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Apple Relaxes Restrictions on Mobile App Development

Today, Apple announced it is relaxing the previous restrictions on the use of third-party development tools for the creation of mobile applications on iOS, the operating system that powers the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch. Specifically, sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 of the iOS Developer Program license have been modified with new language that rolls back some of the changes that were enacted earlier this year.

The first two sections included restrictions on the use of development tools that allowed developers to code in languages familiar to them, like Adobe Flash, then port those applications to the iOS platform. Section 3.3.9 also placed restrictions on the use of third-party software within an app whose purpose was to collect and analyze app usage data.

According to the Apple press release, these decisions were made because the company “listened to our developers” and has “taken much of their feedback to heart.”

Most of the complaints at the time of the initial changes revolved around Apple’s decision to ban the use of Adobe’s “Packager for iPhone,” a tool that allowed Flash developers to leverage their existing skills in order to produce iPhone applications. The announcement led to escalated tensions between the two companies, and shortly thereafter Apple exec CEO Steve Jobs posted a lengthy piece on Apple.com that explained all the reasons why his company did not want Flash technology on any of its mobile devices, whether as a plugin or as an app-creation tool.

However, today’s news doesn’t just affect Adobe Flash developers, although they were the most vocal about the prior ban – it could also permit the use of other mobile development technologies including Sun’s Java or Microsoft’s Silverlight/Mono, notes Apple-watching blog, AppleInsider.

They also point out that the decision, in part, may not be simply because Apple “listened to feedback” but because of recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations that had the regulatory body looking into the complaint regarding the Flash ban, among other things.

Meanwhile, as the language in the Apple Developer continued to change on an ongoing basis, developers interested in building mobile applications for iOS had to remain constantly vigilant that they were not using any technology that could later come under fire from Apple.

When Apple then updated the section banning the use of some third-party analytics services, the move was called out as permitting an unfair competitive advantage for Apple’s own iAds advertising platform and analytics service over competitors’ services, like Flurry, Distimo and most notably, Google’s AdMob, all of which were popular among mobile app developers for monitoring usage numbers and other details about how consumers were interacting with the mobile apps.

Apple says it will also publish its App Store Review Guidelines online in an effort to be more transparent with the community. This decision is likely due to the constant media attention given to each and every mobile application that Apple bars from entry into its App Store, removes from the store, or leaves in limbo, awaiting approval for months on end.

The full text of the Apple Press Release is below:

The App Store? has revolutionized the way mobile applications are developed and distributed. With over 250,000 apps and 6.5 billion downloads, the App Store has become the world’s largest mobile application platform and App Store developers have earned over one billion dollars from the sales of their apps.

We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. 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.

The App Store is perhaps the most important milestone in the history of mobile software. Working together with our developers, we will continue to surprise and delight our users with innovative mobile apps.

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