It seems Apple has had a change of heart regarding the iTunes App store policies, the transparency of their management, and most surprisingly, Flash based software on the iOS platform. In a statement published on Apple’s website, the iPhone manufacturer that’s notorious for maintaining a very closed app marketplace and often enigmatic criteria for acceptance or rejection of apps, announced new, more relaxed restrictions on development, and even published a “living document” detailing the constraints that factor into Apple’s rigorous evaluation process.
Among other modifications to the Developer Program license, Apple removed part of section 3.3.1 which restricted developers to the programming languages therein specified (C, C++ and Objective C), and prohibited the use of compatibility layers—including (but not limited to)—Adobe’s Flash compiler. For those of us who aren’t programming-savvy, this adjustment means that Apple will now permit developers to create ‘Flash-based Apps;’ while developers will not have direct permission to embed Flash software within apps, the content can be reformatted using a tool Adobe has resumed work on, called Flash Professional CS5. Of course, iPhone users still won’t be able to access Flash content through their mobile browsers, but really, you didn’t think Apple would be that accommodating, did you?
While Adobe, Google, and the vast majority of iOS app developers are celebrating this announcement and praising Apple for rethinking their approach to managing the App store, the statement comes somewhat out of the blue—according to their public statement, Apple claims the shift was brought about by the surplus of developer feedback requesting less restrictions and more open development guidelines.
But some speculation suggests that the change may not have come purely of Apple’s own volition—Adobe had, after all, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission citing Apple’s restrictive policies as a measure intended to debilitate competitors. With rumors abound that U.S and European regulators were planning to carry out an extensive investigation of the App Store policies, it’s easy to see how Apple might have felt pressured to relent.
Furthermore, over the last month, hardly a day has passed without a prominent headline announcing Android’s platform growing 400%, capturing global OS market share, and otherwise gaining huge strides on competitors Apple and BlackBerry. It’s not hard to believe Apple might have relaxed their policies in order to keep up with the rapidly expanding Android app marketplace, as Google’s mobile enterprise continues to dominate.
But regardless of Apple’s reasons for modifying the Developer Program license, it’s good news for developers, mobile marketers, and iOS users alike. For businesses and corporations that want to hire App developers, the contracting process will be smoother: the new App Store Review Guidelines should eliminate much of the guess work surrounding App Store submissions, making it easier for developers to ensure acceptance and provide more accurate estimates regarding the budget and timeline for building an app.
For many, however, the most important change has to do with the suspension of previous policies that prohibited the development of Flash based apps. With the new provisions, Flash should no longer be seen as an impediment to website mobilization; the new policies will enable those interested in preserving a ‘Flash-y’ site to do so using Adobe’s Flash Professional CS5. Meanwhile, for anyone that wants a basic mobile website (instead of, or in addition to an iOS App) the current method of averting the Flash crisis will continue to be an option.
While Apple’s no Android, these adjustments represent a pretty big shift towards a more open mobile web. Whatever the cause for the change of heart, the new provisions will make for a better App experience for users, developers and mobile marketers by enabling all parties to do more. With more open guidelines for app development, we’re excited to take part in improving the marketplace and to see innovation flourish on iOS once again.