Big Effing Deal: Three Thoughts about iPhone OS 4.0 Terms

The release of the iPhone OS 4.0 developer beta has a lot of people working themselves into a lather (another) over changes in the iPhone developer program agreement, which have the effect of banning applications not created using the native development tools. More specifically, cross-compiled Flash applications (among others).

I’ve got three thoughts about the changes, but they basically amount to “big effing deal.” You can talk or blog about it all you want, but I think it’s all hot air (including this post ;-), and we should all just get back to work.

The King Makes the Rules

First, it’s Apple’s platform, and just like every sovereign nation gets to make their own laws, Apple gets to make the rules for how people get to participate. If you want to create native applications and distribute through the App Store, you follow the rules. Period.

There are important, strategic, and rational reasons why Apple doesn’t want to allow a cross-platform framework like Flash to become powerful on their platform. These reasons are based on long experience with Adobe (more here), and with cross-platform frameworks for the Mac.

You may not like it, but it’s hard to argue that Apple doesn’t have their reasons, and the right to do as they please.

There is Already a Permitted Cross-Platform Framework

Second, any developer who wants to build a cross-platform mobile application, that works on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc., can do so today, using technologies that Apple doesn’t just permit, they actively support. HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript run very well on the iPhone, Android, and Palm’s webOS, and any other mobile platform of importance.

Why would any developer whine about being locked into Apple’s platform, and then turn around and tie themselves to Adobe’s proprietary Flash platform? At least Apple is aggressively driving their platform forward; Flash performance on anything but Windows PCs has been abysmal for many years, with only a few signs of change, and only recently, under competitive threat.

Let the Market Decide

Finally, if you’re so offended by Apple’s position that you can’t just develop using open standards like HTML5, you feel the need to “punish” Apple, well… go for it. Android, Blackberry, webOS, and soon Windows Mobile 7 all have developer programs and app stores, and offer a range of alternative models for how to manage and control a mobile platform.

Instead of ranting on your blog or crying in your beer, get coding for the platform that best fits your idea of how the vendor should build and manage their ecosystem. Go be a part of their success, and prove that your preferred model works.

If you turn out to be right, you can be sure Apple will notice, and adapt. (Posting angry words on your blog, not so much.)

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