iPhone developer agreement Section 3.3.1 and Apple’s Intentions

Much has been made about Section 3.3.1 of the new iPhone developer’s agreement:

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).

This of course prohibits one of the biggest workarounds coders were using to develop iPhone apps, using Adobe Flash Professional CS5 to port Flash applications to the iPhone. While it may be hard to understand why Apple (and ultimately Steve Jobs) would want to block developers from creating applications for the platform, if you know and understand Apple’s motives it is easy to know why.

A lot of the press and pundits have pointed to this as a cynical move against Adobe. The friction and philosophical differences between the two companies are well known. In this case however, there’s more at work here than simple avarice. As I wrote in a previous post, the guiding principle behind most Apple devices is the experience. Apple understands that if you give you the customer an incredible experience in a device that meets or exceeds their expectations you’ll have success. For better or worse, Apple believes the best way to give the user an incredible experience is to control every aspect of it; from the hardware specifications, to the operating system, to the applications that run on it. Whether that constitutes what is fair or right doesn’t seem to be of consequence to Apple and it’s not my intention to debate it here. Apple blocking an Adobe compiler from making iPhone apps then isn’t totally about attacking Adobe personally, they’re just defending their turf. And if there’s anything Apple is driven about, it’s defending their turf from real or perceived threats.

Whether or not Apple is doing the right thing is a completely moot point. Apple can do what it wants with what Apple owns. If you don’t like their business practices, don’t buy their products. The same holds true of any company you chose to do business with. I’m a great believer in the democracy of the market. If enough people object to the way Apple does business and don’t buy their products they’ll either change or lose business. Up until this point though, the only thing the market has told Apple is “Keep up the good work.”

What do you think of Apple’s decision to ban cross-compilers? Is it good business or will it ultimately lead to the downfall of the iPhone platform? Does Apple need to change or risk becoming a former giant? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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