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App Store Uproar [May. 13th, 2010|07:10 pm]

I’ve not said anything on the Apple Store policy change restricting developers to certain toolsets. To be honest, it doesn’t affect me directly. I don’t own an iPhone or iPod touch or iPad. I’m not a Developer. I don’t use Adobe tools much. But I am following it out of intellectual curiosity. I can see both sides, and see the merits of arguments on both sides. I like the idea of Adobe making it easier for developers to create great applications. Or even just making it easier for someone to become a developer. I like the idea that Apple is setting standards for apps, and that I can expect some measurable level of quality by not having ported apps.

To quote John Gruber of Daring Fireball,

“That’s exactly what’s going on. Apple is testing whether a tightly controlled and managed app console platform will succeed or fail based on its own merits, as determined by customers. There are different levels of competition. Apple has made its choice about how it wants to compete, and there’s nothing Adobe can do about it — other than proving Apple wrong by shipping compelling excellent software for Android.” (daringfireball.net…)

Except that this isn’t testing. We’ve seen this before. Tons of times. On almost every game platform out there. 20 years ago games had to be up to snuff to get a Nintendo Seal of Quality. And games were developed using official developer toolsets. That were produced by Nintendo. And that’s not to say that a Developer couldn’t try to create a game some other way, but I’d be willing to guess that road didn’t work so well. Sony did the same thing with games on its consoles. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised of Atari worked that way. And we’ve all seen complaints about games that are poorly ported from one console to another – cases where the graphics and sound don’t take advantage of the capabilities of the platform, or where a game simply dumps some portion of content because the discs don’t hold the same quantity, or some platforms have a built in hard drive and others don’t, etc.

So a large part of the conflict comes from the perception of the iPhone. A lot of people, developers especially, are viewing it as a mini-computer. And from their perspective, it kind of is. It runs a modified OS X Darwin system, it uses fairly standard Objective-C, and it is a fairly accessible system to developers, and it lends itself to a wide range of unique applications. Game consoles tend to, well, run games, and not much more. Now, if you start thinking of the iPhone as a console, it works better. Limited channels of production and distribution, which, to be honest, is still more than cell phones of yore (where everything came -only- from the manufacturer), restricted access to hardware (funny how no one really complains about protected memory in the modern OS), and capabilities that vary from device to device. And as Gruber points out, if you want a platform that behaves very much like a computer platform, there’s always Android – which has an even wilder future in front of it if the hardware platforms keep forking the way they’ve been doing lately.

Originally published at lebor.net. You can comment here or there.


[User Picture]From: swashbucklr
2010-05-13 11:46 pm (UTC)
Actually, Atari originally didn't work that way, which is part of what lead to the video game crash in 1983, and why Nintendo was so strict about the Seal of Quality. Prior to Nintendo (and Sega), development companies didn't need to license anything from the platform, which meant that there were tons and tons of poorly made games out there, flooding the market.


But yeah, the comparison of the iPhone/iPad to video game consoles in an apt one. Also? Really enjoying my Droid. :)

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[User Picture]From: laurion
2010-05-14 12:48 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, that's correct. I remember all the knockoff cartridges now.
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[User Picture]From: lucky_otter
2010-05-14 05:33 am (UTC)
Protected memory and "no, you can't access that part from third party software, ever" are a little bit different.
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[User Picture]From: laurion
2010-05-14 12:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is, but I wasn't talking about completely blocking access to hardware, I was referring to the requirement of accessing hardware via specified routines handled by the OS so as to provide stability, service, and features not otherwise available with hardware only access. It could be protected memory, it could be a location awareness API that interfaces with the GPS for you. And there is tons of third party software on the iPhone that uses location aware capabilities.

And there were programmers who used to use direct memory access to pull of interesting 'tricks', but overall, people stopped accessing memory directly because it proved to be beneficial to let the OS manage that.
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[User Picture]From: jducoeur
2010-05-22 06:11 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think this is a red herring. Apple's policies have very little to do with quality control. The simple truth is that they allow lots of shovelware crap into the App Store, and that the new policy winds up banning a large quantity of really high-quality software.

Putting a sharper point on it: the new rules almost certainly *hurt* quality, for the simple reason that they've just outlawed many of the modern languages and tools that make it easier to produce high-quality software. I mean, seriously: you're encouraged to use Javascript, but Scala is forbidden? That pretty concisely puts the lie to the "quality" argument right there.

Far as I can tell, the rule has only two reasons: Google and Adobe. Apple is so determined to hurt both that it is willing to take steps that cross the line into stupid to do so. And all the trends say that, in the long run, it's likely to backfire pretty horribly, and wind up relegating the iPhone to the same niche as the Mac: popular among true believers, but ultimately the smaller player.

Oh, and as for the console point, that's *also* at least partly a red herring, albeit an apt one. While it's true that they imposed some quality control, those walled gardens were mainly designed to ensure that the console manufacturers could take a very hefty cut of all sales. That appears to be precisely what Apple is trying to do with the iP* App Store. Good way to make money -- but also a good way to mess up the argument that you want an iPhone because it has more apps than Android, since it makes the platform more expensive and hassle for developers...
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