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Apple Loosens Grip on Developers

I don’t usually spend a lot of time on Apple announcements, because we're sort of enterprise-focused around here. But I can hardly ignore the Cool Cats in Cupertino today. The amount of email I received from companies commenting on Apple's decision to relax its restrictions on cross-platform compilers -- which, if I've got this right, maybe even allow Flash apps to run on the iPhone -- reminds me that, even in the enterprise, the compute platform is on the move.

In case you missed the announcement, Apple says it will no longer bar developers from using rival programming tools to build apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The statement read, in part:

…We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. 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.

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….

When Apple released an update of its iPhone developer program license in April, plenty of developers were PO'd about its ban on private APIs and requirement that apps be written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript, as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine.

Needless to say, none of the messages crowding my inbox on this decision were negative. A note from Appcelerator, a Mountain View, CA-based maker of an open source application development platform called Titanium, was typical: "Appcelerator believes this move provides a strong endorsement for developer innovation, reinforces Apple’s long-term platform advantage, and benefits consumers as the ultimate arbiters of quality in the App Store."

You can almost hear the sigh of relief.

And Omar Hamoui, former CEO of AdMob and current VP of Google's product management group, posted what amounted to a cheer on the company blog: "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…," wrote. Hamoui ought to be cheering. Google spent $750 million on its AdMob acquisition.

It's potentially big news for Adobe, which has been squabbling with Apple over Steve Jobs' adamantine antipathy for Flash. But the company was almost solemn in this tweet on the news: "We are encouraged to see Apple lift restrictions on its licensing terms, giving developers freedom to choose the tools they use."

Apple's decision is particularly good news for the AdMob crowd (no pun intended), but it's also good news for burgeoning population of developers building mobile apps for consumers -- a market that history shows us is a harbinger of things to come for the enterprise. And let's face it: with rumors swirling around that the FTC might be looking at Apple for anti-competitive practices that restrict rivals in the mobile-ad market in the wake of its acquisition of Quattro Wireless, it might have been Cupertino's only move.

Posted by John K. Waters on September 9, 2010