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Web-happy iPhone dev kit gets Jobsian silent treatment

Like Unity. Like Titanium

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Much like the San Francisco-based startup Unity, Appcelerator has asked Apple if iPhone applications coded with its dev kit violate the new Jobsian rule against the use of languages other than Objective C, C, or C++. And like Unity, Appcelerator hasn't received an answer.

"We've talked to them. They are aware of what we're doing," Appcelerator marketing head Scott Schwarzhoff tells The Reg. "But there's been no clarification."

Again like Unity, Appcelerator hasn't seen Apple reject even a single application coded with its platform since the rule went into effect this June. But it too remains in limbo. Clearly, the new rule was put in place to stop the development of iPhone applications in Adobe Flash. But Jobs has said he doesn't want any third party dev kit sitting between him and "his" developers, and he won't say whether this applies to anything other than Flash.

Titanium is an open source platform that lets you build native iPhone and iPad runtimes using traditional web development tools, including Javascript, html, and css. The idea is that longtime web devss can build for the iPhone without learning Objective C – and that they can easily use the same code on other devices. The kit provides additional APIs for building native runtimes for Windows, Linux, and Mac desktops and notebooks as well as Google Android phones.

When Apple unveiled new iOS SDK terms of service insisting that "applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine" and that "applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited," many assumed that Titanium would be outlawed. But Appcelerator always argued that its kit was above censure because it invokes Apple's XCode IDE and converts all code to Objective C before compilation.

"Effectively, what we're doing is machine-generating Objective C and then compiling just as the developer would do if they had originally written in the language," Appcelerator CEO Jeff Haynie has told us. "We're not trying to bypass everything that Apple has set up to ensure quality and performance and things like that."

As it stands, the platform is still alive and well on the iPhone. But if Apple suddenly changes its mind, the company can fall back on a growing community of Android developers.

Despite the threat of a Jobsian ban, Appcelerator has seen the number of Titanium tools built for the iPhone, iPad, and Android rise from about 500 in March to over 4,000. In March, the split was 80/20 in favor of the iPhone. But it's now 70/30, and the company believes that by the end of the year, the number of apps will reach 10,000 and the split will sift out to 60/40.

The company also boasts that several "top brands" are using the platform including eBay, NBC, MTV, Jaguar, and Budweiser. Other users include SugarCRM and Personify.

Unity's game development kit – based on the open source incarnation of Microsoft's .NET platform – works a bit differently from Titanium. It doesn't convert code to Objective C before compilation. But like Titanium, it plugs into Apple XCode, and you have the option of adding Objective C code around the Unity assembly code.

But like Appcelerator, Unity offers a version of its kit for Android. ®

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