Apple Eases Restrictions on App Developers

Apple has eased restrictions on companies that design apps for the company’s iOS, the operating system for their iPhones, iPods, and iPads. The company, in an announcement made thursday, also said they would drop a ban on certain in-application ad serving tools which had cut off Google’s AdMob service.

The move, which industry insiders had not expected, means Apple is backing off in what was becoming a heated battle with developers who’ve created the more than 250,000 apps in the company’s App Store. An Apple spokesman says that the move was made after careful consideration of feedback from the developers, and the changes will give the developers the flexibility they’ve asked for while maintaining the security important to Apple.

The changes represented by the announcement are very technical, and developers have been poring over the fine print to determine how the changes will affect what they do. But the basic gist of the announcement is that programmers will now be able to use tools from competing companies, especially the Adobe Flash program, to build new apps for use on the iOS. Adobe’s latest version of its Flash development tool does include a tool for converting apps to run on the iOS, but Flash officials said they would stop developing the feature for future versions because of Apple’s restrictions and concentrate instead on Google’s Android system.

The Apple announcement was welcome news to developers who use the Flash tool, and a handful have posted celebratory messages on Adobe’s forum. Many had been forced to abandon projects mid-stream because of the restrictions from Apple, but will now be able to resume those projects. It means that developers will be able to create apps and convert them to run on iOS as well as the Android OS, without having to develop a separate program on Apple approved development tools.

Federal regulators had reportedly taken notice of Apple’s now-abandoned policy of banning certain development tools, and were considering launching an antitrust investigation of the company. It is unknown whether the pending investigation or the potential loss of developers carried more weight in Apple’s decision to ease restrictions. Google, meanwhile, expressed approval of Apple’s decision to let developers use their AdMob tool to sell and serve ads on iPhone apps. A Google spokesman called the decision “great news for everyone in the mobile community, as we believe that a competitive environment is the best way to drive innovation and growth in mobile advertising,” in a blog post.

Apple also announced they will publish an explanation of their review guildelines to help developers understand how the company reviews and approves applications submitted for the App Store. The move is thought to be a direct response to the frequent complaints from developers about the company’s mysterious and often lengthy review process.

The move had an immediate impact on shares of Adobe (ADBE) stock, which jumped more than 11 percent in early afternoon trading. Shares of Apple (AAPL) also rose slightly after the announcement.