Apple Vs Adobe: Impact On Mobile Learning Development

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The war between Adobe and Apple just got hotter. With the announcement of iPhone OS 4.0 Apple has revised the Developer Program License Agreement to ban the use of cross compiler tools like Unity3d, Appcelerator’s Titanium, Adobe’s Flash CS5 etc. for developing iPhone and iPad applications. As per the new agreement developers can use only C, C++, Objective-C, and JavaScript to develop iPad/iPhone apps. Some companies like PhoneGap, Appcelerator and Unity3d having cross compiler products [that can publish the same code for iPhone/iPad or other mobile devices] have clarified or assured that the apps developed using their tools would still be accepted by Apple but there is no official response from Adobe on this. Industry experts believe that Apple has done this solely to block the new feature of Adobe Flash that will allow the Flash developers to publish Flash files to iPhone app without any knowledge of iPhone SDK or Objective-C. (which we think is a smart feature)

We posted earlier that Adobe is working with all the major mobile phone vendors [except Apple] under the Open Screen Project to bring the Flash Player to their devices and make it a de facto standard for mobile delivery. This will ease development and provide a consistent experience across multiple devices. However, to counter Apple’s refusal to support the Flash player on the iPhone and iPad by calling it a memory hog, Adobe introduced a new iPhone publish feature in Flash CS5. The new update in the Apple’s Developer Program License Agreement has once again broken Adobe’s hopes of running Flash based apps on the iPhone and iPad.

With the release of Flash CS5 developing iPhone/iPad apps would have become easier, cheaper and less time consuming as Flash developers could have used their existing Flash/ActionScript skills for development and publish it using Flash CS5 iPhone compiler. The same Flash file published as SWF or AIR app would work with other mobile devices supporting Flash Player 10.1 or AIR 2.0. But now Flash developers (if they wish to develop iPhone and iPad apps) have to learn to use the iPhone SDK and Objective-C which has a steep learning curve. Also this means that each application has to be developed separately – one for iPhone/iPad and another for mobile devices that support Flash player 10.1 or AIR 2.0, which simple means double the work and the associated increase in development cost and time.

Apple is advocating (or actually ‘betting the future’) on HTML5 [which is still under development and none of the mobile web browsers supports it fully] as an alternative to Flash for developing the cross platform mobile apps. The current implementation of HTML5 in the mobile web browsers will need a lot of optimization to deliver an experience comparable to that of Flash Player 10.1.

Adobe is understandably frustrated enough to tell Apple to go screw itself. There are some who have tried to explain that Apple changed section 331 because Apple wants to ensure iPhone/iPad users get a better quality experience and performance. In my opinion, if that was the only purpose, Apple could have increased the license fees for developers (to allow only serious ones into the fold) and included some stronger testing at its end to ensure great user experience, after all the App Store is a great cash cow. I’m still not convinced that this isn’t an attempt from Apple to kill Adobe’s Flash.

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