Not sure why Apple hasn’t permitted your awesome iPad app in the App
Store? Worried about developing an iPhone app using anything but
Objective-C?

Rejoice. Yesterday Apple made a major, unexpected announcement: it’s
going to be providing official guidelines “to help developers understand
how we review submitted apps
” and it’s also easing restrictions on the
tools developers can employ when developing for the iPhone/iPad.

Official, public guidelines are long overdue. There’s little reason for Apple to keep the guidelines it uses to determine whether an app makes it into the App Store behind a shroud of secrecy. It only makes developers angry, and occasionally leads to epic whining when somebody claims that there’s a conspiracy behind the rejection of YAFA (yet another fart app).

However important developer guidelines are, however, they weren’t the most important thing Apple announced. The company also made a significant change to rules that, in theory, have limited the ability of developers to use cross-platform development tools to build their iPhone apps:

…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.

While this was news to the ears of companies that make cross-platform mobile development tools, the company with the most to gain from Apple’s change of heart is Adobe, which had basically shuttered its Flash Packager for iPhone feature in Flash Professional CS5 when Apple implemented the restrictions many believed were targeted specifically at Adobe’s tool.

Not surprisingly, Adobe is very happy. Calling Apple’s announcement “great news for developers“, Adobe announced that Packager for iPhone is being brought back from the dead:

Apple’s announcement today that it has lifted restrictions on its third-party developer guidelines has direct implications for Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, a feature in the Flash Professional CS5 authoring tool. This feature was created to enable Flash developers to quickly and easily deliver applications for iOS devices. The feature is available for developers to use today in Flash Professional CS5, and we will now resume development work on this feature for future releases.

While Apple hasn’t indicated why it decided to reverse course, it’s quite possible that it has something to do with the FTC’s ongoing investigation of the company and its practices. Given the App Store’s dominant position in the mobile market and the zealousness with which government regulators are hunting for ‘anti-competitive’ behavior these days, Apple may have decided that the lesser of two evils was to avoid a battle it couldn’t win, even if it was in the right.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how these announcements affect the iPhone/iPad developer ecosystem and the App Store. On the surface, the impact may be hard to spot, but by removing a hefty dose of uncertainty developers have faced up until now, the ecosystem will likely be better off.

Photo credit: kyz via Flickr.