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September 09, 2010

IPhone -Apple Opens Its Doors to Flash - But Why Now?


Roughly five month ago, Apple (News - Alert) made a shocking statement when it announced it would reject all apps written in Flash. Apple’s own Steve Jobs often issued heated references to the proprietary platform maintained by Adobe and many in the industry viewed this as a classic “pot and kettle” situation.

While the debate has been heated and has even instigated a government probe and countless instances of lashing out in the industry, Apple seemed to be firm in its stance.

Now, according to a Tech Fortune report, Apple has reversed its stance.Apple did not refer to Adobe or Flash by name, but its former policy prohibited software developers from using cross-platform tools when writing apps.

This included a range of third-party toolkits that allowed developers to write one set of code that would run on a variety of devices, but none of these were as important as the Abode Flash.

According to Apple, the policy has changed to allow Flash as long as the apps or ads are compiled ahead of time and do not require the download of any Adobe code.

This, of course, is great for Adobe, which enjoyed a 9 percent jump in stock price when the news hit.The big question now, is why the change?

TMC (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani said it well in his blog: “Although Apple's iPhone (News - Alert) does a great job approximating a PC-based browsing experience on the go, lack of Flash support which one past high level Adobe employee blames 100% on Apple, really makes the phone a lot less useful than it could be.”

And, let’s face it, those websites that use Flash and wanted customers to be able to access their information on any iPhone, iPod Touch of iPad device had to double their efforts, which didn’t win Apple a lot of friends in the process.

There are some leading theories surrounding the change, including the fact the company has listened to its developers (most aren’t buying this one); threats from the competition (think Android (News - Alert) and the new Android tablet computers ready to launch); or regulation (the investigative probe).

Forrester Research's Jeffrey Hammond has his view and shared with Tech Fortune, "It looks to me like [Apple's new policy] doesn't change anything immediately, as the way Adobe was targeting iPhone was to use the AIR compiler to cross compile Actionscript to directly target ARM (News - Alert) APIs through private, non-sanctioned APIs. These changes still don't allow them to do that as far as I can tell, and they don't allow Flash to run in iOS."

"But what is does signal," he added, "is that Apple feels it needs to be more transparent to developers and flexible in the options it gives them to keep iOS as the preferred mobile development platform -- the one that developers choose first."

Apple is the same company that announced earlier this year that Flash was not necessary to allow tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications.

According to a TG Daily report, the company claims it is actually listening to developers.The company shared in a statement: "We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year. In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code."

From the outside looking in, it is easy to believe Apple is not so concerned with the opinions of developers – it really hasn’t been the company’s MO in the past. My money is on a combination of the probe and Android’s strength in the market – but don’t expect Steve Jobs to confirm this assumption now or in the future.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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