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Is OpenLaszlo illegal on the iPad?

A reader from San Francisco writes:

Dear Lazzie, I was reading this article, and it seems to spell doom for OpenLaszlo on the iPhone and iPad. Should I worry?

Gentle reader,

OpenLaszlo is indeed a cross-compiler, translating from the high-level declarative LZX language to various runtimes, such as Flash and DHTML. But, because OpenLaszlo generates standards-compliant HTML web apps, it is not covered by the Apple SDK agreement. Any application that runs in Mobile Safari will continue to run, regardless of how that application is generated.

OpenLaszlo does have the unique advantage of being able to generate a Flash-based version of your application if you need to deliver in an environment where CSS2/HTML4-compliant web browsers are not available, or if you need to integrate with other Flash-based technologies. But if your application is being delivered to modern web browsers (which includes the browser for the iPad and iPhone), OpenLaszlo can generate a DHTML-based version of your application with no changes required on your part.

In theory, OpenLaszlo could follow the approach of Adobe’s CS5 and build another back-end to generate native iPhone apps. If they did that, they would find themselves in the same boat as Adobe — developers using their product would be in violation of the new Apple SDK agreement[1]:

What remains to be seen is how Apple will enforce this new agreement, and whether the market (the ultimate arbiter) will go along with them. Veterans of the business will surely be reminded of IBM vs. Telex, where IBM tried to lock out competitors from making compatible peripherals for its mainframes. IBM succeeded for a long while; even wearing down the government’s effort to bring an anti-trust case against them. But in the long run, the market ruled against them (by moving away from mainframes altogether).

Power to the people!

[1]: It’s ironic that OpenLaszlo is able to generate applications for the Flash 10 player because Adobe’s FLEX SDK is open source. OpenLaszlo cross-compiles to ActionScript 3 and then uses the Adobe SDK to compile from there to Flash.

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