Apple’s decision to relax its rules on tools for developing apps for iOS has been widely praised, along with the move to publish the App Store guidelines.
But why exactly has the company decided to do an about face all of a sudden? Why has the ground shifted so much, in such a short space of time, that it’s backtracked on what once seemed such an intransigent position?
Apple says it’s simple. Its statement last week claimed: “We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart.”
That’s refreshing, but the feedback was more like collective disgust at being forced to work within such strict parameters, which prevented the use of third-party software in creating new apps for iOS.
And then there’s the undeniable fear about Android’s growing influence. There is plenty of debate to be had about the merits of the Android Market in comparison to the App Store.
However, there’s no denying that Google’s OS’s growth has been astonishing and that Apple clearly doesn’t want to lose a string of its best developers to what it sees as its biggest rival.
The restrictive approach was clearly hampering some devs and Apple has been wise to open up to stave off the kind of mass exodus that could really hamper iOS’s future development. Without the App Store, iOS is nowhere near as alluring.
But there’s no escaping the fact that while Apple is positioning this as a ceding of power to its devs, what it actually is an admission that being so harsh on developers just wasn’t working.
The competition for developers’ skills is fierce and is only going to intensify as apps become even more widespread and newer versions of mobile operating systems proliferate.
Apple is, of course, maintaining a modicum of control over what can and cannot make it onto the App Store. That does help to ensure quality. But by relenting to developer pressure, it can also cleverly push apps that would have otherwise not appeared.
There’s grudging acceptance that Flash-based apps are inevitable and that some sort of agreement between Adobe and Apple will have to be reached. Likewise, Google’s voice applications could land, giving the iPhone a more open source flavour.
Yes, the changes to the App Store are welcome. But they’re also an admission that Android and its open source approach is winning the battle. Apple won’t admit it, but Google is leading the line here and it is having to follow.