Apple fans received a bit of good news, when observers studying the newly aired iPhone OS 4.0 SDK used the utility iStat to reveal a new Apple app called “iChatAgent”. Most observers say that it’s unlikely that Apple would just release another instant messaging app; most believe the app will be a video chat app, and that the upcoming fourth generation iPhone will have a front-facing camera to support it. An Apple patent hints at this development.
Developers, on the other hand received some bad news from Apple. The new SDK license agreement states:
(e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).
What does this mean? What might seem like an innocuous addition is actually another swipe at Adobe by Apple. Adobe last October released an iPhone-ready Flash CS5 development environment that took apps written in Flash and then converted them to an iPhone-ready binaries using linked Apple APIs.
Apple has been rallying to promote a proprietary video codec-based version of HTML5 to combat Adobe’s proprietary Flash format, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs accuses of “crashing Mac computers” due to it being, in his opinion, buggy and insecure. The good news is that HTML5 is an open standard and could support other video codecs. The bad news for open software advocates is that Apple is pushing for the web to exclusively use a proprietary video codec with the new HTML version.
For developers the battle is bad news as well. On top of restrictions on programs that execute their own code, apps the overlap the iPhone software’s functionality, and certain adult-themed apps, developers now will have a much harder time porting their Flash apps to the popular platform.
For small developers, it might be less of a deal. Its unclear if Apple could detect the subtle differences in compiled code between a binary made with the Flash development environment versus a C development environment. Small devs might be able to ignore the restriction, at their own risk, and get away with it.
For big developers, though, like Condé Nast, who were banking on using the Flash development environment to port their Adobe Air apps to the iPad and iPhone, they are now forced to scrap those efforts and resort to a full port if they want to get approved. That may tempt some to switch over to Google’s Android, which has a soaring number of apps and much fewer developer restrictions.
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