Friday, April 9, 2010

"Go Screw Yourself, Apple!"

Lee Brimelow is a platform evangelist at Adobe, and has raised a bit of a ruckus with a blog post that finished with a nice succinct "Screw You, Apple".

I like it.

Oh, I don't agree with it. Not one little bit. Even though I don't necessarily agree with all of the SDK Agreement changes Apple has made for 4.0, their actions clearly are not "unethical" as Lee alleges, and they are certainly no worse than Adobe telling Flash Developers they'd be able to develop for Apple's App Store without, you know, talking about it with Apple first. But I enjoyed reading the post, and understand where he's coming from. I think it's a good thing he said what he said and that he's as passionate as he is about the products he evangelizes.

This may surprise you, but I've been known to go off on a rant myself and have a couple of strong opinions on technology myself. In fact, somebody reminded me on twitter that I pretty much predicted exactly what Apple would do about Flash, if not the specifics of how they would do it. Took a little bit of heat at the time, too.

There's a lot of speculation that Lee should lose his job over this post. I think Adobe would be downright foolish to do that. It was a bit, well, ill-advised, perhaps, to make these statements on an official looking blog (yes, I know it's not actually official) because no matter how fervently he says his words were "not in an official capacity", the fact is, he is authorized to speak on behalf of Adobe as part of his job and probably should have chosen his words a tad more cautiously or chosen some other forum to vent. But, so what? A guy at Adobe whose job it is to evangelize Adobe's developer products doesn't like something done by a competitor that has a potentially huge impact on the users of those products? That shouldn't surprise anybody. He just said what a lot of people at Adobe were thinking. This isn't news. Of course he's pissed off. He should be! I would be too in his position. I assume he wouldn't be in that position if he didn't feel just as strongly about Flash/Flex/AIR as I do about Cocoa and Objective-C, and what Apple has done is, make no bones about it, bad for Flash/Flex/AIR developers.

Though I liked the post, since I don't agree with it, I feel compelled to address a couple of things he said.

First, there's a little bit of a persecution complex going on in the post. Apple's not on a "crusade" against Adobe. Apple's on a crusade for their own interests, just like Adobe is. I guarantee you that the decision-makers at Apple feel strongly that a huge influx of Flash-generated apps would be bad for the platform, and not without some justification. It's not that Apple doesn't like Adobe, it's that they honestly feel this is the best thing for their customers and their interests. Just like Adobe feels the best thing for their interests is to find a way to let Flash developers sell to iPhone users.

I think it's interesting how Lee then pulls the whole "Adobe and Apple have helped each other get where they are" schtick. Despite the fact that Mac products are what allowed Adobe to become a large, successful company, Adobe hasn't felt compelled to treat the Mac as a first class citizen in over a decade (though there are signs that may be changing). Where's 64-bit Photoshop? Where's a good Flash runtime that doesn't leak like a sieve or max out all processing cores for a relatively simple task? If you have used Adobe products on both Windows and the Mac, it's hard to buy into this whole Adobe-and-Apple-holding-hands-in-a-tree scenario he paints. Adobe only wants to hold hands again because Apple's been phenomenally successful in the emerging mobile market and they want a piece of the action.

The fact is, Adobe and Apple are both big corporations out for their own interests. They help each other out when it benefits them, but they don't hesitate to let go, or even give their former "friend" a good kick in the ass when that's what's in their best interests. Case in point, when Apple looked like it was dying, Adobe was rapidly rewriting all of their existing products with an eye toward being able to deliver Windows versions even though Photoshop and Pagemaker were, at the time, huge incentives for buying a Mac. If Adobe has been Apple's friend, they've sure been a fair weather one. But they're not friends. They're corporations, period, so rant all you want about Apple's actions, but don't act as if Adobe has been betrayed or wouldn't take exactly the same kinds of actions if they were in a similar situation.

I doubt Lee and I will ever see eye-to-eye on most technology issues. We're both too invested in opposing technologies. He won't give money to Apple, similarly, I feel the same way about Adobe. For a very long time, I was as big a fan of Adobe as I am of Apple, but now I'm not a fan and won't buy their products.

So I understand his anger, and don't think his "Go screw yourself Apple" is any worse than my occasional "Flash sucks" declarations.

But Adobe should've seen this coming and a lot of this anger should be directed at themselves rather than at Apple. They took a huge (I would argue foolish) risk and it didn't pan out. If a competitor writes a license to specifically disallow your products and then you look for and find a loophole in that license, then announce to the world that you're going to exploit that loophole, how can you possibly not foresee your competitor closing the loophole? Adobe was betting that Apple wouldn't block them if they made a public announcement at their big developer conference thinking, perhaps, that Apple wouldn't want the negative publicity. Adobe bet wrong.

The App Store is Apple's playground. Maybe they should be nice and let everyone play on their playground, but they don't have to, and the fact that you bought a shiny new ball to play with doesn't change that fact at all, Adobe.



26 comments:

K. A. Barber said...

I was also quite happy to read the passion and anguish in Lee's blog post. The new agreement none to good for your standard actionscript only, flash only developer. I have a few associates who were waiting for the CS5 flash to iPhone thing to happen and they are POed. They act as if Adobe is some saintly old guy that Apple just pushed into a busy street.

I also know plenty of flash developers who are happily rewriting there flash app using Cocos2d, raw opengl or quartz. They are not afraid of compiling code or using different languages/environments. They are learning alot and having a good time.

What is really sad is that I am noticing lots of non-developing ranters making this whole thing into a circus of misinformation. I am not necessarily comfortable with Apple's move here but I understand it.

Those who really believe that there product will do well on the Apple Store will not let the recent news discourage them. Businesses will hire iPhone devs or devs who will develop what is required for the project regardless of platform.

I have said here before I am a fan of flash for certain things. Mobile just isn't one of those things.

Hopefully this will all blow over.

Has anyone heard anything about the effects of 3.3.1 on Unity3d for iPhone?

Jeff LaMarche said...

I'm wondering about whether Unity3D is covered by this myself.

K. A. Barber said...

Ahhh, Here we go from the horses mouth if you will....

Unity3d CEO blog post on the subject

He sounds confident.

joes said...

Jeff, you're absolutely right on -- Adobe is finally reaping what it sowed

petershine said...

Thank you for reminding the history of Apple and Adobe. It's helpful for me to see things more objectively without unnecessary vias. By the way, I do really enjoy reading your iPhone books.

Charlie said...

Jeff,

Very well said. I posted a couple of times at the MacRumors forum today expressing similar thoughts to yours.

Your statement about Flash leaking like a sieve is so true and so easy to demonstrate. One just has to go to Facebook and play FarmVille or Cafe World and monitor their computer's memory performance.

I discovered this because my wife plays these games and began complaining that her machine was becoming very slow.

I've been learning about iPhone development since last October (using your book, thanks!). Early on I considered one of those "shortcut" ways like Appcelator, PhoneGap, etc.

When I asked a guy at Titanium about memory management he said we wouldn't have access to that. Right then I decided to do it right and committed to learning Objective C and Java so I could develop apps for iPhone and Android. Its looking to be a good decision....

Matthew Frederick said...

As a developer of iPhone OS apps using Objective C I say, "THANK YOU APPLE!"

I understand the desire to make iPhone apps with the tools you already know, or with the comparatively easy gui stuff in Flash, really I do. I wanted that back before I learned Obj C.

But now that I've gone through the effort, I'm very, very pleased that Apple is protecting me and all of the other developers. A flood of Flash-based apps in the store would dramatically water down what's already an incredibly watered-down store. Getting someone to find your app today is very tough; double or triple the number of apps and it becomes impossible.

guyal said...

Separate from my own personal reaction as an iPhone developer to the TOS, the part of my brain that appreciated Machiavelli's The Prince is just impressed at the perfectly constructed groin shot Apple has delivered to Adobe.

Whether Rome burns or not, you still have to appreciate a well-played fiddle...

Patrick Alessi said...

Jeff,

I think that you are right on with this piece. The only thing is that when you said, "So I understand his anger, and don't think his "Go screw yourself Apple" is any worse than my occasional "Flash sucks" declarations.", I have to disagree.
Even though he made his declaration on his blog and not in an official capacity, he still represents Adobe. You are a blogger, writer and developer and don't, as far as I know, represent Apple in any way.
His bashing of Apple was pretty unprofessional. I know that if I did something similar, my boss would be pissed.

mongol said...

Apple plays it perfectly to protect its platform and its market.
What Adobe is doing is playing a dirty marketing campaign, hoping it will distract people from noticing how much they forgot to develop cool new technologies. Compare Adobe to Unity3d and MonoTouch and you will see that these companies were able to deliver solid solutions not only with less people but at a higher level of quality.

Adobe is a marketing company and not a technology one. And Lee Brimelow's post is a dirty marketing assault. This guy is just a tool and not an independent party.

I actually thank Apple for protecting my interests as a developer. Otherwise iPhone will be just simple Flash devices to display crappy ad-games, as you see on the web.

MJ said...

I think a large percentage of the enforcement of this new rule will be whether you're being a pillock about it or not. For over a decade, Adobe has been a pillock to Apple. Unity? Cocos? I don't see them being affected - they're contributing to quality and you can't tell if a game is Unity or not.

Adobe may be betting the farm on Flash and hoping the internet will just blindly follow them and keep people buying Flash development products. They're forgetting they used to be at the forefront

Jonathan Nobels said...

I find this all this talk of "unethical practices" rather amusing. Apple is getting a bit of heat because people actually read their SDK license agreement. Have you ever read the BlackBerry SDK license agreement? They outline quite specifically several bits of functionality that if duplicated, would get you sued very quickly.

Apple's approach to policing apps is exactly what everybody else wanted to do, but only Apple had a product and platform compelling enough to let then get away with it.

Mike said...

What will happen to existing customers of the many applications developed with the various systems that are affected by the new licensing agreement? Will Apple allow developers to still support them with updates?

Jeff LaMarche said...

Patrick:

Yeah, his boss will likely be pissed, and I didn't say he shouldn't be. I just said he shouldn't be fired over a bit of over-exuberance. Then again, there's a reason I haven't worked for a corporation in over a decade.

To be honest, though, given the tone of Adobe's official statements since 4.0 came out, I don't think they're that pissed. It fits perfectly with their strategy, which seems to be whine, yell, and misdirect.

Jonathan:

Yeah, that's the thing people keep missing here. Developing mobile apps before Apple was actually far more restrictive, expensive. Apps had to go through a much more rigorous approval process.

While I'd love to see Apple become a little more open and permissive, people seem to be comparing this only to desktop computers rather than doing a comparison to other products in the mobile space (other than Android). Nobody wrote "Why I won't buy a Blackberry and think you shouldn't either" articles back then. It's strange. They improve things, make them more open, and all people complain about are the restrictions they do have.

Mike:

I haven't a clue. If what I'm hearing is true that certain of these tools (like Adobe's Flash Packager) really do interfere with multitasking on 4.0, I'm going to guess "no", that they've been end-of-lifed.

It's hard to know, though. Flash packaged-apps are easily distinguishable from Xcode-generated apps. Unity 3D apps, for example, are not, because they generate an Xcode project that gets compiled. They do contain some tell-tale resources, but are harder to identify. A package that was a pure Objective-C code generator would be virtually impossible to detect.

Unfortunately, Apple's MO on these things is to not explain, enforce as they see fit, an then change afterwards if they get too much negative publicity, so we won't likely know for a while.

Jon Gretar said...

I find it funny when people say Microsoft wouldn't pull the shit Apple did.

Microsoft's own platform where they control both the hardware and software, the xbox platform, has many similar rules. In many ways more strict if anything. The same is true for Nintendo and Sony where you almost have to beg to be able to produce software for the platforms.

I worked for a company creating Playstation games and the rules were ridiculous. One company had the misfortune of having one of their developers talk about the API on an oen forum and give a code example and Sony pulled the license for the developer to release a product on the platform.

Trust me. Apple's platform rules is a dream compared to some other platforms.

In fact. Apple style rules seem to be the industry standard but not the exception.

I'm loosing no sleep over this.

MagnetiCat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mattc said...

Let me first say I am an indie developer with a few apps in the store. All written with Objective-C and the Apple frameworks. Also, I am a free market capitalist and totally believe Apple can do what it wishes with the eco-system it created and maintains.

Having said that, I think the new provision sucks. Not because of how it affects Adobe, to whom I'm not a fan of anyway. Rather in how it affects developers as a whole. Apple has always been, in my opinion, over controlling and elitist. Thinking they know best in all matters.

The true danger here is their reasoning and willingness to pull the rug out from under any developer at any time. All of you people commenting to Jeff's original post who think Apple has done something good here, may soon be sitting in Adobe's shoes. It is certainly in Apple's power and behavioral pattern to disallow all kinds of things that you may have grown accustomed to using. For example, they could say you can no longer use 3rd party libraries such as FBConnect for Facebook, or the Three20 framework, or the OpenCV library for image processing. You might say, "they wouldn't do that, what would be the reason?" The point is, THEY DON'T NEED TO PROVIDE A REASONABLE JUSTIFICATION. And if developers keep going along with it, they'll have no reason to stop.

It seems to me that if the letter of the "law" is carried out, then Unity3d is out. This is not only a blow to Unity and its developer customers, but to iPhone OS end user customers as well. The point of this middleware is to not have to recreate the wheel every time you build new software. Unity provides a highly advanced, physics enabled, 3d game engine, and they do a pretty good job in this area. In fact, many of the App Stores top entries in the game categories are built in Unity. The argument that middleware layers produce substandard software doesn't hold true, at least in this case. And I suggest, that without Unity, there would be a fraction of good 3d based games in the Store. To suggest that quality, or the lack thereof is a product solely of these type of tool sets is naive. And Steve knows that. There are plenty of very low quality apps in the store that are built with the very tool set Apple wants you to use.

To me, this addition to the license continues to add grease to an already slippery business model for developers on this platform. It's becoming harder and harder to make substantial investments as a developer in this eco-system.

Vargo said...

You'll tend to notice that when people are negatively affected by the policy changes of a private company, they will shout about how it's a harmful, jerkish thing to do. But when they're not affected and others are, they'll go off in apologist mode about how "it's entirely within their right", etc.

Both of these are true. The simple fact is that Apple is lessening their developer brand loyalty with every step they take in this direction. They will be fine, so long as their end user experience is superior. But as soon as the wind starts blowing a different direction, hordes of developers will be thrilled to jump ship (when they'd otherwise be more likely to stick around). I'm personally waiting for any excuse to abandon the antiquated Objective-C / Cocoa platform for something far superior, like C#/.NET. I just need a device worth developing for.

Mobile Orchard isn't the first and won't be the last to jump ship.

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