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Jobs: iPhone cross-compiler ban due to updates, quality

updated 10:20 am EDT, Sun April 11, 2010

Apple CEO says iPhone cross-compilers poor

Apple chief Steve Jobs last night held a rare direct chat with a user to explain the ban on cross-compiling code in the iPhone 4.0 SDK. The company co-founder directed Tao Effect's Greg Slepak to a post by tech writer John Gruber that notes Apple likely wants to better determine what new features can be added. If Apple explicitly allowed Adobe's Flash-to-iPhone conversion or MonoTouch, it would let these third-party tools have much of the control over when features are exposed to developers, Gruber said.

Much of the criticism from Gruber and others has claimed that Apple is ultimately trying to prevent developers from using tools that could easily make these apps available for competing platforms like Android or BlackBerry. Easy cross-platform development potentially gives users less incentive to stay on the iPhone as they could find the same apps on rival platforms.

Adobe has stated that it still plans to include the iPhone app creation tool with Flash CS5 regardless of what Apple's policies are in the future.

Jobs clarified his stance after a response from Slepak contending that the iPhone 4.0 restrictions would hurt creativity. The CEO argued that Apple had tried this before with the Mac and had been held back. He implied that the company's experiences with allowing tools like CodeWarrior for Mac OS X had held back the platform by leading many developers to write code that either didn't take advantage of what Apple had developed or was likely to break with future OS updates.

"We've been there before, and intermediate layers between the platform and the developer ultimately produces sub-standard apps and hinders the progress of the platform," Jobs said.

Slepak has continued to object to policy and noted in a commentary that many of the apps users prefer on the Mac, such as Ableton Live and Firefox, were built using cross-compiling tools that write for other platforms. Requiring a particular development environment isn't necessarily a guarantee of quality and may actually drive some developers to other platforms where it's easier to develop apps for more than one platform or to control the feature set.

"Crappy developers will make crappy apps regardless of how many layers there are, and it doesn't make sense to limit source-to-source conversion tools like Unity3D and others," he wrote in one more response to Jobs. "They're all building apps through the iPhone developer tools in the end, so the situation isn't even comparable to the Mac where applications can completely avoid using Apple's frameworks by replacing them with others."

by MacNN Staff



  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ableton Live?

    I've been using Apple computers since before 1984 and I've NEVER used Ableton and never worked on a machine that even had it installed. If you're going to make an example, pick a good one. Sheeeshhh!

  1. Uncommon

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It doesn't make much sense to bring up CodeWarrior in this argument. It was a third-party compiler, not an intermediate layer. CW compiled code in C and C++, just like Apple's tools, with the same access to all the same APIs.

  1. mqualben

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ableton LIve!

    Regardless of if you've come across it, Ableton Live is highly regarded in the music arrangement/loop niche. It definitely has its own look and feel, but has always been improving (upgrades definitely more exciting than Creative Suite's), and never crashed on my Mac or PC. But if Apple wants to force developers to write native code for a hand-held battery-operated touch-screen that needs to squeeze every bit of code performance it can for significantly more battery life than its competitors and multi-task stably, so be it.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Steve Jobs is just wasting his breath

    trying to explain why Apple is doing the things it is doing. He's going to be labeled a liar even if he's telling the truth. Apple should do everything it can to protect its own platform. I can't even see why Apple would want to make it easier for developers to generate cross-platform apps. That seems like it would be helping the competition and giving away your own market share. If Android is so great as the Android lapdogs say it is, then developers will quickly stop developing for Apple and go over to Android and use cross-compilers for every platform except Apple. Supposedly, the Android platform is to quickly grow to majority market share in a couple of years without Apple's help. Isn't that enough?

    If there are people that continue to say that Apple is doing everything wrong, then they shouldn't worry. Apple will fail on its own if that's truly the case. All this bitching and whining is pathetic. I can't believe that Apple should be forced to conform to mobile industry standards when there doesn't seem to be any set rules. Are the gripers talking about codes of morality and decency or is it just sour grapes?

    If there were two athletes competing and one has a slight edge, why the h*** would the one with the edge share his training secrets with the other. I'm sure he wouldn't, right? Nobody wants to give up their advantage, especially in business. Ever since the iPod, Apple has been doing things its own way. Apple takes the risks, they keep their platform tight and secretive and for the last five or six years has been doing very well. So why should they change if the strategy they've been using works for them? Apple is working hard to stay in the lead with its one company strategy and I think the rest of the mobile industry is just plain lazy.

  1. rytc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Is a good example of an app that never made use of mac interface elements, whether this was due to be being cross-compiled I have no idea but I've always felt like I'm on Windows with a bad OS X skin when using Firefox on the mac.

  1. rytc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    is Ableton live? I've never heard of the app and been a Mac user since 1984.

  1. boulder1259

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I applaud Apple for their choice...

    For years, I've been frustrated by cross-platform apps that don't take advantage of Mac only features. I wish Apple would expand this to the Mac as well.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. barryjaylevine

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    Apple needs to buy revMobile (see, make it 100% compliant with OS4's requirements, and then sell it to those of us who aren't total alpha geeks. C++ is worse than greek.

    There used to be a user-accessible programming language - That was HyperCard. Without a good substitute, we're at the mercy of those whose glasses are held together with adhesive tape.

  1. tobor68

    Joined: Dec 1969


    that's what it takes...


    big brassy ones, to put this in the SDK agreement. they knew full well the backlash they would take from their competitors/'partners'.

    but this is what needs to happen if apple wants to continue the breakneck speed of their product development. others will complain that they can't keep up. oh well, they've been dragging their heels for too long. i'm sure that ticks off SJ to no end.

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Well, but...

    The slam on Codewarrior is a bit harsh: without it, the move to PowerPC would have been much tougher and longer as Apple's dev tools just were not up to snuff at that time (to the extent that most of Apple's own development was done using Codewarrior).

    But I get the point in the current context. This was just a rather poor example.

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