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Web 2.0: Adobe CTO Slams Apple's Walled Garden

Kevin Lynch defends cross-platform development and says Adobe doesn't judge content.

Amid reports of a pending antitrust inquiry into Apple's iPhone OS developer restrictions, Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe, the company most directly affected by Apple's rules, took the stage at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco and assailed Apple's tactics.

"It's a false assumption that if we try to make things available across a wide variety of devices that they'll be less effective," said Lynch, addressing Apple CEO Steve Jobs' assertion last week that "letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform."

In an interview with O'Reilly Media's Brady Forest, Lynch insisted that Adobe's goal is to help people create content with whatever technologies do the job.

"The more important question for us right now is about freedom of choice on the Web," he said.

The Web, Lynch said, has been successful because it has been open. "We're facing a time now though now that there are some who would wall off parts of the Web," he said.

Pressed to be more specific by Forest, Lynch acknowledged he was talking about Apple.

"Apple is playing this strategy where they apparently want to create a walled garden about what applications people can use," he said.

Lynch's argument resonated with the audience. Referring to the demo of the Parrot AR.Drone iPhone-controlled helicopter earlier that morning, Lynch asked, "Why can't you control that helicopter using your choice of smartphone?"

The audience applauded this suggestion.

Lynch likened Apple's behavior to the rail barons of the 19th century, when competing railroad companies used different gauges of track to prevent competitors' trains from being able to operate on their rail networks.

"The gauge of the rails today is writing native code on a particular operating system," he said. The cost Apple's stance imposes on developers, he suggested, "is preventing healthy competition."

That line of reasoning is likely what Adobe has been telling the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, the two agencies reported to be negotiating over which will look into the legality of Apple's developer agreement restrictions.

Lynch also indicated that his company intends to develop HTML5 development tools, something that Jobs in his open letter about Flash specifically recommended.

"Of course we're going to make great tooling for HTML5," he said.

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