Apple’s Less Restrictive App Development Policy a Pre-Emptive Effort Against Windows Phone 7?

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In a rare reversal of its policy, Apple is now allowing developers to use cross-platform development sandboxes to create apps for the iOS platforms to target the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Apple’s earlier stance was perhaps in response to Adobe’s release of tools in Creative Suite 5 to allow developers to use Flash to create or port apps to the iOS ecosystem; CEO Steve Jobs at the time shunned the move and had shut out Adobe and others wishing to follow similar paths, noting that ported apps diminish the quality of the app store. In short, Apple closed its ecosystem to those who didn’t want to play by its rules–that is, up until now.

The company is now saying, “We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.”

Open doors to battle Microsoft

Now, Apple is opening its doors again. With over 250,000 titles in the App Store, Apple is using this opportunity as a way to seek more developers, add more titles, and make it easy for users to choose an iOS device. Perhaps the move may be a pre-emptive counterstrike to Microsoft, whose Windows Phone 7 devices are slated for launch soon with its tie-in to Xbox Live and would rival Apple’s own iOS Game Center for a connected, social gaming experience. Although Microsoft has an uphill battle since its Windows Mobile platform shift, the company is heavily betting on gaming on Windows Phone 7, and Apple probably already recognizes this in its unusual reversal of position and open-door policy.

Swaying studios and consumers

By opening its doors now, game studios who would have developed sole titles for Xbox/Windows Phone 7 could now easily work with third-party development sandboxes to port their titles to iOS. With iPhones and iPod Touches being larger names and established brands, Apple may be banking that if the same title was available on iOS and Windows Phone 7, consumers may be swayed to its own hardware than to rival Microsoft’s.

Apple says, “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. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.”

Only quality apps need apply

However, doors are not completely open. Apple still wants quality apps–precisely the quality titles that could potentially rival Microsoft’s Xbox-Windows Phone 7 tie-in. Per its guideline, Apple is stating that “We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps.” Ouch. As Apple still has a long list of restrictions, it seems that games and high-performance titles that augment the value of iOS and that could rival titles on other platforms are the ones that Apple is welcoming.

Apple may just want to grow and it may not be about Windows Phone 7 after all

Of course, all this is purely conjecture. Apple may in fact not be gunning for Microsoft; the company already has a good lead above its closest rival Android now, and Windows Phone 7 may be just a blip on the radar at this point. Apple could be opening its doors just to promote more apps, more fun, and more excitement, as per its notice to developers:

Above all else, join us in trying to surprise and delight users. Show them their world in innovative ways, and let them interact with it like never before. In our experience, users really respond to polish, both in functionality and user interface. Go the extra mile. Give them more than they expect. And take them places where they have never been before. We are ready to help.

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About The Author
Chuong Nguyen