Apple relaxes development tool restrictions for iOS: Flash is back
Apple has caused a lot of confusion for iPhone app developers by banning them from creating apps using any compiler not created by Apple, but then approving apps that break this rule – even going so far as to promote them in the App Store. Finally it looks like Apple has seen the light (and presumably the benefits) and announced that it has relaxed restrictions on its iOS developer license, opening the doors to native Flash and AdMob applications – as long as the resulting apps do not download any code.
Good news for developers
Changes made to section 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 of the license relax and clarify restrictions on application programming interfaces and external executable code. This means that developers will be able to use compilers such as Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, which allows developers to easily convert Flash programs for Apple’s devices – however, browser-based Flash is still unsupported. After the announcement Adobe released a statement of its own saying the company would now resume development work on the Packager for iPhone feature for future releases of its Flash Professional CS5 authoring tool after it was forced to discontinue development of it in April. In an added bonus for Adobe, the company’s shares were up in early trading on Wall Street following the Apple announcement.
Advertisers smiling too
In addition to the changes to sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.2, Apple also announced changes to section 3.3.9, which concerns the collection and disclosure of user information to third parties, to open up this information to third-party advertisers such as Google’s AdMob. Google was also understandably happy with this development with Google’s vice president of product management, Omar Hamoui writing, “this is great news for everyone in the mobile community, as we believe that a competitive environment is the best way to drive innovation and growth in mobile advertising.”
“The new terms provide immediate clarification about the status of mobile advertising on the iPhone and will benefit users, developers, and advertisers. Users will benefit from more free, or low cost, apps that can now more readily be supported by advertising. Developers will be able to choose from a variety of competitive advertising options and pick the solution that works best for them, to boost their revenues. Advertisers will have access to simple and effective advertising solutions that can reach users across a wide range of devices,” Hamoui added.
Apple feels the pressure
Besides the almost universal derision of the Apple policies, one thing that may have helped tip Apple over the edge could have been the appearance of Epic Citadel in the App Store. This is essentially a tech demo for the Unreal Engine 3 on iOS devices that generated a lot of buzz for Apple and had Apple fanboys loudly dancing on the grave of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
At that stage it must have become clear to Apple that to attract the kind of games that people want to see from the developers they love it was going to have to embrace the cross-platform development tools that these games are built with. After all, could you imagine if Sony or Microsoft told developers they couldn’t use cross-platform development tools on the PS3 or Xbox 360?
The increasing popularity of the far more open Android platform may have given Apple food for thought as well. Although the number of apps in the Android Marketplace still pales in comparison to the number of apps in Apple’s App Store, the development of Android apps is accelerating quickly and the number of Android apps is expected to overtake iOS apps in the next four or five years.