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Report: Adobe May Sue Apple Over iPhone Flash

Apple and Adobe's low-level skirmish over Flash on the iPhone could soon explode into something far less innocuous, according to a published report this week.

On Monday, IT World, quoting "sources close to Adobe," reported that Adobe is furious with the SDK licensing changes Apple made in its iPhone 4.0 update and is planning to sue Apple "within a few weeks."

Last week, 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. In doing so, Apple effectively blocked Flash developers from building apps for the iPhone.

What really enraged Adobe is that Apple chose to do so without warning, just days before Adobe's release of Flash Professional CS5, which featured the iPhone cross-compiler as one of its key selling points.

In a blog post last week, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch downplayed the significance of Apple's move and said Adobe still plans to include the feature. "We intend to still deliver this capability in CS5 and it is up to Apple whether they choose to allow or disallow applications as their rules shift over time," Lynch said in the blog post.

But Lee Brimelow, a platform evangelist at Adobe, offered a far less varnished opinion in his own subsequent blog post on the matter, which concluded with the unforgettable line "Go screw yourself Apple."

Adobe last week also filed a Form 10-Q with the SEC suggesting that its business could be damaged by Apple's decision to block Flash.

"To the extent new releases of operating systems or other third-party products, platforms or devices, such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, make it more difficult for our products to perform, and our customers are persuaded to use alternative technologies, our business could be harmed," Adobe said in the filing.

Apple's changes could also block users of other compiling tools like Monotouch, which allows developers to create C# and .NET based applications for the iPhone. In a blog post last week, the Monotouch team at Novell suggested that Apple's decision might not actually block Monotouch.

"If Apple's motives are technical, or are intended to ensure the use of the Apple toolchain, MonoTouch should have little difficulty staying compliant with the terms of the SDK," the Novell Monotouch team said in the blog post.

Scott Stanfield, CEO of Richmond, Calif.-based Microsoft partner Vertigo Software, which has looked at developing iPhone apps in Monotouch, says he's monitoring the situation closely.

"We'd like to develop iPhone and iPad apps via Novell's Monotouch, but that's caught up in the same SDK EULA mess as Adobe Flash," Stanfield said, likening the situation to Apple mandating GarageBand as the onramp to iTunes for all musicians.

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