Apple Talk: Why Steve Jobs made a Flash U-turn

Surprised by the company's change of heart? You shouldn't be...

Apple's decision to alter the way it deals with submissions to the App Store may seem surprising - but there's some hard-nosed reasoning behind its volte-face, says Seb Janacek.

Let's be honest: nobody saw this one coming. Apple's amazing U-turn on App Store development last week reversed a key diktat, issued five months ago, that banned third-party development tools.

In a statement, the company said it had listened to comments from developers "and taken much of their feedback to heart". Based on that input, Apple made small but significant changes of its iOS Developer Programs licence as well as relaxing some restrictions it put in place earlier this year. What the decision broadly means is that developers can use third-party development tools to create apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

What it really means is Flash apps are about to start flooding the App Store. A few are already awaiting approval, according to reports.

Apple's change of heart could enable more Flash apps for the iPad and iPhone

Apple's change of heart could enable more Flash apps for the iPad and iPhone
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)

Bone of contention
Apple has also decided to publish its previously internal app review guidelines, another bone of contention for some developers, some of whom had reported having apps rejected at the very last minute for reasons that were not always clear.

So what prompted the rethink on Flash in the App Store? It almost certainly wasn't the developer feedback that Apple cited, although the release of the app review guidelines may be related to that.

There are two likely reasons. The first is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The second is Google.

The FTC is investigating the Apple Store's now revoked ban on third-party app development tools. Apple's original revision of its iOS Developer Programs licence in April this year was intended to block the Packager for iPhone tool Adobe was vocally developing for the latest version of its Creative Suite software, CS5.

The tool would let developers create applications in Flash then port them to the App Store. Apple amended its developer licence immediately to block this process.

Walled garden app store
The iOS app store, as with other Apple ecosystems, is often referred to derisively as a walled garden. The company, with CEO Steve Jobs as its most vocal proponent, has long guarded those walls against invaders and done so to great success.

According to its latest figures, more than 250,000 apps...