Adobe tosses in Flash towel after Apple limits iPhone dev

In an escalating confrontation, Adobe says 'iPhone isn't the only game in town' and announces the company will move on to Android

Saying that Apple "wants to tie developers down," an Adobe product manager yesterday said his company would toss in the towel on a tool that lets programmers port Flash applications to the iPhone and iPad.

The announcement was the latest in the escalating confrontation between Apple and Adobe. Apple has repeatedly claimed that letting Flash on its iPhone would degrade performance, with its CEO, Steve Jobs, saying that Adobe's software "performs too slow to be useful" on the smartphone. Two weeks ago, Jobs flatly rejected the idea that Flash would be allowed on his company's mobile devices.

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At the same time, Apple changed the language of its newest iPhone software developers kit (SDK) license to ban developers from using cross-platform compilers, tools that let them write in one framework, say JavaScript or .Net, and then recompile it in native code for another platform, like the iPhone. Days later, an Adobe platform evangelist said, "Go screw yourself Apple," on his personal blog, which had been reviewed, if not vetted, by Adobe.

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Yesterday, Adobe took the war up a notch with an unusual move: It gave up on a feature it had once loudly trumpeted.

"We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5," said Mike Chambers, the principal product manager for developer relations for Adobe's Flash platform, in a blog post late Tuesday. "However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature."

The feature Chambers referred to takes applications written in Flash's ActionScript and recompiles them to run natively on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Adobe calls it "Packager for iPhone," and includes it with Flash Professional, part of Creative Suite 5 (CS5), which launched April 12, just days after Apple modified its SDK.

Analysts said Apple's move was aimed right at Adobe. "It's primarily directed at Adobe. The two have an oppositional relationship that goes back at least 15 years," said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner, in an interview last week.

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