Sunday, September 12, 2010

It really was just about Flash

There are a number of platform wars going on right now, on various classes of computers. One of them is over the market for applications on consumer mobile devices. At the OS level, there are Android, iOS, Windows, RIM, and others. There are also cross-OS platforms, such as HTML and Flash. It's a good time to be on the buying side of a mobile device. Extraordinary levels of effort are being put into making each platform appeal to users.

Sometimes, though, the moves are not in consumers' interest. Apple's ban of alternate programming languages on the iPhone is just such a move. Jobs can say all he likes that Flash apps are inherently bad, but few truly agree. A more precise statement is that Flash, many feel, isn't the best possible tool in general. Programmers, however, are more important than the specific tools. I'm sure that the best Flash apps that were banned are better than the worst apps currently being allowed. If the app store simply focused on quality itself, rather than implementation technology, then iPhone users would get an improved selection of apps to install.

Jobs knows this, and so he hasn't really been blocking all alternate languages from his platform. Just the Flash ones:
Other cross-platform compiler makers had had no such trouble, even during the monthslong stretch when the now-obsolete Apple policy had supposedly been in effect. Both Appcelerator and Unity Technologies, which sell iOS programming tools, stressed on Thursday that developers using their compilers had been able to get ported programs into the App Store since April.

Sick stuff. Happily, as word came out, the legality of the approach is starting to fray. Apple needs to either explicitly and specifically block Flash--thus facing anti-trust issues--or drop the bogusly general block. They've now chosen to drop the general ban, which is really the best thing for users.

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