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To avoid Flash lock-in, Apple looks at SproutCore

iPhone maker is using the relatively unknown open-source JavaScript framework, in part because "no one likes to download plug-ins before they can use your software."

Apple, continuing its reliance on open-source technologies, is using an open-source project called SproutCore to provide rich Internet applications like its new MobileMe service.

The idea is to use to keep Apple from being "locked into the browser plug-ins particular standard."

What is SproutCore? From the SproutCore Web site:

SproutCore is a framework for building applications in JavaScript with remarkably little amounts of code. It can help you build full "thick" client applications in the Web browser that can create and modify data, often completely independent of your Web server, communicating with your server via Ajax only when they need to save or load data.

SproutCore gives Apple a way to enrich its Web experience without locking itself into any other vendor's technology, as the SproutCore site notes:

Nobody likes using software running in a sandbox, and no one likes to download plug-ins before they can use your software. If you want to create an application on the Web that is fast, fluid, and native, and usable by everyone, use the only technologies that come built right into every browser: HTML and JavaScript. SproutCore makes it easy to do just that.

Apple has had serious spats with Adobe Systems over Flash, particularly on the iPhone. It will be interesting to see if this gamble on a relatively unknown open-source JavaScript framework will pay off--or whether it would have been easier to just buy into Flash. Apple has the developer clout to make it pay off, but for most developers, Flash or Silverlight are likely going to be better options.

Undergirding the move is the irony of Apple looking for ways to reduce proprietary lock-in...even while it locks its own customers into its platform. But that's another post.