Let Developers Choose Their Tools, Apple

By  |  Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

(A note from Harry: Here’s a “letter to the editor” from Kevin Miller, CEO of Scotland-based RunRev. His company makes a HyperCard-like development platform; one of its investors is Mike Markkula, who funded the creation of the Apple II and later served as Apple’s CEO.)

In recent weeks, there has been much speculation about the impact and overall effect that Apple’s decision to change the rules regarding its iPhone SDK has had on the software developer community. Given the growing debate, I feel I need to outline our thoughts and observations on the matter.

Apple’s move prevents developers from using a range of software development tools, among them RunRev. We believe that Apple would benefit greatly from an iPhone/iPad only development tool that is more productive than Objective-C, JavaScript, or C++ and honors the HyperCard legacy still present on today’s Mac platform. Although we’ve made our case directly to Steve Jobs, including offering a native solution that performs perfectly and supports 100% of the device APIs, he rejected the proposal and made it clear that he has no interest in allowing revMobile on the iPhone or iPad. It seems, however, that this ban is on a case by case basis, as games developed on the Unity gaming platform are still being accepted and sold in the App Store. In this case what’s good for the goose, doesn’t necessarily apply to the gander.

While there is a financial cost there is also a principle at stake here for us, as well as for many of our customers. Polling amongst our Mac-orientated user base suggests that many developers are outraged by Apple’s decision and do not believe that they should be dictated to regarding their choice of development tools. We are grateful for the support of our customers, who rather than switch development tools plan to switch platforms and develop applications on alternate platforms such as Google’s Android.

Apple is the standard by which many of us measure innovation and ingenuity. RunRev has always enjoyed a good relationship with Apple based partly on the fact that Mike Markkula is one of our investors, and our historical ties to the HyperCard legacy. In a recent article, we learned Hollywood media giants Time Warner and NBC Universal have informed Apple that “retooling themselves to support the iPad would be ‘expensive and not worth it’ citing the popularity of Flash on the web.” They are not alone. We may be a small voice, but the weight of our customers’ opinion can only add to the crescendo of views that believes Apple is doing a huge injustice to its loyal developer user base. We believe that Apple must listen to all the voices, not just the big players.

We are strong believers in Apple. Our hope is that during the upcoming WWDC Steve Jobs will listen to the smaller voices of Apple’s loyal developer community, and return the company to its open approach–fostering a plethora of innovation and ingenuity we have come to expect from the Apple community.



7 Comments For This Post

  1. Thomas Traub Says:

    Well I might be naive …

    I believe Apple is trying to build a new way of how the mainstream user, who is not interested in computer tech, deals with a computer.

    And frankly, for these kind of use cases I can only hope that Apple succeed clears out all of the absurdities / complexities we (the tech folks) are used to deal with.

    Take the file system as example, for me, I just love it and use it for plenty purposes, I do not need iTunes, IPhoto & Co. But the average mainstream user, even after years of computer usage just doesn’t get it.

    Unfortunately, by cutting things for these kind of people, we will loose many of our beloved little and big tricks.

    Unfortunately, too, I believe that the cut needs to be deep and without compromise, otherwise the new cannot emerge.

    To conclude, I’ve already started to change habits. I still write my mails on the laptop, but sorting and cleaning up I do almost exclusively on my iPhone. It’s just nicer, more relaxed, more natural.

    In the long I see that I will move all of my administrative and communication related work do on these kin of devices, and there I am no longer the coder but just acting like any other noob, what a relieve.

  2. Khürt Says:

    Looking at this from a user perspective – I don’t know or care that Apple’s development terms affect developers. I can still get useful apps that meet my needs. When/if another platform starts to become a better value for me, I’ll switch. And I still won’t care if the developer have to work hard to make those apps.

  3. Gluon Spring Says:

    Apple developers are like jilted lovers who are having a hard time accepting that Apple just isn’t that into us. When your once-lover says they aren’t interested in you, it’s probably smarter to go ahead and leave rather than try to recapture the old flame.

    Apple’s been saying to me for a while now, “We don’t like cross-platform people like you”. Message received.

    See you in another life, Apple.

  4. Vulpine Says:

    If you ask me, this developer chose probably the worst person he could know to support his effort: a man who was directly involved in the near death of Apple from the outset. Yes, he might have helped fund Apple’s original incorporation, but due to his (and other CEOs) mismanagement, the company went from a tech leader to an also-ran that ended up having to buy NeXt to get Jobs back on the board and turn them around.

    If you think Steve Jobs is going to agree with someone who fired him 35 years ago and nearly destroyed the man’s dream company, something [i]has[/i] to be wrong with you!

  5. Marc Says:

    Whether ot not you hate flash, there is a big principle at stake here. Development tools is one thing, but banning an app because it looks too widgety [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/01/apple_boots_widgety_apps_from_app_store/]? Seriously, what company is going to invest cash into a product that may be pulled at any time?

    It’s all about making sure developers can’t easily publish on multiple platforms. The same reasons Microsoft felt threatened by Java.

  6. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    This is BS. You can use any tools you want to make iPhone apps. What you can’t do is sell an app commercially in the store unless it is 100% native. You can’t sell me an app that abuses my hardware and battery to make your development easier.

    Prototype your app in RunRev or Flash, then if you want to take the app commercial, hire an iPhone developer to build your app.

    A print designer can build a website in Photoshop and export as HTML and it will look great but run terribly. So what professionals do is use the Photoshop file as a prototype, they give the Photoshop file to a Web developer and he or she builds a real Web app out of it. Same principle as making real iPhone apps.

    The Apple tools are already rapid development tools, with high-level frameworks. There are iPhone apps made by 13 year olds. The Apple tools were used by a physicist to create the World Wide Web in 1990. Anyone can learn them.

    As for cross-platform, native iPhone apps are cross-platform C, and iPhone Web apps are cross-platform HTML5. Apps like Pac-Man come from the 1980’s arcade, they were not written in Apple’s tools. DOOM comes from DOS, although being Id it might have been written with Apple’s tools. But to sell a version for iPhone the C code just had to be brought into Xcode and built as a truly native iPhone app.

    So Apple is not stopping you from doing anything except ship a substandard app through their store.
    They have much more right to do that than you have to build apps out of Play-Doh and foist them on unsuspecting iPhone users.

    Get Adobe to put an HTML5 target on Flash if you want to build iPhone apps with it. Same for RunRev and anybody else. If you want to make native apps, make native apps. Or don’t. There are 20,000 new native apps per week. Somehow those developers managed.

    And don’t whine about Apple being closed. iPhone offers the only 3rd party native C app development on any phone. Android’s C API is 100% closed to anyone outside Google, they offer Java applets only. PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox are the only other native C apps in consumer electronics, and they are much more strictly managed than Apple. Kids and hobbyists don’t get to make Xbox apps at all.

    If you want to play baseball, show up with your bat and glove at the diamond and play. Do not show up at the diamond in hockey gear and demand to play hockey.

  7. Jacque Says:

    Hamranhansenhansen misunderstands. RunRev took careful pains to make sure the final compiled C code was indistinguishable from that produced by Apple’s own tools. There is no difference in battery life, hardware demands, or anything else in apps produced by RunRev. In fact, Apple themselves would not be able to find any differences — they’d need to compare several RunRev apps and look for similar code signatures to even know what tool produced the final product.

    This is not like Flash and is certainly not play-doh pretending to be real. The final RunRev-produced apps are true C-compiled products that match Apple’s specifications to the letter. The reason they are disallowed has nothing to do with performance; it is all about Jobs trying to dictate how developers work. Apple needs to judge iApps by their performance and suitability, not by the tools used to produce them.

    It is only a technicality of the new license that forbids RunRev-produced iApps. In fact, RunRev worked closely with Apple to make sure their product was in compliance, and was in good standing with a clear go-ahead until Apple decided suddenly to reverse themselves and dictate what tools one may use. It has nothing to do with quality; if that were the case, Apple would judge apps by their performance. It has everything to do with control.

    Apple may change their minds as developers begin to leave in disgust. The exodus has already begun.

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