The last week has seen quite the bristling of a hypocritical and vociferous group of “developers” and technical pundits. The best recapping of this whole situation can be found at John Gruber’s blog: initial discovery and assessment. The two loudest crowds seem to be the Adobe Flash fans and the C# Mono folks.
Let’s just leave the actual “rule” from Apple aside for a moment and just speak from a user experience perspective.
First, let’s talk performance… The fact that you can make a good performing app with an intermediary language certainly isn’t proof that it isn’t much more likely to have a performant application that is written in a more native language. I mean, if hardware had not gotten faster, we would all be programming in assembly (or C). Abstractions are great for developers but not great for machines. There is a reason Java and C# haven’t taken over the desktop or game development – and the examples that can be given of the few sparse games in those two languages / platforms doesn’t change the fact that other than casual web games and a few Xbox toys, they aren’t used seriously by professional game studios. With mobile platforms, the hardware is going in the opposite direction from desktop hardware. Not to mention, I’m curious about the incongruities of a cross-compiler from a managed memory model to one that isn’t, but hey – maybe they’ve figured it out.
As for user experience, Gruber nailed it. The Kindle application is a very good example of the problem with many cross-platform libraries…. I’ve never seen an application for the Mac written in a language / library other than Objective-C / Cocoa that felt right – and that includes applications written in the Apple approved C / Carbon libraries (which are slowly being deprecated)… If MonoTouch is that good at traversing the paradigms between .NET and Cocoa, that’s damn impressive, but I don’t believe it… The problem is, that on every other platform, interface incongruities are just the norm – expected, so cross-platform libraries are not abhorred as greatly – the users aren’t as discerning. On the Mac and it’s derivatives, consistency of behavior and user experience are tightly defined. I haven’t seen people getting up in arms about the HIG (human interface guidelines). Did you know that you can be rejected from the app store from not complying with the HIG? Now, most would say that’s just more Apple restrictive behavior, but it’s not – it’s protecting the user experience and the platform. Obviously, most didn’t see the HIG requirements as offensive though, although these new requirements are truly enforcing the same thing.
Again, languages and frameworks are not difficult for any experienced developer to pick up. For most programmers, the basics of Objective-C and Cocoa can easily be picked up in days… proficiency can be attained in a couple weeks. Once proficient, why would you choose the targeted platform over another? .NET is a bit a richer than Cocoa, but certainly not worth forsaking the native platform, the tools, the documentation, etc. provided? Flash has no real benefits for a traditionally trained programmer.
As an aside, I think Mono outside of Novell is pretty much dead anyway. I can’t imagine it will ever make major inroads outside of certain niches – folks who need to develop for Linux but have a lot of .NET experience. Many couldn’t be doing Mono right now if they weren’t also Novell partners. Microsoft’s threats have gone a long way in making corporate lawyers nervous, and it’s only through the negotiated protections offered by the Novell / Microsoft partnership that have allowed some to move forward.
As much as everyone has belabored this iPhone OS issue, the rancor towards Microsoft and their general destruction of C# and .NET has never reached similar fervor. The real reason Microsoft has stifled these technologies is often applied to Apple – an anti-competitive bent of protectionism. I don’t deny – I’m sure there is a significant element of this in Apple’s intentions as well – but at least they have a pretty good logical and conceivably more benevolent reason as well.
Even Icaza said it:
“The most important part is that Microsoft has shot the .NET ecosystem in the foot because of the constant thread of patent infringement that they have cast on the ecosystem. Unlike the Java world that is blossoming with dozens of vibrant Java virtual machine implementations, the .NET world has suffered by this meme spread by Ballmer that they would come after people that do not license patents from them.”
Of course, Google is our angel – savior from the capitalistic bastards facing us in Cupertino and Redmond. If anyone thinks Google is any more noble and less evil, keep dreaming. Why aren’t they releasing all their new apps for platforms other than Android? Why did they buy AdMobile (which they knew would be a problem with the SEC) in a move to block Apple from acquiring it? To think that Google is any different is naivetÃƒÂ© at its extreme.
In the end, I would rather the new iPhone/iPad platform be more open – or at least have more than one pathway to sale and deployment. But, the raucous rancor and fervor exhibited over the last week is nothing but hypocrisy. Bitter hypocrisy…