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Is Steve right?

A reader from Germany writes:

What is the OL team’s take on Steve’s toughts on Flash?


Gentle reader,

I agree regarding the support of open standards such as HTML 5, which OpenLaszlo heartily supports too. The greater standards compliance we have, the better.

But it is amusing that Jobs contrasts the ubiquitous Flash player with the ubiquity of the Webkit “player”. The primary difference is that Webkit is open source, which presumably saves us from being beholden to any one manufacturer for bug fixes. But in reality, that depends on whether individual manufacturers track the latest releases of Webkit on their devices. Somehow I don’t think that any phone manufacturer has a provision to run the Webkit nightly on their phone. [We have even run into this in Safari. The Webkit team made a severe optimization error in the current squirrelfish engine that OL tripped over (incorrect caching of prototype properties). They pretty quickly developed a fix for it and we verified it in the nightly, but they had to advise us that there was no way that fix would be out in a release for at least 6 months. So OL has to browser sniff and at runtime adopt a much less efficient class implementation on the current Safari release.]

The battery life and performance issue is a marginal point. Clearly they could set a standard/licensing term for that and just say that Flash has not met the bar (yet).

I disagree vehemently with the current license stance (which Jobs does not address in his note) that they are using to further lock Adobe out from delivering a cross-platform development environment. This has created a substantial amount of collateral damage. For instance, take the Frotz app, which implements the Infocom Z-machine. Technically under Apple’s current license this app is illegal and will eventually be removed from the store (it has not so far). Another that has already been removed is the Scratch player. This is in no one’s best interest. Scratch is potentially creating the next generation of programmers!

OpenLaszlo is not affected by the license, as I pointed out in my blog post, because we deliver a web app, not a native app. Presumably all interpreters could do the same, but that just points up the ridiculousness of the license restriction — it boils down to “you may only run an interpreter on the iPhone if it requires a network connection”. Huh?

How does one define an interpreter? Every program is an interpreter because every program has data that drives the state changes. iTunes is an interpreter of mp3’s. How is that any different that the Frotz player interpreting a .z5 file? Where do you draw the line between data and interpreted program?

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