slapfight I wasn’t sure whether to cover this story, given that it does not seem to have a great deal to do with e-books on the face of it. But on the other hand, it relates to the viability of developing for the iPhone and iPad as a whole, and e-book applications (both reader apps and stand-alone encapsulated appbooks) have to be developed just like anything else.

Apple’s OS 4.0 SDK includes a new license agreement—new terms that developers must abide by. And one of these terms is a prohibition on “applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer”.

What this means in layman’s terms is that you can’t make iPhone or iPad programs with software development toolkits from other companies, such as the one Adobe is only three days away from releasing. You have to develop the programs using Apple’s own tools, or nothing at all. (Ars Technica has a great in-depth exploration of the whole issue.)

The change has been met by stares of disbelief all across the development community. The timing of it in particular makes it hard to see the announcement as anything but a slap in the face to Adobe, with whom Apple was already feuding over its continued refusal to implement Flash on the iPhone or iPad.

John Gruber thinks that it’s simply an extension of Apple’s already well-known desire for control over its device environments. It may be deplorable from the perspective of third parties who were coming out with development kits, but it makes sense from Apple’s point of view and lets them maintain both control and quality control.

He also notes that a lot of cross-platform toolkits produce fairly crummy applications because they are not custom-tailored to use the specific features in Apple’s hardware.

Adobe, meanwhile, having sunk millions of dollars into development costs for a platform that is suddenly barring the door, seems downright livid—or at least some of its executives do. Adobe’s Platform Evangelist, Lee Brimelow, posted a statement on his blog, vetted by Adobe legal staff (though it’s not an official Adobe statement), that called out Apple for its “tyrannical” restrictions on employees and developers, and concluded:

Now let me put aside my role as an official representative of Adobe for a moment as I would look to make it clear what is going through my mind at the moment. Go screw yourself Apple.

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch compares this decision to Jobs’s similar decisions regarding the Macintosh—decisions that, Schonfeld says, ultimately led to the marginalization of the Macintosh against the PC environment.

The iPhone faces a growing threat from Google’s Android phones, which are the PCs of the mobile world. Only Apple makes the iPhone, but many phone manufacturers make Android phones just like many PC makers produce Windows PCs. Slowly but surely, those Android phones are getting better. And already Android sales are collectively catching up to iPhone sales.

He wonders if Jobs will be able to keep history from repeating itself.

In the end, Apple fanatics are going to continue to hold that Jobs can do no wrong, and Apple bashers are going to continue to insist that Jobs is the devil, and this probably is not going to change most people’s opinions one way or the other.

But I hope I don’t appear too hypocritical (as a happy iPod Touch owner and soon to be a happy iPad owner) if I say that I hope it serves as a reminder to developers of how capricious Apple is capable of being, and what their priorities are if they think anything might threaten their control.

I find myself hoping that Android is able to get its act together enough to challenge Apple for the smartphone market and developer mindshare. If Apple faces some serious competition, perhaps it will have to loosen some of its restrictions.


  1. This isn’t something that is going to affect “ordinary” users of Apple products, IMO, except by decreasing the pool of iPhone OS developers and decreasing the number of quick-n-dirty ports of Flash apps to the iPhone.

    It will certainly affect companies other than Adobe even if it does look like just another skirmish in the Apple/Adobe Flash-wars.

    Anecdotal evidence says that Apple has never really been very “3rd Party Developer Friendly” and has always been very controlling.

  2. Apple offers a subpar experience for creating content. Although they made the iPad infinitely more useful for lots of different tasks is its massive platform of third party applications, except third software company like video converter and dvd ripper company, ifunia created apps on COCOA. So “let the Free Market decide” is good idea. Maybe, apple should provide something richer for developers to create for, like ifunia, but not kill them with “iTunes” because third-party software, international sales to determine apple’s future.

  3. Flash is an outdated platform in it’s dying phase and they are livid because they know it too. Apple controls their environment on their devices so that they can deliver the smooth and superior experience that the millions of buyers have responded to by buying their devices. Anyone running flash on Android knows the affect on it’s performance. I support Apple’s decision to go straight to HTML5 which is an OPEN and far superior route. For years I have had flash turned off on my Windows desktops and then my Mac desktops. It’s a waste of space.
    Firstly it’s a huge misreading of Apple and their motives to think that they have any interest in dominating the mobile phone market They have never operated with this kind of ambition. Apple have always operated to develop higher quality, more expensive devices that sit at the top of the market. So comparing Android sales to iPhone sales and drawing conclusions of a head to head is quite silly.
    Secondly Android has already suffered two waves of security issues arising from the fact that no one is screening apps and providing the level of protection the Android OS that Apple provides to iOS. This is bound to accelerate due to the fragmentation of the different versions of Android floating around the universe and the lack of any over riding governance. I for one don’t want to start down a path similar to Windows where security patches become weekly and there is a constant threat of malware.
    Android will continue to grow and probably dominate most of the mobile market that is for sure. After all it is free and quite well designed. But I can’t see it knocking iPhone off the top of the pile.
    Call me a Mac fanatic if you like. That’s the usual knee jerk of the ill informed. I have been around a long time and been though the whole Windows thing twice and the Mac thing twice or three times.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail