The iPhone developers were walking around the office yesterday with smiles on their faces. Not only was it Friday but news spread that the iOS terms of service drama was over. In case you missed it, Apple reversed course on the decision to force developers into using Xcode/Objective-C. They issued a press release that outlined new terms that allow developers to:
- Use third party development platforms, such as MonoTouch and Appcelerator, to create iPhone applications. In a blog post on the decision, Jeff Haynie signaled that Appcelerator was in the clear and thanked developers for their continued support.
- Use mobile advertising platforms other than iAds/Quattro. Google was also gushing about the new terms of service and how the mobile community will benefit by having multiple platforms in the mix.
- Use third party mobile analytics platforms, such as flurry, motally (now owned by Nokia) and Distimo.
On the third point however, the new terms reinforced the need for developers to respect user privacy.
The news terms specify that mobile applications must ask users for permission before collecting personal and device data. However, device data cannot be sent to third party providers. In essence, Apple is trying to prevent these mobile analytics software providers from leaking news of a upcoming device like they did in the past (see Flurry and the iPad).
Why the sudden change of heart?
Clearly, Apple needed to change things up. While some speculated that the projected growth of Google’s Android mobile platform forced Apple’s hand, this idea goes against the view of Steve Jobs who has always favored catering to a small, loyal crowd vs. worrying about the masses (see Doc Searls on Steve Jobs). While Apple could have forced Developers to jump through hoops to use third party solutions vs. Xcode, Apple did not want to entertain another cat and mouse game as they have with the developers that are constantly jail-breaking their iPhones. Instead, Apple shifted the focus back to the art of usability, content and design that the third party development platforms have to support. In fact, Apple provided a set of high-level guidelines that specified:
- “We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.”
- “If your app looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.”
This may be a solid strategy to encourage developers to port quality apps from Android to the iPhone platform but it will work only if these development environments don’t impose additional limitations on the developer.