Apple Eases App Development Rules, Adobe Surges

Apple has opened up the App Store review process, dropping its harsh restrictions on the tools developers are allowed to use and at the same time actually publishing the App Store Review Guidelines — a previously secret set of rules that governed whether or not your app would be approved.

Apple did not specifically mention Adobe — though investors drove up shares of the company up 12 percent on the news — but the changes seem to mean that you can use Flash to develop your apps, and then compile them to work on the iPhone and iPad with a tool called Adobe Packager. This could be boon to publishers, including Condé Nast, owner of Wired, which use Adobe’s Creative Suite to make print magazines and would now be able to easily convert them into digital version instead of re-creating them from scratch in the only handful of coding languages Apple had allowed.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean Flash is coming to iOS as a plugin: You still won’t be able to view Flash content on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. This change in Apple’s policy just means developers can use third-party tools such as Flash to create apps sold through the App Store.

And transparent guidelines will go a long way to making iOS a better place for developers. Previously, you wouldn’t know if you had broken a rule until your app was rejected. And if your app had taken months and months and tens of thousands of dollars to develop then you were pretty much screwed.

This uncertainty has kept a lot of professional and talented developers out of the store and caused the rise of quick-to-write fart applications. In fact, the point I have heard spoken over and over is that the developers don’t mind what the rules are, as long as they know about them.

The second part of Apple’s relaxation of restrictions is even less expected. Here’s the relevant point from the press release:

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.

This is a direct reversal of Apple’s previous ban on third-party development-tools. Why? Games. Many games use non-Apple, non-iOS code to make them work: the Unreal Engine behind the stunning Epic Citadel shown off at last weeks’ Apple event, for example, would fall foul of Apple’s previous rules. The “do not download any code” part of this is important. Apple will let you use non-iOS runtimes within your apps as long as it can inspect them first. Anything downloaded after installation which bring out the ban-hammer.

It’s a completely unexpected reversal, and one which will eventually lead to much more complex and refined apps in the iTunes Store. And everyone should be pleased about that.

Statement by Apple on App Store Review Guidelines [Apple]

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