updated 09:30 am EDT, Thu September 9, 2010
Apple opens up iOS limits following Adobe scrutiny
Apple today made a rare about-face in policy today and reversed its ban on third-party development tools for iOS 4. The company said it was now "relaxing all restrictions" on what was allowed and would let developers write iPad and iPhone apps with Adobe's Flash CS5 or other kits beyond Xcode. The only limit is that the finished apps can't download any code of their own, it said.
"This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need," Apple said.
Along with the decision to loosen the controls on software, the company also said it has published the App Store's Review Guidelines that had previously been kept private. "We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store," the company explained.
Both changes show a significant change of heart at Apple, whose chief Steve Jobs insisted on the earlier ban on outside tools as necessary to preserve quality by preventing lowest common denominator apps or the same delays that plagued the transition to Mac OS X and Intel-native code. Critics, including Adobe, had rejected the argument as it dictated "how you create" apps and conveniently made it difficult to write an app for another platform. Until now, a developer had to either buy separate tools for iOS 4 and every other platform or else make a choice of one over the other, which could be prohibitively expensive for an independent developer. It also discouraged the creation of tablet magazines and other formats that needed impromptu workarounds to meet Apple's new rules.
Publishing guidelines should also reduce problems with one of the largest complaints of iOS app development, consistency. With many rules kept secret, developers often weren't aware of subtler points that could see an app rejected. They also couldn't mount a defense against an app rejection since they didn't know whether Apple might be contradicting its own rules.
Some of Apple's decision today may stem from an FTC investigation into the policies. Instigated by Adobe, they alleged that Apple might be violating antitrust laws by discouraging development for competitors.