Apple blinks on dev tool restrictions

Relaxed restrictions on cross-platform compilers may allow Flash apps on iPhone

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Valdes added that pressure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may have played a part in Apple's reversal. "There were possible regulatory aspects to this," Valdes maintained.

In May, reports surfaced that the FTC and DOJ were mulling a possible antitrust investigation of Apple after Adobe supposedly complained about the restrictive license. Adobe, the FTC and DOJ all declined comment at the time.

Makers of cross-platform compilers applauded Apple's decision today.

"Obviously this is great news, not just for us, but for everyone: developers, consumers and Apple itself," said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Mountain View, Calif.-based Appcelerator, which sells a cross-platform compiler that lets Web developers recompile JavaScript and HTML applications into native iPhone code.

"It's a net-net win for everybody," Schwarzhoff added.

"We applaud this move by Apple," Nicholas Francis, co-founder and chief creative officer at Unity Technologies, which makes another cross-platform compiler that is widely used by iOS developers, said in an e-mail to Computerworld.

Schwarzhoff implicitly agreed with Gartner's Valdes that competition had a hand in Apple's 180-degree turn. "Consumers are putting their money in the marketplace, and making choices based on that," he said. "Apple's just responding to where those choices are being made."

Also today, Apple said it would publish its review guidelines for App Store submissions, a first. "We are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps," the company said. "We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store."

"Apple saw that it was in its best interest to provide as much transparency as possible," said Schwarzhoff. "This was intentional, I think, and not a coincidence. It gives a one-two punch."

Developers have been calling on Apple to be more forthcoming about its App Store policies since the company launched its authorized application mart in 2008. Frustrated developers have often gone public when their software languished in the review process, or was rejected for reasons they didn't understand.

"Now, developers can use the tools they want, and know that their apps will be accepted," Schwarzhoff said.

In the interval between April's lockdown decision and today, Apple continued to approve applications built with Appcelerator's and Unity's tools, even while it wouldn't clarify its position. "We were in contact with Apple over the last four months, but they did not provide any clarification until today," said Schwarzhoff. "This will reinforce innovation from developers on iOS."

Adobe did not respond to questions whether Apple's change meant Adobe might resurrect Packager, its cross-platform compiler.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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