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Apple and the Garden

Cranach Adam Eve 203x300 Apple and the GardenAdobe is all up in arms about the new license terms for Apple’s iOS 4, which restricts platform developers to using only specific native tools. That pretty much cuts out all other development platforms and cross-compilers, most especially Adobe. Needless to say, Adobe is not pleased. Well you know what? I’m totally on Apple’s side in this fight. Adobe took a chance when it developed Flash, and for a while that chance worked out for them. Their small platform ended up being used for more and more on the ever expanding Internet, allowing them to grow into almost a de facto standard. That’s fine for something like the Internet, which is an open environment that was built up through the combined efforts of a lot of organizations. But the iPlatform is not the Internet. Apple has created a walled garden and they have the right to manage that garden however they like.

In Philadelphia, sections of the city have city-owned pots of land that residents can rent out for a year.  On those plots of land, folks have planted vegetable and flower gardens.  The gardens are secured by fences and locks, but each resident doesn’t get individual access to their plots – they have to share the lock code with each other because there’s only one lock.  The rules are relatively simple and the renters tend to watch out for each other because they tend to be long-time renters, paying the nominal fee every year.  Importantly, they tend to follow the rules and they act to ensure that others follow the rules.  Every so often, the rules change and some people stop renting space because of those rules.  But that frees up a plot for someone new to come in, and they come in knowing the new rules and agreeing to honor them.

What Adobe is trying to do is pay the fee to access the garden and then passing out the combination to the garden’s lock to anyone who wants to pay.  In their best case scenario, they don’t even have to pay the fee for access – they just start selling the key and let the community sort out who’s supposed to be there or not.  Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  For good or bad, Apple’s ecosystem is THEIRS.  They didn’t set out to build something on top of an already existing platform (like Google), nor did they try to make their ecosystem the biggest in the world by making development as easy as possible to as many as possible (like Microsoft).  Apple started out with a simple idea – let’s sell music.  Maybe they had this end state in mind all the time, maybe they didn’t.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s all theirs.  And because it’s theirs, they get to make the rules, and even change those rules, whenever they want.

Note that this viewpoint is not necessarily a conflict with the fact that I am using a jailbroken iPhone.  Since I’ve bought the device and own it, I think I should be able to do whatever the heck I want with it.   To not have that right is like buying a piece of produce from the community garden but being told that I can only use it in stir fry or fruit salad.  It’s stupid to even think that that sort of thing is possible, and just because it’s tech vs. produce doesn’t make it any less so.  However, once I change the parameters of the agreement of sale, I don’t have the right to request Apple’s support to fix my problems.  To extend the produce analogy even further, that’s like my buying a bell pepper, agreeing to use it only in stir fry, then putting it in fruit salad and complaining when people don’t like it.  I know and accept the risks of jailbreaking but by that same token, Apple shouldn’t be going out of their way to stop me.  Would I like Apple to be less restrictive in terms of what they do or don’t allow in the App Store?  Absolutely.  The main reason I jailbreak is to skin my phone and to get access to two apps that Apple won’t sell.  But those are the risks I’ve accepted because I’m choosing to go around the ecosystem.

Back to the topic at hand though – Adobe vs. Apple.  Whether or not Apple is right or wrong ethically is not the issue.  Apple is doing what it feels it needs to do to protect their investment in the iOS infrastructure.  Adobe is trying to grow their produce in the Apple garden and calling foul because they got caught.  Sorry, Adobe – you didn’t pay for the garden and you don’t get to access the garden and set your rules in the garden just because you pout about unfairness.  You want to build out your Flash platform, then you go out and build your own damn garden.  Otherwise, be happy with the pervasiveness you have on the Internet and pray that you can find a workaround to making money once HTML5 begins supplanting your fancy animations.

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