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Apple Vs. Adobe: The War Is On

by Sean P. Aune | April 12, 2010April 12, 2010 9:11 am PST

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Apple is in a fighting mood.  Every time you turn around it seems like Steve Jobs is saying something negative about a company that they once seemed buddy-buddy with, but now he can’t stand them for one reason or the other.  While he is well-known for not being a very forgiving sort, what great crimes against him these companies have committed is unknown, but he sure isn’t happy with some of them.

appleadobe150Since the release of the first iPhone, people have been asking when the support for Adobe’s Flash would be coming. While Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, played coy for the first few years, his comments about Flash ever coming to the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad have become decidedly more pointed as of late: it is never going to happen.

While it had been played off as any number of technical issues ranging from resource concerns, battery life and stability issues, Mr. Jobs’ distaste for anything relating to Adobe has reached new heights with the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK (Software Development Kit) developer agreement.  Section 3.3.1 reads:

3.3.1 — 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).

While it never says “No Adobe”, it effectively bans Adobe’s brand new Flash-to-iPhone compiler that released only two days after this new agreement came out.  While it also bans some other frameworks such as MonoTouch, the intended target of the new rule is pretty clear.

It’s odd because Adobe and Apple have been synonymous with one another for years due in main part to graphic designers.  If you think Photoshop, you usually jump to the conclusion the person uses a Mac.  While the premiere graphics program is available for Windows also, it just isn’t your first thought for the operating system the person is using.

Developers are hopping mad, going so far as to set up an “I’m With Adobe” Facebook group that echoes the “I’m With Coco” group that was set up around Conan O’Brien’s ouster from The Tonight Show.  There is no question that developers love their Adobe tools, but if they are completely banned from the iPhone OS development system, will they have any choice but to switch to using something else?

young steve jobsThere has been a lot of talk about how HTML5 replaces a lot of the need for Flash, and Mr. Jobs has said the same in a few of his public addresses.  If you think about it, Apple is now effectively dictating the development of the Web as a whole.  Since Apple is embracing HTML5, will a developer bother with Flash when they know it will preclude their site from being used on the growing number of iPhone OS devices, or will they opt for HTML5 which they know will be used everywhere?  Sure they could develop two versions of a site, but what would be the point?  It would cost them a considerable amount in resources to develop two versions of every product, so the more logical step is to just go with what will work in all browsers, including the mobile ones.

According to Bloombergs, it appears that Adobe is scared of what this all means.  In a corporate filing for April 9th, Adobe said, “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.”  And there it is from Adobe itself.

The question is why Steve Jobs has decided to essentially cut Adobe off at the knees?  As of Late he seems to be on a tear to just anger companies of all sorts.  People have noticed that “Google” has been removed as the name on the search feature in iPhone OS 4, leading people to believe the rumors of Apple switching over to Microsoft’s Bing as the default search engine are true.  If this does happen, it is just yet another shot fired in the Apple Vs. Google war that has been heating up as of late.  What is Steve Jobs end game here?  Why is he all of a sudden deciding that these companies are no longer worthy of being associated with Apple and its products?

If there is one thing that can be said about Steve Jobs, it’s that he never does anything on a whim.  If he is making these moves, there’s a reason he’s doing so, and we are all just left wonder why due to his infamously secretive nature.  We may find out some day down the road, but for now, Google and Adobe are having to scramble because Apple is holding all the cards, and only they know what is in their hand.


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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