Apple Cuts the RIA Field Down

Apple has cut the RIA field down to one for now – HTML5. With Apple’s iPhone OS4 announcement of what software development tools would be acceptable on the Apple Mobile Lineup, Apple has said NYET, NEIN, NO to Flash in any way shape or form and to Java too. And NON, NOPE, NIX to Microsoft Silverlight and to a bevy of recent development tools that have popped up in the iPhone development system.

Steve Jobs and Apple seem to be out to challenge Microsoft for the title of Proprietary Pirates of Evil Power. Clearly Apple is restricting development for its line-up of products to Apple-only or at best Apple blessed software development tools. And given the huge growth of the the smartphones and the new Lite Computing Devices, Apple’s actions will have enormous implications in the market.

Developers and startups, already mashed by outsourcing and the 2007-2010 Recession, cannot be enthusiastic about this turn of events – for many their work in “unapproved” development tools goes for naught. And clearly the debate is already raging in the community:

This is exactly what I thought the original app approval process would be for: an Apple “seal of quality”. That would be a fine trade off for users — they may only get the approved apps, but at least they’re screened for quality.

However, that isn’t what the approval process is. There are literally thousands of crappy applications that were happily approved and clogging up all categories in the app store. It seems non-trivial app rejections are not done on behalf of the user but are done solely to protect Apple’s own interests. Remember when a bunch of high-quality Google voice apps disappeared from store? And that’s just one example, there have been many more.

And now they’re rejecting apps not based on their quality, but based on the programming language or development environment used to create them. How is that at all relevant to the user? This is entirely about protecting Apple’s own interests …

But developers do have recourse – they can target Android, Chrome OS, Intel/Nokia Meego, even Palm webOS which have more open development processes. However corporates and IT organizations are faced with a conundrum. If Apple’s Move to a Mobile Monopoly gains momentum what can they do for their non-Intranet/internal software development? Are they committed now to Web 2.0/HTML5 for all their external-to-the-organization applications? What happens to integration and cross platform initiatives? As the Cupertino butterfly alights in the Mobile and Lite Computing world, chaos ensues in RIA and broader software development.