Apple Changes Third-Party Development Tools Policy for App Store; Adobe and Unity Respond

With the announcement of iOS 4.0, Apple declared third-party development tools to be in violation of its terms of service. The move was largely believed to be aimed at Adobe, which had been developing a tool to convert Flash games and applications into iOS compatible programs. Other developers with tools like Unity were caught in the crossfire, despite having apps continually approved by Apple.

Now, Apple has changed its policy once again with iOS 4.1, allowing third-party tools to be used once again. "In particular, 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," explains Apple. "This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need."

With the roadblock cleared, Adobe was quick to announce that it would resume development on its Packager for iPhone tool, which is part of Flash Professional CS5. "This feature was created to enable Flash developers to quickly and easily deliver applications for iOS devices," explains Adobe. "The feature is available for developers to use today in Flash Professional CS5, and we will now resume development work on this feature for future releases."

Flash Professional CS5 shipped with the iPhone Packager, but Adobe had stated it would cease development on the tool, citing Apple's now defunct restrictions. It's Adobe's intention to continue development that should excite Flash developers looking to get in on the App Store madness.

Unity Technologies has also opened up about the policy change, calling it "the right approach: it's possible to make incredibly bad applications using just Xcode, and it's possible to make just as amazingly excellent applications with a tool like Unity."

Apple has been in an accelerated learning process, and even though they're some of the smartest people we know, figuring out how to operate the world's most successful online marketplace can't be easy. We have been frustrated with them along the way (and we have told them so, in a few more words), but we kept the channels open to work on a positive result. Today we respect them for coming to the right conclusion and in our eyes it's best to let bygones be bygones!

Unity notes that "Apple kept approving every single Unity game submitted to the AppStore - several per day - and even featuring some of them highly, so it was clear that Apple never stopped liking the results of what Unity developers have been doing."

Apple has also removed restrictions for third-party analytics data collection, which should allow third-party advertising companies like Google-owned AdMob to continue operation. Apple never acted on this restriction during its tenure, however.

In the end, it looks like the App Store got a little more open, though it still remains a controlled-system at the whim of Apple's approval process.