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Apple Relaxes iPhone Development Tool and Data Sharing Restrictions

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Apple announced today that they "listened to our developers" and "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." They also announced that "for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps."

Developer Tools

Back in April, Apple restricted iPhone development to only allow use of their developer tools (as Infoq reported at the time). The restriction (from section 3.3.1 of the agreement) has been completely reversed, in particular all of this added language was removed:
Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).
Section 3.3.2 of the agreement was also changed: it had banned applications that "launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs, or otherwise. This now is softened, reverting to the older rules:
3.3.2 An Application may not download or install executable code. Interpreted code may only be used in an Application if all scripts, code and interpreters are packaged in the Application and not downloaded. The only exception to the foregoing is scripts and code downloaded and run by Apple's built-in WebKit framework.
These rules would again allow developing applications using tools such as Adobe Flash. However as Stephen Shankland blogged:
Apple and Adobe didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. But one thing is clear: Adobe didn't come to its decision to scrap its Flash-to-iOS project lightly, and resurrecting it wouldn't be simple.
Given recent trends whereby Google's competing Android mobile OS is rapidly gaining market share on Apple's iOS, this change may be a forward looking move, to ensure that developers continue to develop applications for iPhone as well as Android. Certainly developer interest in cross-platform mobile development is strong as evidenced by the growth in adoption in Appcelerator, which enables development for iPhone, Android, and iPad. Mashable notes:
As of today, more than 65,000 developers have signed up to use Titanium and more than 4,000 Titanium-built applications are in the iPhone App Store or Android Market.

Data Sharing Restrictions Relaxed

In June, Apple blocked applications from sharing data with many companies, blocking applications that "collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data" unless needed for the application or to serve advertising through "an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads ." In particular it excluded Google (and its AdMob division, by extension): "... (for example, an advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent)." 

This change was triggered by Flurry Analytics reporting on unreleased devices as indicated a response by Steve Jobs at the D8 conference, in which he also said they'd allow use of analytics "solely for advertising." The language in the new agreement has been softened, considerably, now focusing only on requiring user consent and banning analytics software from receiving device data:

3.3.9 You and Your Applications may not collect user or device data without prior user consent, and then only to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application, or to serve advertising. You may not use analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party.
Notably the restrictions on Google are lifted. Google responded favorably, saying:
Unlike the previous version, these new terms ensure that Apple’s developers have the choice of a variety of advertising solutions (including Google’s and AdMob’s) to earn money and fund their apps. Apple’s new terms will keep in-app advertising on the iPhone open to many different mobile ad competitors and enable advertising solutions that operate across a wide range of platforms.

Review Guidelines Published

Finally, the updated license agreement was accompanied by the release of the Apple App Store Review Guidelines

The Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Valentino-DeVries blogged about this, noting "Apple seems to be saying that it views apps as a core part of its brand, rather than simply things that are delivered over its systems." And noting:

“We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.” “If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.” These sounds like things that Steve Jobs has said repeatedly. Just this month, he made the same reference — to “amateur hour” — when talking about what consumers don’t want to see on Internet television. ... But the comment also makes clear that Apple believes the app market is growing up. The original fart apps might have made it in, but that’s not what people want anymore.

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post noted "Much of these rules are common-sense guidelines" but he identified a number of more controversial rules, such as:

2.11 Apps that duplicate apps already in the App Store may be rejected, particularly if there are many of them. 2.12 Apps that are not very useful or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected. 3.1 Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected. ... 9.3 Audio streaming content over a cellular network may not use more than 5MB over 5 minutes. ... 15.3 "Enemies" within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.

Overall, Apple's changes to their developer programs were well received, although there were still concerns about the restrictions.

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