Apple U-turns on developer restrictions

Apple has backtracked on its third-party restrictions for app development as developers abandon it for the open source alternative, Google’s Android.

In a surprise announcement today Apple made a massive U-turn on earlier decisions that forced developers to employ an extremely limited number of software languages and prevented them from using third-party development tools.

With Android taking the world by storm and leaving Apple worried about being bumped into second place, it has decided to open up a little and beg developers to come back.

“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,” Apple said in a statement. “This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.”

It also published its guidelines, which were previously kept under wraps, saying that this was a move to make the company “more transparent” and help developers create better apps. However, a developer account is still required to access the guidelines.

The move is a surprise and one that contradicts earlier statements from Apple. Previously it restricted developers to using C, C++, and Objective C, banning third-party development tools like Adobe’s Flash to iPhone compiler and dozens of others. A lot of developers were fans of these as it gave them more freedom in how to design and code new applications.

Now developers should be able to use third-party tools again, revealing how unsuccessful the blanket ban really was.

Today’s move is a complete contradiction of Steve Jobs’ sentiments regarding third-party tools, expressed in his lengthy diatribe against Adobe’s Flash: “We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform.”

Now Apple is prepared to let that third-party layer come between the platform and developer once again.

So, why the change of heart? More than likely it’s because developers didn’t like being told how to develop, stifling their creativity and freedom. Research found that developers were flocking to Android, some because it was a new platform, others because it was open enough to allow more development choices.