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Unity – iPhone code swap approved by Jobs (for now)

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Unity is not Adobe

This does separate Unity from the Adobe iPhone Packager, which bypasses Apple's XCode entirely. "The Packager," Adobe once told us, "allows a Flash developer to compile the ActionScript code down to native iPhone/iPad machine code, in the form of an .ipa file, which is the file that you submit to Apple for approval & inclusion on the App Store." If Jobs is worried that third-party dev platforms won't adopt his APIs as fast as he would like, Unity would seem to offer a means of alleviating that fear.

"The key thing for Apple is they want high-quality content that takes advantage of their features," says Unity chief creative officer Nicholas Francis, another company co-founder. "It's very important to them that developers have access to [their latest APIs]...if you want to use the latest APIs, we make that simple to do."

What's more, the Unity platform benefits from the simple fact that it's not Adobe Flash. Judging from Steve Jobs open letter on Flash, it would seem that his SDK change was an effort to ban Adobe in particular. The letter lists a multitude of Adobe sins, the release of the iPhone Packager being just one.

But Apple has yet to grant Unity its official approval, and one has to wonder if the ban could occur at any time. "It has certainly introduced some FUD, and that's annoying," Helgason says. "But Unity games are selling in the App Store...and I think that Apple is being honest when they say 'We're still thinking.'"

"I think that Apple is being honest when they say 'We're still thinking.'" – Unity

If the ban does come down, Unity has a plan B, which would mean switching all development to C++ — i.e., no .NET code whatsoever. "We haven't committed to actually doing this," he said, "but we will if we have to. We're not going to leave our customers behind."

Whatever Apple decides, Unity is more than just an iPhone development platform. It was originally created to build applications for mass market desktops and the web. And it builds for gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Outfits such as BigPoint are using the platform to build browser-based massively multiplayer online games, and game giant Electronic Arts built its web title Tiger Woods Online with Unity.

What's more, the company is on the verge of officially releasing a version for Google Android. Unity for Android is currently in beta, and one title built with the platform has already turned up in the Android Marketplace.

Meanwhile, Google has tapped Helgason and company to help bootstrap that new-age web platform known as Native Client, the Chrome and Chrome OS technology that runs native code inside the browser. At its annual developer conference this May, Mountain View told the world that Unity had developed a version of its game-playing browser plug-in based on Native Client, and it has already demoed a Native Client title from another high-profile customer, LEGO.

Say what you will about Google. It isn't likely to blacklist applications simply because they were written with tools it doesn't approve of. ®

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