Apple’s Concessions on 3rd Party Tools, Publishing its Approval Policy

Arguably the biggest story last week was Apple making concessions to complaints about its draconian and arbitrary restrictions over how development may be done and what kind of apps are suitable for its mobile platform. Its ban on 3rd party tools has not only locked out Adobe with whom the Cupertino company has traded barbs over the Flash multimedia platform but also barred tools like the educational programming environment, Scratch.

Chris Foreman at Ars Technica has details both on the relaxation of these restrictions and Apple’s sharing of its approval criteria. This is hardly an all out win and I suspect Foreman is right that an FTC investigation has more to do with the change than any competitive pressure (yet) from the more open Android platform from Google.

The revised 3rd party clause still forbids apps from downloading code once installed. This gives considerable weight to the theory that the restriction is intended to keep 3rd parties from delivering their own competitive application stores. It would seem to me that if the FTC reads the changes that way Apple may still end up in hot water for effectively exercising monopoly power over the popular and lucrative but singular legitimate distribution channel. Users can still jailbreak their iPhones and iPads to use 3rd part app stores. The recent DMCA exemptions legalize this route though the distribution of tools to accomplish jail breaking is still problematic.

This reminds me of Danny O’Brien’s thoughts when the initial launch of the iPad prompted highly polarized reactions. Apple has changed its stance on open versus closed in the past and this is evidence that they will continue to shift through this spectrum. However, I am still concerned at the arbitrary reasoning, even defying market pressure, for Apple to move one way or the other so stand by my own personal choice to spend my gadget mad money from here on out on open systems.

Apple relaxes restrictions on iOS app code, iAd analytics, Ars Technica

Apple Developer Agreement Worsens

Rob Beschizza at Boing Boing points to a post by John Gruber where he noticed in advance of the iPhone OS 4.0 announcement, Apple changed the developer agreement to bar third party development tools. Gruber prevaricates on whether this move is largely about Adobe or not.

I think it is irrelevant as it provides another data point which establishes a trend of shabby treatment of developers by Apple. Beschizza in his commentary suggests it may be in service of Apple’s vaulted “experience” but I reject that contention. I would say that their irritating approval process is enough to ensure user experience regardless of the internals or provenance of an application. Plus, if a cross compiled application just isn’t as peppy as a first class competitor, shouldn’t the market decided whether good enough is less preferable to a presumably “superior” app that takes full advantage of the native capabilities of iPhones, iPads and iPods?

They are furthering an agenda of lock in. If a shop wishes to diversify their offerings by also targeting other platforms, they have just increased the price of doing so. Maybe that has some nebulous advantage to the user but it seems like a piss poor way to enable a compelling market for third parties. Of course, vendors could always just “use the web”, Gruber’s stock response to anyone criticizing Apple’s closed eco-system, as if that is in any way comparable to even cross compiled native applications.