Did Apple Blink?

Corona Debugger on iPhoneToday, surprising everyone, Apple sent out a press release saying they have changed their developer’s license agreement and now allow third-party development tools for creating iOS apps. This is big news because it clears the uncertainty for third party dev tool manufacturers. Back when Apple first announced the restrictions (in section 3.3.1), it seemed to be aimed directly at Adobe and Flash, but other companies were indirectly affected: Appcelerator, Corona SDK, and GameSalad, to name a few. Ansca Mobile, which makes the Corona SDK, supports both iPhone/iPad and Android apps so they had a fall-back plan if Apple enforced their ban. Today’s press release shows that Apple has listened to the community (and maybe the competition) and is now allowing apps developed by a larger range of tools.  (I think the “we win” photo in the Ansca Mobile’s blog sums up the industry’s reaction to the news.)

From Apple’s press release:

In particular, 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.

In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store

In the past, creating apps using Apple’s development platform (Objective-C) has not been an easy task for developers who had an idea for a great game or iPhone app. Many were Flash developers and wanted an easy way to port over their Flash games to the iPhone (and iPad). Adobe had a solution until Apple announced that apps created with third-party tools would not be allowed because they would be slow and only support a limited set of features on the device. This seemed to be a direct aim at Flash but the wording also affected other tools that used the Lua scripting language for creating apps. Lua is very popular in game developement because it’s very powerful and easy to learn (compared to Objective-C). Lua has been used to create a large number of best selling iPhone apps so it was unclear if Apple would remove them from the Apps Store. There was also no indication that any Lua-based app had been denied/rejected from the App store because it was written in Lua.

Today’s announcement seems to indicate that Apple was struggling with the issue of existing “best selling” apps that may be violating the terms of their agreement. They also may be worried about competition from Android devices that don’t have any app restrictions. Time will tell, but in the mean time I think this is great news for the consumer who will benefit from getting more great apps from developers who felt they were locked out of the iOS App store.

The other item mentioned in the press release is an App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how apps are reviewed. In the past this seemed to be “black magic” so hopefully we will get a clear picture on Apple’s review process going forward.


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