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Apple rep says iPhone OS is open, Flash is closed and proprietary

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 23 Apr 2010 1:05 User comments (24)

Apple rep says iPhone OS is open, Flash is closed and proprietary The war of words between Adobe and Apple over the latter company's apparent campaign to dethrone Flash as a standard web development technology continues to escalate.
Besides declining to work with Adobe to bring Flash to the iPhone OS, Apple has recently changed the Terms of Service for the iPhone SDK to disallow development with unauthorized tools like Adobe's new Creative Studio 5.

Earlier this week Adobe's Mike Chambers indicated that due to the new restrictions in the iPhone SDK TOS, Adobe won't contine development of tools to create iPhone apps in Flash CS5. Chambers wrote that Apple wants to "make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller shot back in a statement pointing out that the iPhone OS supports common open standards like HTML5, CSS, Javascript and H.264, calling Flash "closed and proprietary."

But does support for open standards actually make the iPhone OS itself open? After all, Flash also supports H.264, but as Muller correctly points out that doesn't stop it from being closed.

Does Apple's decision to restrict development tools and methods really have anything to do with openness? It seems unlikely.

Apple's own approach, the iPhone SDK, is proprietary and closed as well and gives Apple control all the way through distribution to consumers.

In response to an email from an OS X developer critical of the new SDK TOS, Steve Jobs recently outlined a more believable, if not entirely accurate, rationale.

Jobs wrote, "intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform."

The problem with this argument is that using non-Apple sanctioned (ie controlled) development tools isn't an indication of poor quality any more than using the official tools improves it. Ultimately quality is in the developer's hands.

As to hindering progress, that's only true if you define platform as the iPhone SDK, rather than the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or even iPhone OS itself. In reality app development on these platform is limited by the iPhone SDK

Their capabilities could be exploited to come up with even more innovative apps by third parties if not for Apple's obstruction.

It's hard to believe that Apple's reliance on DMCA anti-circumvention language and restrictive language in SDK agreements with developers is either open or conducive to progress. Both are artificial barriers to the creative process of developing software.

Even harder to believe is that Apple is oblivious to the growing government interest in various aspects of the iPhone business, including the app approval process.

Apple is already involved in various iPhone related patent lawuits against companies including prominent Android phone vendor HTC and worldwide mobile phone (and smartphone) industry leader Nokia. Federal investigators have already gotten involved in the Nokia dispute.

If Adobe ends up filing a lawsuit against Apple, which seems to be the rumor or speculation du jour every day, it would certainly lead to more pressure on Congress and federal regulators.

There's no doubt Apple's decision to outlaw converted Flash apps from the App Store will have a negative impact on Adobe, particularly with their new CS5 software having just been released. Some have argued that the reason for Apple's oddly timed introduction of the next iPhone OS to developers was intended to coincide with Adobe's CS5 launch.

The ability to convert Flash projects to iPhone apps has been touted as a major selling point for months, and with good reason given the number of App Store downloads. However that doesn't automatically make what Apple is doing illegal.

Which may explain why there's been no lawsuit from Adobe yet. The only grounds for forcing Apple to open the iPhone OS to third party application frameworks would seem to be an antitrust claim.

The iPhone, successful as it has been, hasn't made Apple the number 1 mobile phone or even smartphone vendor in the US. Those titles belong to Motorola and Research In Motion (RIM) respectively.

Without a dominant market position Apple certainly can't hold a monopoly so any antitrust complaint seems doomed.

However there still might be an alternative solution for Adobe and other companies who want to develop software for the iPhone without Apple's blessing. They could throw support behind the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) effort to get a DMCA exemption for smartphone jailbreaking.

Such an exemption would allow Adobe, Microsoft, Sun or any other application framework provider the chance to extend their architecture to the iPhone by piggybacking on consumer rights.

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24 user comments

123.4.2010 3:01
chrisk1250
Unverified new user

You misinterpreted the context of the Apple spokesperson's quote. It is in regards to internet content. The internet should be open and shouldn't require a plugin to "view 90% of video" on it. Nowhere does she say the OS is open. It just supports open internet standards that don't require plugins.

And Apple claims that it will hinder progress because for instance:
what if people come to rely completely on CS5 to make apps. Apple updates its OS quite frequently. If an app developer is reliant on CS5 or some other software, they would have to wait until that software became up-to-date before deploying any new features.

223.4.2010 5:58

Antitrust means that you are the sole seller (or the largest by far) of a product. Apple clearly isn't a monopoly in the cell phone game, or even in the smart phone game, and no one is going to say they have a monopoly on iPhone sales, because that is a patent all to itself. However, apple does have a monopoly on iPhone app sales. Just imagine if you could only buy software from microsoft, even if it was made by someone else...that would be an antitrust suit strong enough to get a conviction, even against microsoft's army of lawyers.

323.4.2010 6:39

We are moving towards not having a plugin for most content, and that is a great trend. But for the time being, when there are millions of sites that have some flash content, you support it, not fight it.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 23 Apr 2010 @ 6:40

423.4.2010 6:47
scifenefics
Inactive

A plugin to view 90% of internet? I never installed a plugin, oh thats right its built into windows, wonder why the mac has not done the same ???

Plus typing uses code to enable it, guess cause its pre-installed its not called a plugin

Apple is stupid - Adobe rulez.

523.4.2010 7:07
Paula_X
Inactive

adobe are crap.. face it.. for too long their locked down proprietary rubbish video player has been used where far better alternatives have been available.. and FYI.. it isn't "included" in windoze.. It can't be because it is proprietary and property of adobe... it's still an automatic download and install from adobe servers the first time that hopeless M$ browser hits a flash site.

I strangely support apple in this matter.. they are right about not wanting to force people to have a proprietary lump of software .. strange concept but true for you lot in your proprietary "have to steal it if don't want to pay" world.

Why don't crapple stick some of their millions into supporting gnash.. the open source alternative flash player.. IF it's so bloody essential to the internet lets have some working alternative, or just ditch proprietary flash altogether and stream video in open formats properly.

623.4.2010 7:36

I'm a noob...why isn't VLC player used instead? From what I understand, it is open source and it plays many different video formats?

723.4.2010 8:32

Originally posted by Paula_X:
I strangely support apple in this matter.. they are right about not wanting to force people to have a proprietary lump of software ...
That's why it should be an option if you want it, you shouldn't be forced by Apple to not get it at all.

823.4.2010 8:46
scifenefics
Inactive

Ok I agree, though I do still love adobe, so maybe not on that part lol.

Open source is a cool idea, though alot of the people who contribute to these things, probably have a job somewhere else in the area that helps them live.
If everything was open source I wonder if there would be any open source as no one would learn programming/ whatever becuase there would be no career there, except for hobbyists of course, though I cant see them taking us this far in software tech that we have now, in the past whatever yrs. just a thought.

923.4.2010 9:56

Originally posted by chrisk1250:
You misinterpreted the context of the Apple spokesperson's quote. It is in regards to internet content. The internet should be open and shouldn't require a plugin to "view 90% of video" on it. Nowhere does she say the OS is open. It just supports open internet standards that don't require plugins.

And Apple claims that it will hinder progress because for instance:
what if people come to rely completely on CS5 to make apps. Apple updates its OS quite frequently. If an app developer is reliant on CS5 or some other software, they would have to wait until that software became up-to-date before deploying any new features.

I didn't misunderstand anything. Apple is trying to change the subject to content instead of the platform because it looks better for them. Although they didn't actually say the iPhone platform was any more open, that was the clear implication based on what the statement was responding to.

1023.4.2010 10:03

Ummmmm...... flash is a video standard because everyone uses it, its small and mostly efficient unlike quicktime.......oh did people forget apple owns quicktime and would like it to be the web video standard?


1123.4.2010 10:07

Originally posted by NeoandGeo:
We are moving towards not having a plugin for most content, and that is a great trend. But for the time being, when there are millions of sites that have some flash content, you support it, not fight it.

Exactly right. With Apple and Google as the dominating forces in developing HTML5 it's only a matter of time before a lot of what Flash is used for now is handled by open standards. I happen to agree with Apple that Flash's days are numbered and one day there will be no need to support it. But that day isn't today.

Apple seems to be working from the false assumption that you can direct and control innovation. The fact is you can't completely control your own innovation, let alone someone else's. Apple makes some good products but they could make them even better if they would stop worrying about third party frameworks and jailbreakers.

1223.4.2010 10:14

Originally posted by vurbal:
Originally posted by NeoandGeo:
We are moving towards not having a plugin for most content, and that is a great trend. But for the time being, when there are millions of sites that have some flash content, you support it, not fight it.

Exactly right. With Apple and Google as the dominating forces in developing HTML5 it's only a matter of time before a lot of what Flash is used for now is handled by open standards. I happen to agree with Apple that Flash's days are numbered and one day there will be no need to support it. But that day isn't today.

Apple seems to be working from the false assumption that you can direct and control innovation. The fact is you can't completely control your own innovation, let alone someone else's. Apple makes some good products but they could make them even better if they would stop worrying about third party frameworks and jailbreakers.
Most graysuit mindsets involve controlling chaotic creativity...and its not that hard to do at times look at today's music.....

1323.4.2010 10:17

Originally posted by scifenefics:
A plugin to view 90% of internet? I never installed a plugin, oh thats right its built into windows, wonder why the mac has not done the same ???

Plus typing uses code to enable it, guess cause its pre-installed its not called a plugin

Apple is stupid - Adobe rulez.

As technology like Flash matures and becomes ubiquitous it's natural that the same functionality be added to standards like HTML5. The real issue here isn't Flash per se. It's the fact that innovation occurs across platforms, frameworks and SDKs, each of which is, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, an intermediate layer between the platform and the developer. There will always be room for something new that, much like Flash did, provides standard functionality across platforms to do something new or not yet established as an open standard.

1423.4.2010 10:32

Originally posted by Paula_X:
adobe are crap.. face it.. for too long their locked down proprietary rubbish video player has been used where far better alternatives have been available.. and FYI.. it isn't "included" in windoze.. It can't be because it is proprietary and property of adobe... it's still an automatic download and install from adobe servers the first time that hopeless M$ browser hits a flash site.

I strangely support apple in this matter.. they are right about not wanting to force people to have a proprietary lump of software .. strange concept but true for you lot in your proprietary "have to steal it if don't want to pay" world.

Why don't crapple stick some of their millions into supporting gnash.. the open source alternative flash player.. IF it's so bloody essential to the internet lets have some working alternative, or just ditch proprietary flash altogether and stream video in open formats properly.

Flash was on its way out whether Apple drew a line in the sand or not. It's not essential to the internet so much as a smooth transition from Flash to HTML5. That requires cooperation between content creators and companies like Apple and Google. Given Apple and Google's role in developing HTML5 that was inevitable.

At best Apple's decision to obstruct Flash on the iPhone could speed the transition away from it ever so slightly, but at the cost of millions of end users being completely confused about why their iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch can't display some web pages when it's supposed to be like a desktop browsing experience.

At worst it turns Adobe into a martyr and actually prolongs the inevitable transition to HTML5. All those iPhone OS users still get caught in the middle of a pointless standards battle (pointless because HTML5's victory is assured) and perhaps some significant percentage of iPhone owners and developers get frustrated enough to abandon the platform in favor of developing cross platform apps for Android, Symbian, MS Phone 7 or whatever other platforms are around at the time.

I completely agree with Apple about Flash's days, at least in its current incarnation, being numbered. Where I disagree is when they start suggesting that controlling apps to the degree they do now and increasing that control as they just did leads to more progress. It leads to incompatible devices, confused consumers, more expensive development to cross platform boundaries and it's generally bad for the smartphone market.

1523.4.2010 10:34

Originally posted by ZippyDSM:
Ummmmm...... flash is a video standard because everyone uses it, its small and mostly efficient unlike quicktime.......oh did people forget apple owns quicktime and would like it to be the web video standard?



Not exactly. What they want is for MPEG-4 AVC technology, which they've invested heavily on in Quicktime, be the standard.

1623.4.2010 11:19

Originally posted by vurbal:
Originally posted by ZippyDSM:
Ummmmm...... flash is a video standard because everyone uses it, its small and mostly efficient unlike quicktime.......oh did people forget apple owns quicktime and would like it to be the web video standard?



Not exactly. What they want is for MPEG-4 AVC technology, which they've invested heavily on in Quicktime, be the standard.
Meh close enough :P
If apple wants it as the standard then they will have to do what sony did with blu ray pay everyone off to use it. :P

1723.4.2010 11:23

Originally posted by karemeli:
I'm a noob...why isn't VLC player used instead? From what I understand, it is open source and it plays many different video formats?
VLC is not a web page language, is just a player.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 23 Apr 2010 @ 11:31

1823.4.2010 23:37

Originally posted by Paula_X:
adobe are crap.. face it.. for too long their locked down proprietary rubbish video player has been used where far better alternatives have been available.. and FYI.. it isn't "included" in windoze.. It can't be because it is proprietary and property of adobe... it's still an automatic download and install from adobe servers the first time that hopeless M$ browser hits a flash site.

I strangely support apple in this matter.. they are right about not wanting to force people to have a proprietary lump of software .. strange concept but true for you lot in your proprietary "have to steal it if don't want to pay" world.

Why don't crapple stick some of their millions into supporting gnash.. the open source alternative flash player.. IF it's so bloody essential to the internet lets have some working alternative, or just ditch proprietary flash altogether and stream video in open formats properly.
I'm sorry but this has been irritating me for several posts now. Flash is a platform, not just a video player. Many of the things that it does can be replicated in other programming languages, but it isn't right for a developer to be told "No you can't use that because it isn't how we do it." Flash is like Java, some love it and others hate it, but no OS manufacturer disables Java from being installed. This is akin to Microsoft saying you can only write programs for windows in Visual Basic. C, Ruby, Java, Python, ect be damned!
On another note, I would also to point out that Flash, and more importantly the language you use to program in Flash does follow an open standard called EMCA script. This is the same definition used for javascript in our beloved web browsers that comes pre-installed. More what is so bad about a plugin? It is merely to extend the capability of something. If Firefox and Internet explorer (just to list a few) happen to have flash player built in, would it suddenly be more appetizing? I have trouble scoffing at something that is free.
Finnally, flash is an open platform. There are a lot of programs that you can use to compile whatever you program to flash, or you can download the flex SDK and code without using any of Adobe's proprietary software and create stuff for free. But the real issue here is that apple should not close off development pathways. If I can create a great program using flash or flex for the iphone, why not let me run it? People have mentioned that adobe might not update their software fast enough, or I may have compatibility issues, but any developer is well aware of that. Should I have to spend time having to rebuild an application from scratch and have to learn an entirely different language just to meet that their standard of "quality"? You'd think reducing an expert developer back to the level of beginner by putting him in a different development environment might, JUST MIGHT actually produce lower quality programs. We all have different thoughts, languages, and development styles, but why stop a perfectly working application just because the developer uses a different language than you?
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 23 Apr 2010 @ 23:46

1924.4.2010 1:19

Originally posted by cyprusrom:
Originally posted by karemeli:
I'm a noob...why isn't VLC player used instead? From what I understand, it is open source and it plays many different video formats?
VLC is not a web page language, is just a player.
VLC can play flash videos, but it won't handle flash apps...and that would be the best part of having flash on the iPhone...the ability to get whatever apps you want without Apple getting in the way and charging you for the bother. Also, the iPhone VLC is a 3rd party port, so some things (such as flash support) might be missing. Even if you can play flash files, it is a huge pain compaired to using a browser plug-in.

2024.4.2010 1:44

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Originally posted by cyprusrom:
Originally posted by karemeli:
I'm a noob...why isn't VLC player used instead? From what I understand, it is open source and it plays many different video formats?
VLC is not a web page language, is just a player.
VLC can play flash videos, but it won't handle flash apps...and that would be the best part of having flash on the iPhone...the ability to get whatever apps you want without Apple getting in the way and charging you for the bother. Also, the iPhone VLC is a 3rd party port, so some things (such as flash support) might be missing. Even if you can play flash files, it is a huge pain compaired to using a browser plug-in.
I think too many people fail to realise "Flash" is not just a player, not just "video". You cannot use "VLC" to build a webpage, add animation and interactivity.

2124.4.2010 6:21

Still, if I had an iPhone, I think I would at least try using VLC for flash videos...there is still no VLC for android, or I would already have tried it on my phone.

Then again, if I had an iPhone, I would be too busy trying to get android running.

2224.4.2010 17:20

Originally posted by cyprusrom:
Originally posted by karemeli:
I'm a noob...why isn't VLC player used instead? From what I understand, it is open source and it plays many different video formats?
VLC is not a web page language, is just a player.
It can act as a browser plug-in in Firefox, can't it?

2324.4.2010 22:50

As much as I hate to say it and as much as I disagree with it, Apple is perfectly within their right to not add support for a Flash Plugin...

Where I draw the line is when Apple does not allow third party development platforms, specifically CS5, to build Apple apps.
This is quite clearly and unambiguously an attempt at Apple to prevent developers from developing for other platforms.

They are basically saying that if you plan to develop for Apple you will ONLY develop for Apple. This is the ultimate goal here. Apple currently has the lions share of the phone market. That dominance is quickly dwindling. Apple is trying its best to prevent any other phone from gaining dominance or worse, from the phone becoming just another device, with the iPhone being just one among dozens of capable platforms.
By restricting developers in this way they make it much harder for those developers to build apps for other phones.

I hope the Feds bust them big time.

2428.7.2010 13:33

Originally posted by chrisk1250:
You misinterpreted the context of the Apple spokesperson's quote. It is in regards to internet content. The internet should be open and shouldn't require a plugin to "view 90% of video" on it. Nowhere does she say the OS is open. It just supports open internet standards that don't require plugins.

And Apple claims that it will hinder progress because for instance:
what if people come to rely completely on CS5 to make apps. Apple updates its OS quite frequently. If an app developer is reliant on CS5 or some other software, they would have to wait until that software became up-to-date before deploying any new features.
First of all, "rely on flash?" That's what javascript and the rest are there to prevent. And you can't really blame Adobe for being the #1 platform for online media. That was caused by the developers, who CHOSE to use it.

Plus, Apple does not update every day, so waiting on a Flash update in order for Apple to push iOS modifications is a non-issue.

Lastly, if nearly every mobile OS is beginning to fully support Flash, why shouldn't Apple? That is being closed, not letting a widely accepted standard be part of your devices.

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