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I am not an Apple fanboy, nor have I ever been. However, I have owned a Mac, an iPod, and an iPhone in my lifetime, and for more than a decade, I have defended Apple against the untruths that the haters so enjoy spewing. I encouraged my wife to buy a MacBook when she needed a new laptop two years ago, and I often recommend them to my friends and relatives. I have proudly and happily used my first generation iPhone for nearly three years.

Now, for the first time in well over ten years, I find myself ready to swear off Apple and encourage everyone I know to do the same. I was disappointed when Apple wouldn't allow native apps, but I still bought the iPhone. I've stomached their ambiguous app approval process even though it's apparent that Steve may just reject your app because he doesn't like you or feels threatened by you (I'm still lamenting the rejection of the Google Voice app). But, as a developer, I can no longer tolerate Apple's terms and the kind of totalitarian control they indicate Apple wants.

In case you are not already familiar, Apple has dictated in their OS 4.0 SDK license agreement (the now infamous Section 3.3.1) that all apps developed for the iPhone must be coded in C, C++, or Objective C, and moreover, that using any cross-compiling platforms is a violation of the agreement.

For those of you who aren't developers, let me try to illustrate why this angers those of us who are.

Imagine you're a professional writer. You've had articles published in some journals and magazines, and you've got a couple popular books out there, too. You've got an idea for a new book, and so you take it to your publisher. Your publisher agrees that it's a good idea.

"But," says the publisher, "we want to hold our books to a tighter standard so that our readers get the experience we want them to have. Therefore, from now on, all our writers may only use words from this list of the 10,000 most common English words. Furthermore, if you cite any other works or quote anyone, they must comply with that same list, or you'll have to rewrite the entire work as well in case our readers want to look up your citation."

What do you do? If your work is a children's book, this probably isn't a big deal to you. If it's an autobiography, textbook, or even a novel, though, you're going to have a lot of trouble describing your content with only common words. It's going to take you longer to complete your book, too, since you'll be looking up less common words frequently to see if you can use them. You could always go to another publisher, but this one has the best ability to distribute your book. The next largest distributor can only do a quarter as much. You could abandon the project altogether, but then everyone loses.

Isn't this a silly scenario? Who would put such a limitation on writers? Yet this is very much what Apple is doing. They are using their dominant position in the market to coerce developers to write their apps exclusively for the iPhone OS by making it too expensive to write for multiple platforms. It is at least a threefold attack, striking at Adobe who is set to release a compiler that lets Flash source be compiled to iPhone binaries; striking at Google whose Android platform stands the best chance at the moment of providing serious competition to the iPhone; and reinforcing their own strong position by keeping popular apps exclusively to iPhone.

And while developers are already very upset about this, the sad fact is that most of us will cave and give in to Apple because consumers don't know any better. They will continue to buy Apple's toy forcing developers to play Apple's maniacal game in order to make any money, at least until Steve Jobs decides he doesn't like them or he intends to release a competing application (bye-bye OpenFeint).

Apple has been kept in check on the desktop front by a very dominant Microsoft, but I'm afraid that their success with iPods, iTunes, and iPhones has created a monster that we may have to bear until it is slain by an anti-trust suit or dies with the retirement of Steve Jobs.

Posted on Monday, April 12, 2010 12:22 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Why Apple’s New SDK Limitation is So Offensive

# re: Why Apple’s New SDK Limitation is So Offensive
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Great post.

In many ways I think that Apple is being perceived in the same light that Microsoft was perceived 10-15 years ago.
Left by Mark on Apr 12, 2010 12:28 AM

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