDK beta unveiled Thursday, Apple changed the terms of its iPhone Developer Program license agreement to prohibit cross-compilers, which allow developers to write iPhone apps using languages other than Apple's Objective-C.

As noted by John Gruber, author of the Daring Fireball blog, Apple didn't mention the SDK licensing changes during its iPhone 4.0 press conference, but they could have unpleasant implications for Adobe's Packager For iPhone compiler in Flash Professional CS5.

"My reading of this new language is that cross-compilers, such as the Flash-to-iPhone compiler in Adobe's upcoming Flash Professional CS5 release, are prohibited," Gruber said in a blog post.

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment on the SDK licensing changes.

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Apple's timing couldn't have been any worse for Adobe, which is about to release Flash CS5 and now finds one of its key features rendered useless. A main thrust of Adobe's promotion of Flash CS5 has been its ability to let developers write apps in Flash and then port them over to the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

An Adobe spokesperson told the company is aware of the new SDK language and is looking into it. "We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5 next week," the spokesperson said in an email.

Apple's SDK license changes could also affect other compiling tools like Monotouch, which allows developers to create C# and .NET based applications for the iPhone. Not surprisingly, Microsoft developers aren't happy that their main portal to iPhone development has apparently been slammed shut by Apple.

"Looks like it's Apple's way or the highway," said Scott Stanfield, CEO of Richmond, Calif.-based Microsoft partner Vertigo Software. "If Microsoft did this, people would be screaming bloody murder."

This is an aggressive move on Apple's part and one that effectively requires developers to buy Macs in order to write apps for the iPhone and iPad, says Dave Meeker, director of emerging media and co-director of Roundarch Labs, a Chicago-based Web development firm.

"The real kicker is that you now have to go learn Objective C if you want to develop for the iPhone," Meeker said. Objective C is very different from Java and Windows and requires developers to familiarize themselves with new tools, something they're not fond of doing, he added.

Apple's foot-dragging on iPhone Flash has caused tension between the two companies, and this latest move is sure to enrage Adobe. Last October, Adobe spent much of its MAX conference talking about how Flash developers would be able to build Flash Professional CS5 apps and sell them on the App Store.

"We believe these apps are good for Apple and good for iPhone. We have no reason to believe that Apple won't love this," Adrian Ludwig, a product manager for Adobe's Flash Platform group, said at the event.

Apple apparently doesn't see it that way. But seeing as how CEO Steve Jobs hasn't tried to conceal his disdain for Adobe or Flash, today's move shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

"Adobe is lazy. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it's because of Flash," Jobs reportedly said at an Apple town hall meeting in January.