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Monday, April 12, 2010

Apple Drops the Bomb on Adobe/Flash Developers



For the last several months, I have been training myself on the iPhone SDK for the purpose of designing apps. I made the decision to broaden my horizons when confronted with a simple truth: I like money. I've been using Flash for years (since version 3), and had been frustrated as the programming language has changed not once, not twice but THREE different times. Every time I had learned how to do something, they altered the syntax so that almost everything I had busted my ass to learn was rendered useless. So then came the time for me to make a decision about how I was going to spend my energy to progress my career and, most importantly, MAKE MORE MONEY.

I am familiar and semi-comfortable with AS3, and I could stand to sharpen my skills so that I could write some really complicated programs and games. But financially, I would basically be using my skills ONLY if someone hired me to do so. I could make games and then...put them online. For free. And not any money at all. OR...I could learn how to build iPhone apps, and put them up on the iTunes store...and CHARGE .99 cents per app...and actually MAKE money from what I made! MY OWN MONEY, without having to depend on finding a "real" job or "real" client; my client would be "the marketplace"! So that settled it for me. I have been spending the last 4 months learning the iPhone SDK and have nearly completed my first app. It's simple, but it's fun. And hopefully will sell-- hey, if I only make $50 off of it, so be it(!).

When I started learning the SDK, Adobe announced that they would be adding an iPhone app packaging component to their latest version of Flash. This was a confusing development. Here I was, busting my hump  to learn a COMPLETELY new language and set of tools...when I could just wait for a few months and use the same program I had been using for YEARS. Should I even bother learning the SDK now? Or just wait and use Flash? This was also confusing because Apple has been denouncing as an acceptable medium for their mobile products. I didn't know how all of this was going to work, but I was anxious to see. I was also a bit annoyed, because here I was learning a whole new language and a whole new environment...now, everyone and their mother would be making iPhone apps, and flooding the iTunes store with 1000s of new apps based on Flash games. Even though Adobe had made it clear that not all iPhone functionality would be made available (use of camera, Bluetooth, and access to music/photo libraries to name a few), it would still flood the market and widen them competition. Similar to what happened when digital video became the "next thing". Industry professionals were HORRIFIED that now "anyone with a camera and a computer could make a movie!" We all know how that turned out, don't we?

But now, it seems as if Apple has halted the dreams of potential Flash/iPhone developers. As of Friday, following their announcement of the new iPhone OS, they have effectively banned all apps that utilize any other programming languages or compilers that do not use iPhone-native languages, such as Java, Object C, C++, or Cocoa/Cocoa Touch.

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 is a grand kick in the balls for all of the Flash developers that were looking forward to today's releasing of CS5. But if I can be honest...I am kind of glad. After I've worked so hard to learn Apple's SDK, to have all of that time and energy usurped would have been annoying.

I know a lot of Flash developers are pissed. But there's still Android. I am sure Adobe will shift all of their attention to Google's phone, and give them a new opportunity for mobile development. But since so many developers use Macs and own iPhone, does that mean they will abandon it all for an Android device? Some will, out of spite. But I doubt most will...for the moment. I think it will take a while for that to happen. Google is even producing a tablet to compete with the iPad. But I think that by the time Google's pad comes around, Apple will have addressed most of the issues/concerns that people have with the first Gen version.

Apple is not going anywhere anytime soon. They pretty much dominate the market in this country, and have made a large impression on other parts of the world. App development, no matter what language you choose, is all about one thing: is it any good? Doesn't matter what device you use it on.

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