Apple Eases iOS Dev Clampdown as Android Gains Ground
Apple says it's going to ease the restrictions it's placed on developers who want to create software for its iOS platform. The company angered some app makers last summer when it placed stern restrictions on the kinds of tools developers could use if they wanted to build for iOS. Furthermore, Apple says it's making public the guidelines it uses when reviewing the apps developers submit.
Apple on Thursday said it will relax some of the restrictions it places on application developers who create tools for its iOS mobile operating system. The company also announced it's publishing review guidelines for its App Store.
The moves follow months of unrest among mobile app developers, many of whom have chafed at Apple's restrictions on tools and were angered by what appeared to be a haphazard and at times arbitrary process for approving apps submitted to the iTunes App Store.
Perhaps the growing popularity of Android as a mobile platform also has something to do with Apple's change of heart.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Apple's New Leaf
"We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart," read the Apple statement announcing the revisions. "Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year."
Apple's 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 security, Cupertino said.
Further, Apple is going to publish guidelines to its App Store review process "to help developers understand how we review submitted apps," the statement reads.
Some Details About the iOS License
Apple announced its new iPhone developer agreement in April, just before releasing the iOS 4 software development kit.
Section 3.3.1 banned the use or call of any private application programming interfaces (APIs); required apps to use only documented APIs; and, in effect, banned cross-compilers, specifically the use of Adobe's Flash-to-iPhone compiler in Flash Professional CS5.
In April, Apple CEO Steve Jobs also penned a screed criticizing Adobe, which was published on his company's website. The open letter criticized Adobe's Flash products as proprietary and criticized Adobe as being unreliable. Jobs also said Flash apps were insecure and suck up battery life on mobile devices, among other things.
Apple also formed a triumvirate with Google and Microsoft to promote HTML5 as the successor to Flash on the Web.
Section 3.3.9 limited the analytics information developers and third party ad networks could collect from iOS. Getting that information has become especially important now that Apple's iAd mobile advertising platform appears to be taking off.
The changes to Section 3.3.9 may stave off a possible probe by either the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into complaints from AdMob, an analytic firm Google purchased earlier, that it was being shut out of iOS and couldn't collect statistics about ads on that operating system.
"Apple cannot limit competition within iOS for iAd by preventing access for developers to competing mobile networks," Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld. "Doing so draws attention from government regulators and would limit revenue generation for free mobile applications."
Resistance Is Not Futile
The iOS license restrictions drew protests from appdevs and led Adobe to file a complaint with the FTC. That body and the DoJ have reportedly begun considering launching a probe of Apple.
The restrictions also forced Jonathan "Wolf" Rentzsch to cancel his C4 app dev conference in Chicago, saying Section 3.3.1 had "broken my spirit." Rentzsch, who's president of Bit Maki, which developed the Textcast app for Mac OS X Leopard, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Meanwhile, Adobe began lining up partners who support Flash.
Whether changes to Section 3.3.1 mean that apps developed using Flash can now run on iOS is an issue that has yet to be resolved. However, "we are encouraged to see Apple lifting its restrictions on its licensing terms, giving developers the freedom to choose what tools they use to develop applications for Apple devices," Adobe Senior PR Manager Stefan Offermann told MacNewsWorld. [*Editor's note - Sept. 9, 2010]
App Store Shenanigans
While Adobe and Apple locked horns over Flash, app devs' complaints about the iTunes App Store review process began increasing. Many app devs pointed out that they had to wait an inordinately long time for approval and that the process seemed haphazard.
Apple several times turned down apps that it later accepted, and accepted some apps it later took out of the store.
Then in August, Wired broke the news that Phillip Shoemaker, Apple's director of App Store, who's in charge of approving and rejecting apps submitted to the store, was selling his own apps in the store, some of which were scatological in nature.
It's not yet clear whether these issues have led Apple to publish its guidelines to the App Store review process.
Android Does All Right
Android is rapidly gaining ground on iPhone. In fact, the latest market forecast by IDC predicts that by 2014, Android will overtake the iOS platform to become the second largest mobile operating system, with about 25 percent of market share, up from just over 16 percent now. Meanwhile, iOS's market share will fall from 14.7 percent now to 10.9 percent in 2014.
"Connect the dots and you can see how Android is really busting loose," Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst at IDC, told MacNewsWorld. "Motorola sold 2.7 million Android smartphones last quarter; HTC sold 5.4 million smartphones in the same period and the majority are probably Android-based. Samsung has shipped 1 million Galaxy S Android devices into the United States. What does that tell you?"
Further, Dell is getting into the mix, and Samsung and LG are going to focus more on Android devices, Llamas said. Motorola expects to sell 12-14 million Android smartphones worldwide this year, he added.
More importantly to Apple, for which overseas sales already outweigh sales in the U.S., Android devices are gaining ground in developing regions, Llamas pointed out.
The Wayward Wind
Could Android's market gains have been the catalyst that led Cupertino to change its mind?
Apple's not saying; it did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
However, analysts believe Android's rapid growth may have had some impact on Apple's decision.
"When there's an increasingly viable alternative for an iPhone or iOS developer in the wings, Apple will want to do things that make its platform attractive," Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry, told MacNewsWorld. "As Apple has more competition from Android, it's going to think a little bit harder about the next thing it has to do to attract developers to iOS," he added.
Developers may continue migrating toward Android anyway.
"As Android devices catch up to the iPhone and, more importantly, the iPad, developer migration to Android is inevitable," the 451 Group's Hazelton pointed out.
*ECT News Network editor's note - Sept. 9, 2010: In our original publication of this article, the quote "We are encouraged to see Apple lifting its restrictions on its licensing terms, giving developers the freedom to choose what tools they use to develop applications for Apple devices" was attributed to an Adobe statement provided by Craig Corica of A&R Edelman, the company's PR firm.