Apple Cuts iOS Mobile App Developers Some Slack

Apple has changed its tune when it comes to restrictions it originally placed on developers writing applications for its iOS mobile operating system. Now, the company will allow developers to use third-party tools to create new apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

In a statement posted on the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) website Thursday, company officials said "we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code."

"This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need," it added.

In addition, Apple also said it will publish the rules and guidelines it uses to approve or deny new application submissions to its App Store, giving developers the transparency they've been clamoring for since the first iPhone was released in November 2007.

Maintaining a healthy mobile developer ecosystem has become big business for Apple: The App Store now has more than 250,000 applications for sale or free download and has eclipsed the 6.5 billion-download threshold.

Industry researcher Gartner currently projects annual mobile application download sales of almost $30 billion by 2013, up from $4.2 billion in 2009 and an expected $6.2 billion this year.

"As smartphones grow in popularity and application stores become the focus for several players in the value chain, more consumers will experiment with application downloads," Gartner analyst Stephanie Baghdassarian wrote in the report.

Despite the popularity of the App Store, however, Apple's rules for admitting apps into the marketplace have occasionally rubbed some developers the wrong way, prompting their criticism of its approval process as being secretive and capricious. More recently, some have also blasted Apple's tough stance on acceptable development tools. Along with an update to its software development kit (SDK) in April, Apple modified the SDK's license rules, prohibiting developers from using unapproved APIs, languages and compilers. In May, reports indicated that U.S. antitrust authorities could begin looking into Apple's SDK restrictions.

Now, however, it appears that Apple is taking a step back on both issues.

"We are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps," Apple said in its statement. "We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store."

Apple said it was specifically changing sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 of its iOS Developer Program license as further proof that it has "taken much of [developers'] feedback to heart."

In July, Apple released the beta version of iOS 4.1 to developers and then last week gave developers a sneak peek at what it has in store for iOS 4.2 when it unveiled its new line of iPods, the latest version of iTunes and its new-look Apple TV device.

While Apple officials didn't cite growing competition, particularly from Google's Android mobile OS and its Marketplace apps store, several reports from leading IT research firms including Gartner and IDC predict surging demand and sales growth for Android-based smartphones and applications.

"The App Store is perhaps the most important milestone in the history of mobile software," Apple said. "Working together with our developers, we will continue to surprise and delight our users with innovative mobile apps."

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


developers, iPhone, Apple, mobile apps, IOS