Sunday, April 11, 2010

Steve Jobs handwaves in response to Section 3.3.1 criticism

Developer Greg Slepak has emailed Steve Jobs about the changes to section 3.3.1 in the developer agreement for iPhone OS 4, and he received not one, but several replies back. That section seems to seems to ban cross-compiling apps or using an interpreter and while many say it's focused on Adobe and Flash, it reaches further than that.

Here's how the exchange ensued:
Greg Slepak:

Hi Steve,

Lots of people are pissed off at Apple’s mandate that applications be “originally written” in C/C++/Objective-C. If you go, for example, to the Hacker News homepage right now:

You’ll see that most of the front page stories about this new restriction, with #1 being: “Steve Jobs Has Just Gone Mad” with (currently) 243 upvotes. The top 5 stories are all negative reactions to the TOS, and there are several others below them as well. Not a single positive reaction, even from John Gruber, your biggest fan.

I love your product, but your SDK TOS are growing on it like an invisible cancer.


Steve Jobs:

We think John Gruber’s post is very insightful and not negative:

To be honest, Gruber's post there isn't negative, per se. What it points out, essentially, however, isn't that Apple is great and right, or that, as some want to think, that Apple is doing this to make multitasking work well. No, plain and simple, Apple is doing this for business reasons, as we earlier said ourselves.

As we said, Apple has no reason to want developers to be able to use some sort of cross-compiler or interpreted code so that it can run on multiple platforms. That means a developer could easily write to BlackBerry, Android, whatever, as well as iPhone. Not something in Apple's best interests.

This is neither criminally or morally wrong. However, it does do something that no other company has had the gall to do before: force developers away from development tools of their own choosing.

At any rate, the rest of the exchange is as follows:

Sorry. I didn’t catch that post, but I finished it just now.

I still think it undermines Apple. You didn’t need this clause to get to where you are now with the iPhone’s market share, adding it just makes people lose respect for you and run for the hills, as a commenter to that article stated:

“So what Apple does not want is for some other company to establish a de facto standard software platform on top of Cocoa Touch. Not Adobe’s Flash. Not .NET (through MonoTouch). If that were to happen, there’s no lock-in advantage.”

And that makes Apple evil. At least, it does in the sense that Google uses the term in “don’t be evil” – I believe pg translated “evil” as something along the lines of “trying to compete by means other than making the best product and marketing it honestly”.

From a developer’s point of view, you’re limiting creativity itself. Gruber is wrong, there are plenty of [applications] written using cross-platform frameworks that are amazing, that he himself has praised. Mozilla’s Firefox just being one of them.

I don’t think Apple has much to gain with 3.3.1, quite the opposite actually.



We’ve been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform.


The Mac has only been helped by the fact that Firefox, Ableton Live, and hundreds of other high-quality applications can run on it thanks to the fact that developers have a choice as to what tools they can use on it.

Crappy developers will make crappy apps regardless of how many layers there are, and it doesn’t make sense to limit source-to-source conversion tools like Unity3D and others. They’re all building apps through the iPhone developer tools in the end so the situation isn’t even comparable to the Mac where applications can completely avoid using Apple’s frameworks by replacing them with others.

In my opinion, 3.3.1 only serves to make the platform less attractive to legitimate developers, giving them reason to write their software for competing platforms instead.

Thanks for considering this.

As we said earlier, Apple's moves aren't criminally or morally wrong. In fact, in terms of what a corporation is supposed to, which is maximize the return for shareholders, they are absolutely correct. What we object to is Apple (and some supporters) trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Just say the truth, and leave it at that, Apple.

Oh, and it was interesting to see the following tag at Slepak's post: F-ingAppStore. It was also interesting that Slepak admitted he omitted the final response from Jobs.

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