Truce in Apple/Flash feud called with open app approval process

a synopsis of the apple flash feud

Apple effectively ended its feud with Flash when it announced a transparent app approval process that allows cross-platform development tools. Image: CC Geek & Poke/Flickr

The Apple/Flash feud that began last spring appears to have run its course. Apple shocked the app developer world Thursday when it announced that the company is relaxing controversial restrictions on the tools developers are allowed to use to create iPhone and iPad apps. Apple added an aftershock to its announcement, saying that it would make its mysterious app approval guidelines public. The Apple announcement didn’t mention Flash by name, but Adobe’s popular app toolkit has become the flash point in Steve Jobs’  much maligned app approval process. Adobe can thank Apple for sending its stock soaring on the news.

The Apple/Flash feud

The Apple/Flash feud began last April when Apple declared that iPhone and iPad apps could only be written in one of a select few Apple-approved programming languages. PC World reports that Apple’s policy excluded Adobe Flash CS5 Flash Packager for iPhone and iPad. Flash Packager for iPhone was the anchor feature of Adobe CS5. It was designed to make Adobe’s Flash a cross-platform toolkit for the iPhone’s other successful platforms. But Steve Jobs would have none of it. That was then. On Thursday, all was forgiven. Now developers can use Flash to build an app that runs on both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, while only having to publish it once.

Apple makes app approval process public

Apple’s draconian app approval process has not only been modified, it’s being made public. Apple is publishing its App Store Review Guidelines, a formerly secret set of rules determining whether a developer’s app is approved for the iPhone or iPad. Wired reports that uncertainty about App Store approval has been keeping a lot of top flight development talent from creating iPhone and iPad apps and leading to a proliferation of “fart apps” (junk applications). Before Thursday’s announcement, developers wouldn’t know if they had broken a rule until their app was rejected by Apple. Months of toil and thousands of dollars could be flushed down the drain. But Wired contends that developers don’t care what the rules are, as long as they know what they are.

Why Apple changed its tune

Apple will open app development to Adobe Flash and other third-party tools and make App Store Review Guidelines public — but the company didn’t say why. This lack of detail has led to speculation by bloggers like Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune. The leading theories, according to DeWitt, are developer feedback, competition and regulation. He dismissed feedback straight away, given Apple’s history of forcing developers to bend to its whims. Competition from Android-powered smartphones and a coming wave of Android tablets no doubt makes Apple feel threatened. And finally, the Apple/Flash feud attracted the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating Apple’s ban on cross-development platforms. Adobe, which complained to the FTC about Apple, appears to be getting what it wanted.

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