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Adobe Burns Bridge With Apple, Embraces Google

There will be no more investment in development tools to bring Flash content to the iPhone.
Adobe on Wednesday abandoned what in recent weeks has become a clearly quixotic quest: Its desire to give Flash developers a way to bring Flash content to Apple's iPhone, iPod, and iPad devices.

As far back as 2008, Adobe has been promising a way to bring Flash content to the iPhone. At the company's MAX 2008 conference in San Francisco, CTO Kevin Lynch suggested that all it would take to bring Flash 10 to the iPhone would be a bit more work on the code and "to pass the taste test of Apple's head chef," better known as Steve Jobs.

Since January, following Apple's iPad announcement, it has become evident that Jobs doesn't have the stomach for Flash, a point hammered home by recent changes to the iPhone OS 4.0 Developer SDK Agreement, which includes wording that bans any development tool that relies on any programming language other an Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript.

While this sweeping prohibition sent shock waves through the developer community, raising the possibility that hundreds of games developed with popular third-party tools like Unity3D could be banned, the emerging consensus is that Apple's broadly worded prohibition has a single very specific target: Adobe's Flash CS5 Professional Packager for iPhone.

Apple, despite many requests, has not publicly disclosed how it intends to interpret its apparent ban on third-party developer tools.

But Adobe's Mike Chambers, principal product manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform, said in a blog post that he believes that Apple's new contractual language for developers will be used against Adobe.

"While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms, it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5," he said.

Such enforcement, if extended to currently approved apps in the iTunes App Store, could lead to the removal of over 100 apps.

Because Adobe has come to believe that Apple is aiming directly at Flash, Chambers says that his company has decided not to develop its Flash-to-iPhone technology any further.

"We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5," he said. "However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature."

"The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development," he said. "The cool web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

What Chambers did not say, through a source with knowledge of the company has confirmed, is that Adobe has been laying the groundwork for a possible lawsuit against Apple, calling other companies affected by the iPhone OS 4.0 developer contract to gauge possible support.

Asked to comment, Adobe said its policy is not to comment on legal matters or rumors.

While it remains to be seen whether Adobe will actually file such a suit, the company is clearly signaling its intent to support Apple's competitor in the mobile space, Google's Android platform.

Not only is Chambers declaring that he will shift his focus from the iPhone to Android devices, but Adobe has featured the head of Google's Android effort, Andy Rubin, in a guest blog post, one that declares Google's support for Adobe and its technology.

Rubin's comments take aim straight at Apple's restrictions.

"Google believes that developers should have their choice of tools and technologies to create applications," said Rubin. "By supporting Adobe AIR on Android we hope that millions of creative designers and developers will be able to express themselves more freely when they create applications for Android devices."