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Does Apple Hate Developers?

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Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO Steve Jobs may be the most powerful executive since John D. Rockefeller led Standard Oil or Bill Gates led Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . If there's anyone who can convince developers to change everything about how they do business, it's Jobs.

Even so, the effort is seamy -- and it has at least a 50% chance of backfiring.

What he wants
Jobs wants smartphone software developers to forgo efforts to create cross-platform apps. He said as much in an open letter about Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash technology:

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform.

If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Translation: Please write directly to the iPhone programming interfaces. Your cooperation is expected, and appreciated.

Why Jobs is a genius
Interestingly, much of Jobs' letter is in nodding agreement with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) over open standards such as HTML5. But the reality is that the license agreement for iPhone 4.0 hamstrings developers who want their apps to call out to third-party services or compile code independently. Cross-platform software need not apply.

To be fair, there's a very practical reason for wanting to stunt the growth of apps that share a common executable code base. Self-contained technical environments tend to be faster and more secure, as Jobs rightly points out in his letter. Cross-platform apps come with a cost. (Hence Flash's reputation as a security risk.)

Also, economically, this is exactly what Jobs should do. Apple investors ought to applaud his stance, just as Microsoft's shareholders cheered long-ago efforts to sustain the dominance of the Windows operating system.

Stop looking at me like that. If you can't see the parallels here, you're either not looking close enough, or you don't want to believe it. Once developers were freed to write software for many platforms by Java, follow-on technologies began to embrace the idea of runtimes -- virtual platforms in which executable code didn't need to know the underlying processor.

Now, with the advent of Web programming, coders are writing less to operating system interfaces and much more to interfaces that govern how data is shared, stored, and executed in the cloud, much like the "third party layer" Jobs speaks of in his letter. HTML and XML matter more than Windows and Mac OS X.

The core of Apple's issue
You've got to love the irony. In PCs, the cross-platform movement was a boon for Apple. When users found they didn't need Windows for critical apps, Jobs' company began selling more Macs.

Today, the Mac business is thriving even as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) are shopping for ways to compete with Apple in mobile devices. Revenue from Mac sales rose 27% in the company's fiscal second quarter. Cross-platform software is great!

Except that it isn't. Now that the iPhone is rising in popularity and taking market share from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) -- RIM's leading share fell 1.5 percentage points year over year in the first quarter, IDC Research reports -- Jobs says developers should be forced to choose the platform they wish to develop for.

That stinks. Writing code is a difficult enough business. Apps may either sell poorly, or require frequent updates, or need outsized levels of support, or any number of other issues that take time and cut into profits. Cross-platform development offsets some of these headaches by reducing the time between creation and release. Now Jobs wants to take this advantage away from smartphone coders.

Regulators have caught whiff of the stench and may choose to get involved. Media reports say that officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are negotiating over which agency will be given authority to probe the legality of Apple's iPhone app development policies.

In other words, it's about to be May 1998 all over again. Only this time, Apple, not Microsoft, will be the one under scrutiny.

Will the feds take action against Apple? Should they? Discuss in the comments box below.

Apple and Adobe are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy saw you double-dip. That's right; you took a chip, you dipped it, you took a bite, and then you dipped again.

Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 10:02 AM, MaBellIsDead wrote:

    The headline is foolish.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 10:03 AM, petehoch wrote:

    "Jobs says developers should be forced to choose the platform they wish to develop for."

    He did? I never heard that. He just laid out the rules for developing on the iPhone, that's all. But planting this in a sea of actual quotes will lead some people to think that.

    You can write cross platform code without using the crutch of someones cross platform library. In any given application 80% or more of the code can easily be identical on every platform. All it takes is a little work and some planning.

    This leads to better apps on every platform, not ones that pander to the least common denominator.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 10:11 AM, FreeThrowShooter wrote:

    Apple no longer needs to be nice to develpers. Apple owns the mobile ap market period and can do whatever they want. Developers used to stick by Apple because they liked Apple and what they stood for. Now, developers will stick with Apple even if they hate Apple becuase they have too. Apple can call the shots now, they know it, and they are milking it for all its worth. If developers don't like it too bad. Should have seen this coming.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 10:32 AM, stefna wrote:

    As long as Apple rewards developers amply, it's done its job. And it does. The love/hate thing is a crock.

    The writer is cherry picking history. When apps left the Mac to go cross platform onto Windows, it was a dark day for Mac users. The apps became junky.

    Jobs remembers even if the writer cannot. Never again.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 11:00 AM, djsantamonicacal wrote:

    Wow. The fool gets even more foolish. How about this alternate headline: Does the Motley Fool hate Apple?

    To compare Apple 2010 to Microsoft 1999 is more than absurd, and dumber than stupid. Any sense of history? Any experience developing and marketing software? Any credentials besides Being a PC?

    In simplest terms...

    Apple isn't preventing developers from developing from any other platform. They're stopping them from taking the shortcut of cross-platform development, which always results in Lowest Common Denominator quality. You see, not being Microsoft, LCD isn't good enough for the Apple platform because Apple is the best mass market platform (more than an opinion), and cross-platform dilutes not only their brand, but their technology.

    Having run the business for one of the top 5 Windows and Mac developers for many years, I can tell you most certainly that when developers build for Mac and PC, Mac users get the short end of the stick. Not only is the PC platform inferior, resulting in a non-Mac like experience (i.e, a worse experience, i.e., a crappy PC experience) but for years PC developers have been taking profits from their Mac software and funneling development and marketing dollars to their shoddier PC products. Adobe is no exception. And they must know deep down that their pillaging of the Mac platform over the years has come home to roost.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Apple's stance on Adobe, or third party compilers, etc. It's their platform. They make a kit that anyone can buy and use to develop for their platform. Period. No barrier to entry. You want to take the short cut of developing for other, lesser platforms and then stick your junk software on iPhone or iPad? No thank you. As a developer, user, businessman and technologist there is no argument here. None.

    No barrier to entry. No monopoly. Apple makes the best and easiest development kit for smart phones and that's what they want developers to use. I have no problem with that, and neither should you. Do you know how long it takes to build an app for iPhone with Apple's kit? Like maybe 2 hours if you know what you're doing.

    And the marketing argument -- I'd like to see the FTC regulate advertising and marketing expenditures by platform so that PC companies that take profits from Apple software and funnel them to PC businesses have to invest that money back in the Apple platform at even half the total they've spent pumping their lifeless PC businesses. Then we can have a conversation about fairness.

    Seriously, Tim and TMF. Please. A little knowledge, a little experience, a little research for these articles. Some people are actually listening to you.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 11:18 AM, iCode wrote:

    The reason why the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are still negotiating who is going to look into this is because neither want to look like a fools. Quit simply they don't a case.

    Firstly Apple is number three in the smart phone market. Secondly they still have a minuscule proportion of the PC market and Thirdly Apple has done more for open source and standards than Adobe has or will ever do. So what or who are they going to compare their practices to?

    If you want to see how Apple is working on the future of open web standards then you need to start looking at Gianduia (Apple's answer to Flash) and how it will integrate with HTML 5 to produce a secure web environment. It has the security that Adobe's Flash will never have. All open of course. So where is the argument here?

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 12:18 PM, beetlebug62 wrote:

    "Jobs wants smartphone software developers to forgo efforts to create cross-platform apps."

    WRONG! Jobs is not against cross-platform apps, he's against using cross-platform tools, which means lowest-common denominator apps.

    "You've got to love the irony. In PCs, the cross-platform movement was a boon for Apple. When users found they didn't need Windows for critical apps, Jobs' company began selling more Macs."

    This is a completely different concept. Having Microsoft Office on the Mac as well as Windows, did NOT meant they used a cross-platform tool, nor that the apps offered the same feature set.

    "Jobs says developers should be forced to choose the platform they wish to develop for."

    Rubbish, he did NOT say that. If they develop for the iPhone, they should the tools suited for it, not a cross-platform tool. This does not stop anyone from developing for any other platform. He's not forcing anything, nor did he say that. As far as choosing, developers ALWAYS chose what they developed for.

    "Cross-platform development offsets some of these headaches by reducing the time between creation and release."

    How? And, how does it help users? An app that is designed for the lowest common denominator is not going to be coded efficiently to take advantage of the APIs and hardware available to it. And, when the hardware changes/improves, the lowest common denominator apps may not improve as they are designed for the lowest common denominator. How is that good for the consumer?

    "Regulators have caught whiff of the stench and may choose to get involved. Media reports say that officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department are negotiating over which agency will be given authority to probe the legality of Apple's iPhone app development policies."

    The only stench is the one emanating from your ridiculous writing and that emanating from Adobe. DOJ and the FTC are only responding to a complaint from Adobe and its developer flunkies. There is no way in hell that the DOJ nor the FTC will waste any time on an investigation after a cursory look at the situation. It's utter rubbish. If anything, Adobe will only shed light on their own monopoly positions and how they impede competition.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 1:46 PM, UrbanBard wrote:

    This is a very strange article. Apple is no where close to being a monopoly in Smart Phones under the Sherman Antitrust Act; nor has Apple misused any monopoly position. Therefore, the justice Department has no possible case.

    Apple's demand that developers use its IDE to create native applications is not illegal or historically unusual. You are being played the fool by Adobe's disinformation campaign.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 4:53 PM, happydazeRhere wrote:

    Does Apple Hate Developers?

    The best info I've read so far on this are the posts by "Sue Denim" from the AppleInsider Form:

    Scroll down to find all the Sue Denim posts and I guarantee they will spin your head around on this subject!!

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 5:09 PM, happydazeRhere wrote:

    Originally Posted by Sue Denim

    Adobe is trying to offer me more choice, cheaper content, more content, help publishers and so on. Apple is doing the opposite, harming many developers (not just Adobe). Many of the top FEW HUNDRED applications could go away. Apple probably won't enforce their "rules" consistently, but selectively (which might be litigable). Fanboys say this is fine, they all stink, because Steve told them so.

    Do you really want a dictator in your pocket saying "what's good for me is not for thee"? Do you really think Apple randomly targeting Apps/Companies and selective enforcement is going to encourage more software/content developers to take risks on the platform, or less? Sure Apple can, many other companies do things like that as well, but do you want to support that by buying their products or not speaking up? All that HAMPERS choice and innovation, and it is wrong behavior that everyone should reject when ANY company does it. Even if they like their iToys.

    Software engineering is a business. Engineers look at TRADEOFFS. Apple just raised the cost to create content to the iPhone. Will that result in more or less content/choice?

    Apple just killed some good Apps and good App developers or moved them off platform, why is that a win?

    Steve Jobs wants to control the publishers, not for egalitarian reasons or the good of the users, but for power. Fine, own it. But I bought a phone, not a service where Apple gets to do evil in my name.

    You want to look at why we're down to 3 major 3rd party software developers on the Mac (and all of the others left). Instead of blaming all of them, you should look at the costs and risks to develop on the platform. The ecosystem is dying, and there's a long list of companies that won't develop for Mac/iPhone. Why? If one developer says you're evil and leaves, who cares. If we're down to a few major ones left, and they're all having problems, it might tell you something.

    I doubt this will drive Adobe away, and I doubt the lawsuit But seeing how all Apple's partners are getting treated here, is sure going to change how many other businesses choose to get involved with this platform.

    And yes, yes, I get that we have 100,000 small shareware apps and many small developers that Apple can more easily bully around to make up for it. But a good ecosystem has a variety of developers and sizes. Not a bunch of little ones, all waiting for their turn to get crushed under by Steve Jobs latest policy change.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 5:23 PM, WaltFrench wrote:

    @FreeThrowShooter wrote, “Apple no longer needs to be nice to develpers. Apple owns the mobile ap market period and can do whatever they want.”

    As an investor in Apple, I'd be real concerned if I thought there was a milligram of truth to that. But I know otherwise, and I know that Apple knows otherwise.

    First, there isn't “a” mobile app market. There are two for iPhones, and at least one each for other phones. An iPhone app won't run on an Android or a Blackberry.

    Developers will create an iPhone app or a Palm app based on likely sales. They might put shovelware on the smallest ten stores — you remember, the crap that used to see all over your new Windows desktop after you got all the stickers removed — but they will target each store, and the energy they put into each, individually.

    And, by the way: while Apple's terms for selling my software aren't the easiest in the business, they're far from the worst, and relatively inexpensive; otherwise you wouldn't see the flow of new apps continuing. Developers ARE writing for other platforms (mostly, Android, it seems) but they are NOT voting with their feet against Apple.

    Second, besides not being able to control where developers put their apps — I'm not aware of anybody being refused because they put a niftier version on Blackberry's store — Apple is totally focussed on the onslaught from Google.

    (Yes, Adobe made this big stink about Apple being the bad guy and Jobs obligingly stepped into the media frenzy spotlight, and now the blogosphere thinks it's what matters, but Apple is not being distracted from the Google issue because some Adobe whiner told Jobs to screw himself. Today, there are — what? maybe 500 million smartphones in use? — and exactly ZERO of them run full Flash. That's neither Apple's fault nor a competitive disadvantage for them; it's purely an Adobe smokescreen for its inability to put Flash on any phone before it goes obsolete.)

    Meanwhile, Google actually might offer a great phone that people would like: nice screen, faster CPU, Verizon, decent battery, and… ALL THOSE APPS that people like on the iPhone. If that actually becomes a marketplace worth developing for, as many developers think it will, Apple will face an Android competitor armed with lots of neat apps.

    And it won't be those 39¢ kiddy games that customers would choose an Android phone for. It'll be for a good experience with Twitter, maps, facebook, email, video. Apple is threatened by cloneware … not one iota.

    If it was worthwhile for a developer to build an iPhone app from scratch (as almost all were; the Flash toolkit was never compatible before Apple locked it out), think how much easier and therefore more profitable it'd be to move it to Android, which looks to be hot.

    Apple might have liked to screw all the developers out of 99¢ of every app dollar, but they knew that developers won't play that game. Likewise, they might like to keep their devs locked into Apple, but they know that the smarter and more opinionated and aggressive developers — the ones they need the most — wouldn't tolerate that for 5 minutes.

    If the post's inflammatory half-truths and outright misstatements were true, it'd have been game over for Apple before the FTC looked at their inbox. This is a tremendously dynamic industry with dozens of profitable, well-positioned players. The story is bunk.

    Instead, fools should look closely at the dynamics of the industry: Nokia & RIM, the entrenched market leaders, were caught flat-footed by how much customers appreciated the iPhone's incredible flexibility (read, “browser” and “apps.”). But they're out with friendlier software this year. Windows, too, although they seem further behind and seem hopelessly rudderless with 3 different environments, none with any visible growth prospects soon, and so, non-players. But a lot of Apple's growth came at the expense of the cratered Palm and the now-decimated “other,” and Android has to win sales by going head-to-head with Apple. (The open-source mantra will be quite disinteresting to Enterprise buyers of Blackberries, although Fortress Nokia might be worth a run.)

    There's lots going on in this industry in 2010, but almost none of it about the topics you opined about. Look for lots of new phones, new partnerships, new software, not Apple getting shot down for trying to keep its machines at the forefront of capabilities.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 5:46 PM, WaltFrench wrote:

    PS: @happydaze as stalking horse for SueDenim—

    If there's an analogy between the Mac and iPhone platforms, it goes back to the very beginning of the Mac, when Apple mistakenly tried to market a high-priced hobby/toy to individuals. Gates, who recognized that the Enterprise had both the need and the budget, ate Apple's lunch. Jobs went off to do the Next Great Thing.

    Fast-forward to 2000: Apple is dying. IBM won't put resources into the PowerPC fast enough to keep up with Intel advances. The Mac OS is a mess, a miracle that it works. Jobs comes back, and tries to provide a cross-platform environment for Macs & Windows, which developers refuse. He announces OSX but with a “compatibility mode” that allows older programs to run; many developers look at the tiny market share and do the minimal work to upgrade. Apple switches to Intel but provides scarce resources to allow old PPC code to run. Apple announces the “Cocoa” preferred development environment, but doesn't force developers to switch, again devoting scarce resources to support the older tools.

    At every juncture, Adobe held back. Mac users of (especially) Photoshop had slower versions. Since Apple had retreated into the graphics niche, their dependence on a third-party software developer, Adobe, was a major impediment to turning the corner despite some very successful changes. Apple came close to failing; witness the Michael Dell comment to that end.

    Adobe's just-released CS5 only now does 64-bit on Apple, three years after Apple had supported it and you could buy a 64-bit Windows. Adobe's Flash is buggy, slow and burns battery on the Mac. In these and the earlier issues, Adobe had very valid business reasons for acting as it did, but one of those reasons was NOT forging a partnership with Apple that'd help them through technical difficulties such as they face on implementing full Flash — it won't run on a single one of the half-billion or so smartphones, the vast majority of which are not Apples.

    If developers had used the Flash toolkit, the iPad would've debuted with zero apps, not 200K. Next month's rumored new phone, which apparently has a different chip than the iPhone 3GS and maybe than the iPad: zero apps in the store, and Adobe is again standing on the oxygen hose, controlling when developers can target the new gizmos.

    In this environment, it's comical that anybody would think Apple would offer to dumb down its iPhone platform, just so Adobe can sell a CS toolkits. Adobe, although its inability to target smartphone Flash plugins seems even-handed, is the last firm you want between you and your developers.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 7:09 PM, zdawgsf wrote:

    Is anyone who's posted a comment here actually a developer? Have any of you actually written apps in Objective C, Java, or Flash? Have you ever tried to port an app from one language to another?

    Kudos to you, Tim, for hitting the nail right on the head. What Apple is doing is certainly their right - and it absolutely makes good business sense (at least in the short term).

    But from a developer perspective IT DOES STINK. And from a technical standpoint it doesn't hold water. Abstraction of the operating system through a runtime interpreting layer is a design pattern that works well for MANY cross platform apps. This is why Java is one of the most pervasive web app development platforms in use today --- and it's why we use browsers and HTML/Javascript for building web app UIs and web pages instead of separate scripting languages for every platform out there!

    The simple fact is that app performance and design quality are based on two things: what the app does and developer experience. The variety of development platforms and languages didn't just sprout into existence by chance --- it evolved out of technology advancements and business needs that necessitated it. Put another way - if one platform was best for every application and business case then why aren't we all writing code in Assembly?

    For the record: I have a Mac at home, a PC at work, and an iPhone. I've written apps in Java, C++, Objective C, Perl, AS3/Flash/Flex, JSP, and PHP. As a developer, I believe Apple is not PREVENTING a lowest common denominator experience by imposing development platform restrictions --- they're ENSURING IT. That denominator is the pool of developers who have experience developing quality apps in Objective C and the business and creative limitations that are inherent to not letting developers choose which environment is best for the app they're building.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2010, at 8:14 PM, webjawns wrote:

    As a developer, Apple sucks:

    As a developer, I must say that I hate Apple. Their closed systems have gone against everything the open source community stands for, and have not helped maintain that exponential progression that all techies yearn for. Apple does what makes sense for their business model, not for anyone else. They are banking on their loyal customer base, which Apple has always done.

    HTML5 is misunderstood:

    What people do not understand is that HTML5 does not compare to Flash. While it is important to note that HTML5 is very young, the benchmarks are in favor of Adobe Flash in every arena. I've never been a fan of Flash, but I do believe that it has its place in the WWW. The problem with Flash has been the fact that people use it incorrectly, not something with the platform itself. The wonderful thing about the web is that cross-platform experiences are much easier to maintain, even with a multitude of browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.).

    Apple created the Adobe "issue":

    Apple did not give Adobe access to an API that would all them to tap into technologies such as hardware acceleration which would fix the choppy performance on Macs. Flash uses hardware acceleration on all other machines (Linux, Windows). Flash is technically video, which absolutely SHOULD have hardware acceleration. In order to "preserve battery life," Apple denied Adobe of this essential API. This was a move to try and hurt Adobe, nothing less. Apple does this to everyone... they denied Google from placing the Google Voice application in their app store, and threatened to pull some of their top selling games for various reasons. Apple ultimately ends up stifling creativity. Apple owes a lot of their success to Adobe for Photoshop and some of the other tools. They should be thankful.

    The bottom line:

    Apple is against anything that isn't Apple. They always have been. They are the plastic surgeons of the computer world. They'll take a piece of crap and make it look pretty, when at the end of the day, it's the same piece of crap underneath.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2010, at 10:15 AM, WaltFrench wrote:

    “zdawgsf - A Registered Fool Since May 10, 2010”

    @zdawgsf, as a long-time investor, allow me to welcome you to the Foolish Forums.

    I've written enough code to appreciate the up-close perspective that independent developers can provide. (You're not allied with Adobe, right? Cuz there is a lot of posturing in various forums that reads as if it was posing as indy, but coordinated with the Adobe PR campaign.) But I also follow enough different areas to recognize that being a “developer” is not a one-size-fits-all deal.

    Businesses very much want stability for their in-house platform. In my case, that meant my code was running in the compatibility box for years after Windows had become reliable. Now at a big bank, I am one of three users for some custom s/w our IT guys wrote. The economics of that will kill you if you have to sweat the details of a unique platform and change it every two years— my apps were that long in development!

    But that's the smartphone biz. Apple absolutely revolutionized it by releasing the iPhone (zero to 16% market share of smartphones in three years) and the free-as-in-free-beer developer tools (zero to roughly 200K apps in two years). You may recall how the initial iPhone was a bit of a curiosity, and Apple had to dramatically change the pricing plus get third-party app developers on board, before that exponential growth occurred.

    Looking at Apple's iPhone business: their success was absolutely driven by attractive pricing but even more by the enthusiastic support of third party developers. A business that didn't exist 3 years ago now is 6X more profitable than HP's PC business. If they weren't doing something very right, they couldn't have gotten where they are today, despite introducing fancy new products in a severe recession. (That effort killed Sun Micro, btw. RIP.)

    This change is the definition of “disruptive innovation” — immature technology that doesn't solve the old problems nearly as well, but gains broad acceptance. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you're in the my-time-is-more-valuable-than-a-CEO's camp and can't afford to read _The_Inventor's_Dilemma_.

    And as you know, there are unique development challenges when the world is changing so rapidly. It's actually a bit amazing to me how mature the iPhone developer's toolkit was, on day one, and yet how Apple has, in the space of two years, utterly revamped it by aiming for multi-tasking, different devices and even different CPU architectures. As you must know, developers regularly use the Apple XCide to write programs for both Intel chips — the Mac-based test platform — or ARM chips.)

    I salute Apple's changes because they give Apple the flexibility to target new devices, new hardware. This is in sharp contrast to the frustration they faced around 2000 when Jobs came back to a dying firm. Despite needing desperately to get off of the stagnating PowerPC and Classic MacOS platforms, they had to allocate scarce resources to support developers' old programs. At the time, no firm was more critical to Apple and no firm was more of a foot-dragger, than Adobe. Adobe had its own good reasons for its choices, but they probably came closer to killing Apple than any other firm.

    If you were Apple, would you set up your business to fail the way that they almost utterly did in the PC space? And that business model was the pits for Apple developers, too: way too much uncertainty about what was next.

    Supporting multiple backward-looking platforms was necessary then, but the backward-compatibility is not (yet, anyway) an issue on the iPhone — as long as Apple can guide developers to be optimally compatible with future software and hardware changes, not all of which are known today. It seems that means not letting some developers' use of generic toolkits so that when the i??? comes along, the app library will have 200K+ applications on Day 1, and all developers will have the expanded business opportunity of an excited customer base.

    Put that in contrast to the Flash dispute: Google has deprecated the Nexus seven months after its introduction. It's obsolete— Google says, buy the HTC Incredible instead. And yet, despite its being Adobe's poster child for how well Flash will work on smartphones, it has died before having Flash functional on it. This is NOT a good sign for a platform, that supposedly major components of their software ecosystem never show up. Flash on the Mac has suffered, as Flash on smartphones has suffered, from needing intensely close access to a stable hardware and software base that is not there. The Mac environment is settling down but the smartphone space looks to have even more changes in 2010-2011 than it did last year.

    I appreciate your perspective as a developer, especially in business environments, that you MUST have a well-defined platform. But the iPhone platform MUST change rapidly if it is not to get run over by Android or a half-dozen other well-financed, experienced and hungry competitors.

    Objective C may not be a language or dialect that you pick up in a weekend, but it's a developer's best hope for writing a program that'll run on whatever Apple does down the road. And the explosion of apps, many written by developers who never saw the language before they started creating their app, suggests that developers' ingenuity and creativity is not very restricted at all by the challenge.

    Disclosure: only relation with Apple, Adobe & Microsoft is from buying their stuff at published prices and as a user. Very slight and ancient retail developer experience; mostly in-house before I got kicked upstairs into portfolio work.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2010, at 2:06 PM, Smorgasbord1 wrote:

    Staying focused on the Apple/Developer relationship issue:

    1) Apple doesn't hate developers, they love developers. Developers write apps that help sell iPhones & iPads

    2) Apple, however, doesn't want developers to write apps for other platforms. That makes it easier to consumers to buy other phones. If the apps I use on the iPhone are available on other phones that are cheaper/better/on Verizon, etc. I might get the other phone instead.

    3) If Apple was truly primarily focused on having great apps that take advantage of what their platform has to offer they would simply not approve apps that weren't great and didn't take advantage of what their platform has to offer. They have a set of UI Guidelines, right?

    4) Banning cross-platform libraries doesn't guarantee great apps, but it does guarantee that it'll be harder for developers to port those apps to other platforms like Android. And that's what this is all about - Apple forcing developers to choose to develop for Apple or everyone else, so that apps people want are only on the iPhone.

    This might help Apple maintain their king of the hill status longer. Then again, didn't I just read that more Android phones than iPhones were sold recently? If Google can figure out a way to help developers make more money on apps for Android than for iPhone, this strategy will backfire.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2010, at 6:24 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    Sue Denim, Webjawns, happydazerhere, etc. please stop it with the nonsense.

    Thanks to djsantamonicacal for putting up the most sensible post here thus far.

    Whining and complaining is never a good way to reverse an Apple management decision like this one. That’s especially true if it goes all the way to Steve Jobs. Trust me when I inform you that he could care less about your whining and complaining.

    If you really want to change Steve’s mind then you will need to explain to him exactiy how it is that cross platform development tools produce better apps rather than inferior apps. Good luck with that.

    Here’s the real deal. If you develop for Apple’s iPhone platform following their rules and getting your apps approved, you will receive 70% of sales revenue for your App and 60% of iAd advertising revenues for your app. If it’s a good one you could make a lot of money.

    Or you can take your marbles and go home and pout.

    I’m pretty sure the smarter developers will be able to do the math. Apple already has 50 Million iPhone subscribers and 30 Million iPod Touch subscribers and 1 Million iPad subscribers downloading these apps. Expect all of those figures to take a rather large jump soon.

    The brightest bulbs in the developer community are going to exclaim, “Let’s follow the money.”

    The dimmest bulbs are going to say, “Let’s go with Palm/HP or Windows 7 because we hate Steve Jobs.” Good luck with that one.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2010, at 11:11 AM, CrazyIvan101 wrote:

    Hi, Tim Beyers. Are you the same Tim Beyers that used to work at Apple (and maybe still does)?

    The Tim Beyers who was the Apple face to developers using X11 when Mac OS 10.4 was released.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2010, at 12:19 PM, happydazeRhere wrote:

    History of Apple and 3rd party developers


    In the early 1990's Apple's stagnant platform sales, lack of fixing OS issues were making most developers want to develop for both platforms/markets at once (diversify or die). QuickDraw GX or PowerTalk didn't add enough value to justify massive redevelopment costs for little returns (because it was completely incompatible with everything else, and was quite buggy originally, and the examples and documentation was a bit anemic). Instead of lowering the barrier to entry, or working with developers on what their customers wanted, Apple blames 3rd party developers because Apple failed to find the market-demand before implementing something that was incompatible with everything else.

    Apple then pulled those same technologies out on a whim, blasting all the developers that were naive enough to have trusted Apple and committed to them -- putting many out of business, or at least setting their product back years. Apple blames 3rd party developers for not adopting them, instead of themselves for not following through on promises.

    Apple repeated that with OpenDoc, Bedrock, Newton, MacApp, and about 50 other technologies. But wonders why the few companies that survived all that are reluctant to jump on Apple's latest and greatest promises at first blush.

    All big software companies do cross platform development. They abstract the core business logic from the UI, and the lowest level (I/O) in a somewhat MVC type design. More Platform UI edge -> Core functionality -> Hardware edge type design. The easier this is to do (the more the platform does to help), the more time/money they have to spend on platform specific features. Microsoft is slow moving and stable, and doesn't break things every release. Apple goes for a fast-moving, fast-changing and high-breakage model, that means with equal resources, developers spend their time fixing or adapting instead of adding features that the market wants. Apple blames 3rd party developers for this.

    Apple had to do the same thing (platform abstraction) and solved problems like QuickTime by porting the MacToolbox to Windows and putting QuickTime on top of that. Instead of sharing that with their developers, which many developers would have used and allowed Apple to drive the market, they kept this proprietary.

    Actually, MacApp created a Windows version using that technology and got it to release: Steve Jobs killed it a year later, because it helped developers too much and used Carbon.

    There was a version of Cocoa (OpenStep) that ran on top Windows. This would allow developers to write on Mac first and run on Windows. Apple wouldn't release it.

    Apple started up many different failed efforts to do the same things (Taligent, Dylan, OpenDoc / ODF, Bedrock, MacApp for Windows, not counting OpenStep for Windows, and YellowBox). Apple systematically killed them, usually after a few developers were stupid enough to trust Apple and get on board. Heck look at QuickTime today and Apple's lackluster support for the Windows version or 64 bit versions. Then they wonder why instead of trusting Apple for a base technology platform, large businesses built their own abstractions or used Windows/MFC and built porting layers for the Mac? This is all everyone but Apple's fault.

    Then Apple goes and does the same things it is accusing Adobe of doing:

    1) Apple first attacked Adobe by making incompatible Fonts (TrueType) just to undermine Adobe's licensing -- then is reluctant to work back to join OpenType effort.

    2) Adobe had Acrobat and PDF which supports the full standard. Apple does what? They create Preview App which can't handle many PDF things like forms, scripting, security, and so on. They make an incompatible version and won't let users know when Apple's failing at interpreting the spec.

    3) Apple create iPhone which can't work with standard browser plug-ins, mime types, and so on. It's like a standard, where Apple defines what's standard and leaves out the parts that anyone else thinks is important.

    4) Apple uses an open ePub (eBook) format, but instead of licensing the standard DRM or making it compatible with others, they make a proprietary implementation that is incompatible with everyone else. (Defeating the purpose of open or standard).

    And this never stops. Apple tells everyone one year that 64 Bit Carbon is coming, the next year they pull it out -- costing developers a year of wasted effort that they have to redo. Apple implemented 64 bit in a much harder to port sort of way.

    EA just got burned by Apple's iPhone policy, gosh, do you think that'll mean more or less EA games in the future?

    Apple is their own worst enemy when it comes to their developer community. Ask any developers that left, why. There's a constant influx of new young wannabe-fanboys, that are rabid enthusiasts for a few years. And there a constant outflux of burned companies that are put out of business by Apple's policies.

    Someone said there are two kinds of Mac developers - those who've been screwed by Apple, and those waiting their turn. The irony is that Apple blames everyone else for it, and too much of the community worship "the Steve" and don't realize what Steve's policies are costing them.

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