Sources are reporting today that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are wrangling over which one of them should lead a preliminary antitrust investigation of Apple. The action was spurred by Apple's new developer agreement which forces app designers to use only Apple programming tools. The inquiry may be launched in a matter of days, and will seek to determine if the policy damages competition in the mobile app space.
Apple's claim has been that adding a layer of abstraction (i.e. a third-party compiler) results in poorer quality apps; thus requiring specific developer tools is a quality control mechanism. Those on the other side, however, claim that Apple is seeking to force developers to choose Apple's platform instead of porting their code to multiple platforms. The worry is that independent developers won't have the resources to rewrite code for multiple platforms, so they will choose Apple's larger and more lucrative app store be default.
The possible inquiry does not mean anything is about to change. The preliminary analysis will determine if a full investigation is required. Do you think Apple is a fault here? How much control should they be allowed to exercise over their platform?
The use of a cross-compiler like Adobe's will leave telltale signs in the final code that Apple could easily recognize. Some developers have no choice but to alter their development methods if they intend to put out an iPhone or iPad app. Any work already done in other languages may as well be scrapped, leaving the poor dev back at square one.
This leaves Adobe in a strange place. The Packager for iPhone was supposed to be a big feature in the upcoming Flash CS5. The license was just made available with the new dev preview today, so we'll be interested to see how developers react to this.
With applications becoming increasingly vital to a mobile platform's success, it makes perfect sense to lure developers to your platform early in its development cycle. It is something Microsoft is trying to accomplish using the Windows Phone 7 Series emulator, which was released earlier this week at its Mix10 event.
The emulator presents a fantastic opportunity to developers looking to learn more about developing apps for the upcoming platform. There is one caveat, though: The emulator only provides limited access to the mobile operating system's features. With hackers not shy to take apart expensive gadgets to get past any exasperating limits, it was always going to be a matter of time before an ingenious developer unfettered this free emulator.
A developer named Don Ardelean announced today that he has successfully “unlocked the ROM image in the emulator CTP.” The task only snatched 6 hours from his life. Ardelean was quick to publish an unlocked version of the emulator, which he later pulled down in as much haste. “I have decided to take down the link because Microsoft could get upset and I don't really want that (if someone at Microsoft will tell me that it doesn't bother them I will put it back),” he wrote on his blog. Besides unlocking all features demoed by Microsoft, Ardelean's hard work also yielded the first glimpse of the Office Apps for Windows Phone 7 Series.
It looks as though Apple is bringing down the ban hammer on more than just the risqué apps. All so-called “Wi-Fi detector apps” have disappeared from the App Store. Apple claims these apps were taking advantage of a private framework; this was news to the developers of such apps. One developer said of the incident, “We received a very unfortunate email today from Apple stating that WiFi Where has been removed from sale on the App Store for using private frameworks to access wireless information.”
The ban only seems to apply to apps that actively scan nearby wireless signals. These apps can be useful in identifying wireless settings, and finding less crowded Wi-Fi channels. Those that use GPS information to compare with a list of known hotspots were not removed. This appears to be yet another example of Apple cleaning up the Apps Store by more strictly enforcing their often vague rules. Certainly Apple can do as they please in their store, but it still means developers have wasted their time creating an app that cannot be distributed.
Conceptualizing a netbook seems pretty easy--just think of a laptop, only smaller. Smaller, however, imposes problems. First, there’s the smaller screen, which reduces the space for visualization--you can’t see as much on a netbook as you can on a laptop. Second, a smaller form factor requires hardware trade-offs, not the least of which is a subdued CPU that takes up less space, gives off less heat, and uses less power. The result is not a smaller laptop, but a device that has to be confronted on its own terms.
Netbook owners, for the most part, realize this. They wish it were different, but wishing doesn’t get the cows fed. It also doesn’t get much work done, as software for netbooks, be it Windows or Linux based, is designed for something larger and more powerful. Intel is perhaps the first to acknowledge the special niche of the netbook, and is supporting it with a developer program for the Atom processor, and an AppUp Center, which will provide apps specifically designed for netbooks.
It’s no secret that the approval process for iPhone apps is a little ridiculous at times. Apple is totally aware of that, though. So they’ve decided to make the whole process just a tiny bit more transparent. When app developers log into the Dev Center site, they will see a new area for status updates. Apps will be listed as “waiting for review”, “in review”, or “ready for sale”.
You don’t have to look far on the web to find a developer with a heartbreaking story of how they poured their savings into making an app, only to have it held in limbo for weeks or months. While the new policy doesn’t necessarily do anything about the actual delays, devs will at least know where in the process it’s held up.
For its part, Apple claims that 96% of iPhone apps are approved in less than two weeks. Now that we know that a lot of those apps are just repackaged eBooks, that figure seems less impressive. The closed nature of the App Store hasn’t hurt its growth so far. Should Apple even be worried about the process?
Apart from the eight uncanny people who bought the $999.99 “I Am Rich” app – an underwhelming screensaver - from the iTunes App Store last year, a vast majority happily devours the free and 99-cent apps. But the preponderance of 99-cent apps has made the App Store a cluttered warehouse, banished many quality apps to oblivion, and increased redundancy. Furthermore, many top-notch developers are finding it difficult to set an honest price on premium apps, for they fear their honesty might render these apps unattractive.
Adobe this week anounced two open-source initiatives designed to help media companies and publishers build better Flash applications.
The first is the Open Source Media Framework (OSMF), which paves the way for more sophisticated media players to run Adobe Flash content. Formerly known as Strobe, the OSMF offers advanced playback and navigation controls, as well as plug-ins for advertising and tracking. It can also work with any kind of Flash content.
The other open-source project is the Text Layout Framework (TLF), which will help developers add advanced typography and font layouts to their Flash applications. When combined with the new text engine in Flash Player 10, TLF makes possible vertical and bidirectional text, flowing text around images, and multiple language support.
As Microsoft's Silverlight continues to gain traction and HTML 5 adding another dimension to the Web 2.0 war, don't be surprised to see an even bigger push from Adobe in expanding upon Flash's capabilities.