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Apple Loosens App Tools Restrictions, Publicizes App Store Review Guidelines

Apple Loosens App Tools Restrictions, Publicizes App Store Review Guidelines

September 9, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

In what's sure to come as long-awaited news to many iOS developers, Apple has quietly loosened restrictions on third-party development tools like Adobe's ActionScript in its apps, declaring it'll permit all tools "as long as the resulting apps do not download any code."

And in a further address of key developer complaints about its platform, Apple has also agreed to publicize its App Store Review guidelines for the first time.

"We are continually trying to make the App Store even better," the company said in a statement. "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."

Since so many potential iPhone games rely on Flash or Unity, ongoing conflicts between Apple and parties like Flash creator Adobe have been particularly germane to game developers -- many of whom have long wanted to release browser games as iPhone and iPad apps, or develop multiplatform web and mobile titles.

The company says today that allowing tools that don't require code downloads "should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need." However, the policy change notably does not allow users of iPhone, iPod and iPad to use the Flash plugin to play a game or browse the web.

Adobe Labs offers the Adobe AIR Packager for iPhone, which would allow ActionScript 3 projects (also the scripting engine behind Flash) to run as native apps on the device's OS. But an update to Apple's iPhone SDK licensing agreement disallowed games developed using Adobe's tools to appear on Apple's App Store. Following the implementation of the restriction, Adobe had ceased further development of the AIR Packager for iPhone.

Citing security concerns and other issues, Apple has instead preferred to adopt other open standards like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Adobe had contended that Apple was aiming to create a "closed system", an end it saw as destructive to the competitive market; as recently as May of this year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had been investigating whether the ban on Flash was indeed anti-competitive. Apple did not say whether or not its decision today had any relationship to the FTC investigation.

Alongside this news comes the company's decision to address another long-standing developer issue with the process of publishing on Apple's platforms: "In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps," the statement continues.

"We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store," Apple adds.

As of today, Apple's App Store plays host to over 250,000 apps, which have together seen 6.5 billion downloads, according to the company. Although that number doesn't break out free from paid apps, the company says App Store developers have earned over one billion dollars collectively from App Store sales.

[UPDATE: More details added.]

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