Adobe Fumes Over Apple Snub

adobe and apple logo over iphone
An escalating technology rivalry with Apple may be about to cost Adobe serious change.

Adobe's Flash remains popular with 96 percent of U.S. Web surfers having installed the video software installed on their computers, according to researcher StatOwl. But in a new filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Adobe raises the potential impact to its business by being locked out of the iPad and iPhone.

"To the extent new releases of operating systems or other third-party products, platforms or devices, such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, make it more difficult for our products to perform, and our customers are persuaded to use alternative technologies, our business could be harmed," Adobe said Friday in its filing.

Apple forced the issue in what appears to be a tweak to its governing third-party iPhone development.

Here's the relevant paragraph:

"Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited)."

English translation: Developers must create programs directly for the Apple operating system on the iPhone, a stipulation that essentially elbows aside Adobe's latest cross-compilation system for Flash apps as well as other so-called intermediary software products.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan on Apple-Adobe:

While CEO Steve Jobs didn't make any mention of a change during his product demonstration for the press held Thursday at Apple headquarters, Adobe management was quick to discern a shift. In a blog post, Adobe group manager Adrian Ludwig wrote that "there's something important missing from Apple's approach to connecting consumers to content" when it came to the iPad.

It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple's DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers. And without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.
If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab -- not to mention the millions of other sites on the web -- I'll be out of luck. Adobe and more than 50 of our partners in the Open Screen Project are working to enable developers and content publishers to deliver to any device, so that consumers have open access to their favorite interactive media, content, and applications across platform, regardless of the device that people choose to use."

Is Apple within its rights to mandate the restriction? The company does not comment about its policies but the news has sparked speculation whether it will push Adobe to force the issue in court. Developer Hank Williams summed it up this way:

"I don't think there has ever been a case like this because only Apple could make such a ridiculous attempt to control how developers work. But what is interesting here is that allowing this provision to go to trial may put the entire App Store concept under a legal microscope. Because it seems to me there is a reasonable risk that not only is ...(it) restraint of trade, but that the entire "you can only sell apps on iPhones and iPod touches that we approve" thing is found to be restraint of trade. Wouldn't that be tasty. Adobe, and/or class action lawyers start your engines!"

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.