3.3.1 – More than just about Flash

The discussion about the new section 3.3.1 in the iPhone OS  4 SDK is extremely interesting because it touches on multiple topics and it has generated strong reactions.

The initial reactions by Lee Brimelow – Apple Slaps Developers In The Face – and many others highlighted the impact of 3.3.1 on the Packager for iPhone, a new feature in Adobe CS5 – in part because (lack of) Flash suppport was one of the points discussed during the recent launch of the iPad, in part because CS5 was to be released the following week.  Although Flash is still a topic of many comments on 3.3.1 (e.g. this comment in the current Java.Net poll), the actual impact is significantly wider.

Since much has been written, and written well, on the topic, I’ll point to those posts and will provide some extra commentary.

Start with Grubber’s introductory post: New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone Compiler. There, he already covers much of the key topics, from gaming frameworks/tools like Unity3D to tools like Appcelerator Titanium and PhoneGap to cross-compilers like MonoTouch and the Packager for iPhone.

Grubber followed with Why Apple Changed Section 3.3.1, looking at the decision from the perspective of the different actors.  A good post but does not mention gaming platforms/applications, nor does he talk about changing the rules of engagement mid-flight.  The main theme of Grubber’s post was also mentioned in Louis Gerbag’s It’s all about the Framework, which contains a discussion of the Adobe/Apple relationship and comments on interpreter-based game engines.

Ian Samuel The Progress of the Platform elaborates the theme that using a 3rd party framework slows down the evolution of the platform.  I agree with a variation of that statement – it is not that it slows it down, but rather than the speed is controlled by a 3rd party – not something Apple wants.

The impact of 3.3.1 on non-Flash platforms is acknowledged in a nice post from David Helgason at Unity: Unity and the iPhone OS 4.0, update.  Appcelerator, and its customers, are also impacted – see SugarCRM using Titanium – and they cover the topic on their Appcelerator Blog

Several other writers have covered the topic.  Worth highlighting:

  • Hank Williams on Steve Jobs has gone mad
  • DHH (from 37Signals) on  5 Rational Arguments against Apple’s 3.3.1 Policy
  • Zed Shaw at Shedding Bikes on How Apple Really Screwed Up With 3.3.1 (this is my favorite so far)
  • There has been enough discussion that we even got some responses from Steve Jobs.  Greg Slepak reports, at TaoEffect, on some terse mail exchanges on Steve Jobs Response on Section 3.3.1.  Not terribly good arguments, but Steve got involved.

    The discussion on the Apple-focused sites are not as interesting.  AppleInsider claims Limitations Related to MultiTasking – something about applications needing to cooperate with the OS to support multi-tasking – a few decades behind the times… The threads at MacRumors seem to focus mostly on Flash.

    Now, back to the big picture… All of this is happening in a fairly complex “game” for Dev Mindshare/PR that includes Adobe and Apple… and Google… and NewTeeVee and ElReg reported that Google was going to OpenSource VP8, which I think will be a move very well received since H.264’s “free licensing” is only guaranteed until 2016.  Firefox has already announced it would welcome the new codec and if YouTube were to switch to VP8, others would probably follow.  So, Google’s move would make them look like “real white hat guys”, which does not make 3.3.1 look any better…  And then, there is the Google’s iPad.

    All very interesting… At the end, I tend to agree with Zed’s prediction:

    Apple will either drop the word “originally” by the end of the week, or they’ll be sued within a few months at the first sign they’re using this to limit a company’s right to create software for competing platforms.



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