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Adobe abandons development of Flash-to-iPhone porting software

A change in Apple's developer agreement has caused Adobe to halt development of technology that allows Flash applications to be ported natively to the iPhone and iPad, though it will still be included in the forthcoming Creative Suite 5.

Writing on his blog, Mike Chambers, project manager for Adobe Flash, revealed this week that his company is not planning additional investments in the software feature. Chambers noted that Adobe complied with Apple's licensing terms during the development cycle of Flash CS5.

"However, as developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at anytime, and for seemingly any reason," he wrote.

Chambers suggested that Apple's changes to the developer agreement were meant to specifically target Adobe and developers who might port software from Flash to the iPhone.

"It is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5," he wrote. "Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications (100+ on the store today) created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store."

He also said that he does not believe the development of the iPhone packager included in CS5 was a waste of time for Adobe, as it proved that there isn't a technical reason Flash cannot run on the iPhone. He also argued that it proved developers can create content that performs well and is interesting for the iPhone through Flash.

The knowledge and experience gamed from the iPhone compiler, Chambers said, aided in the development of Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 for other mobile operating systems. He specifically named Google's Android platform — along with the Motorola Droid, Nexus One, and forthcoming Android-based tablets — as an alternative. "Fortunately, the iPhone isn't the only game in town," he said.

Weeks ago, when Apple introduced the forthcoming iPhone OS 4, the company also added a clause to the developer license agreement that specifically prohibits the development of applications using "an intermediary translation or compatibility or layer tool." That addition means software originally written for Adobe's Flash, Sun's Java, or Microsoft's Silverlight/Mono and ported to Apple's iPhone OS would be against the terms of its developer agreement. The iPhone OS powers the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

The changes inspired a considerable amount of debate, with one Adobe supporter suggesting Apple timed the announcement to hurt sales of CS5.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs himself got into the discussion earlier this month, when he allegedly responded an e-mail from a developer who was upset over the changes to the developer agreement. Jobs argued that "intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform."

Even before the change was revealed, Apple has been under fire for its iPhone developer agreement for some time. In March, the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted the agreement in its entirety, and criticized the Cupertino, Calif., company for terms that it feels stifle innovation. It accused the iPhone maker of partaking in actions akin to a "jealous and arbitrary feudal lord."