• I Stand With Common Sense

    I’ll probably get a ton of hate in response to this post, but as a member of the Adobe developer community I was a little embarrassed by something I saw today. A new group just popped up on Facebook called I’m With Adobe, described as follows.

    The recent war between Adobe and Apple reached a breaking point on April 8, 2010, when Steve Jobs not only recommitted to never allowing Flash to run on the iPhone or iPad, but even banning Adobe’s new Flash-to-iPhone C compiler which was to go on sale Saturday, April 10.

    There is no longer any debate as to who the “bad guy” is in this story — Apple has proven themselves to be anti-competition, anti-developer, and anti-consumer.

    I stand with Adobe.

    It’s filled with the kind of material that you typically find on Mac vs. PC debates. There are calls for Adobe banning their software from Apple’s OS, people who joined just to shit on Flash, calls for boycotting products from both companies.

    Seriously, guys? War? Apple’s the “bad guy” and Adobe’s the “good guy”? That’s an awful lot of drama. Surely you don’t think that software companies exist to manipulate the forces of good and evil?

    I sympathize with the angst at platform/vendor lock-in. I based my career on expertise with Java, a technology that was marketed and designed specifically to avoid it, and I did so based as much on principle as with the fact that I really liked the language/platform. But I’m not getting all emotional about Apple’s decision.

    Do I think that Apple locking out others is a dick move? From both a business and community standpoint, it’s a giant middle finger. But it’s no worse than Microsoft making .NET Windows-only, or Apple making OS X exclusive to their hardware, or any of the other decisions that companies make to maintain competitive advantages for their core money-makers. These companies exist to make money, and they’ll do that by whatever means necessary under a thinly-veiled cloak of consumer and developer PR. That’s not evil – that’s smart business.

    Now, I know a lot of developers make their living on specific development platforms, and over time they sometimes get sucked in to the marketing hype at developer conferences and start to think that the companies producing these platforms love them and want what’s best for them. And indeed, all the community advocates I’ve met from all of the companies producing these platforms have seemed like genuine stand-up guys that wanted me to be successful with their tools, and the members of these communities are awesome and talented people, many of whom I am privileged to call my friends.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. I don’t think for one second that any profit-driven, shareholder-beholden company would ever put my interests or that of the developer community at large ahead of their ability to succeed in the marketplace. That goes for both Adobe and Apple. Now I don’t know why Apple thinks that shutting out other development environments is a good idea, but they’ve obviously thought about it and decided that this is the way to protect their golden egg. In contrast, I do know that developer community programs exist specifically to get momentum behind proprietary applications so that software ends up on target platforms, giving consumers reasons to use those platforms and thus allowing companies to penetrate markets and make money. At the end of the day, developers are pawns in a very large game of chess played by every platform vendor out there, and those of you who haven’t come to realize/accept this yet should pull back the curtain and take a close look at the wizards you serve. Let’s not forget, however, that most of us make very comfortable livings in jobs we love as a result of this relationship; for me, it’s a fair trade.

    So, why the emotional outburst from the non-iDevice developer community? Simply put, because Apple is telling them that if they want to put apps on Apple’s platform, they have to learn to use the native development tools or go away. Is that really so bad? Apple’s pro-quality dev tools are all free, and they have loads of great resources for learning their platform online. You could easily argue that the barrier for entry to iDevice/OS X development is either lower or on par with that for Adobe technologies. As for the App Store, you have to decide as a developer if you want to roll the dice at getting your app on their platform; it’s Apple’s house, and they make the rules. If you don’t like it, develop for another platform. I haven’t seen it in person myself, but people I respect tell me that Android is pretty awesome, too.

    As a Flex developer myself, I thought that the Flash cross-compiler was one of the coolest things Adobe released at MAX last year, but it was clearly a move of desperation by a company that was being deliberately shut out. Of course I’d prefer if iDevices ran my Flex apps, but it’s Apple’s prerogative to do whatever they want. And I’m sorry, but I can’t take seriously the opinion that Adobe would behave any differently from Apple if the tables were turned.

    Apple threw away the Java-Cocoa bridge in 10.5, and as a Java developer I was sad about that too – but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the other benefits of their platform. Getting massively upset about Apple’s latest decision regarding Flash apps on the iPhone isn’t going to change anything any more than getting upset about the fact that I can’t use the .NET framework without running Windows and learning C# is going to make Microsoft port the platform to OS X. Other unproductive things I’m certainly not going to do are engage in incendiary rhetoric, web sites attempting to hurt Apple’s business, or a show of solidarity on a Facebook group.

    What this really comes down to is sour grapes, plain and simple. As Flash developers, we all thought that we might have a shot at getting our Flash and Flex apps on to iDevices with little to no effort, and now we’re finding out that we really have to learn Obj-C and Cocoa after all. I guess I don’t see why that’s the end of the world.

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