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Apple: third-party iOS dev tools OK after all

Runtimes allowed back into Steve's garden

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Apple has said is to allow software developers to create iPhone and iPad apps using tools it does not directly sanction.

"We are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps," the company said in a statement released this afternoon, "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," it added.

The move follows Steve Jobs' ruling from on high that iOS apps may only be created using Objective C, C or C++ and compiled against documented APIs.

That limit was put in place to stop developers creating apps in, say, Adobe Flash, and then using tools like Adobe's Flash Professional CS5 to recompile them into an iOS friendly format or package them up with an iOS-compatible runtime engine.

The anti-Adobe stance was a result of the very public fight the two companies had earlier this year over whether Apple should allow Flash onto iDevices, and a broader debate on the extent to which Apple should control the software development and release process.

Today's about face will allow developers working in Flash - and God knows there are a lot of them - to create apps for the iPhone without having to worry about porting them manually. It will also allow games publishers to churn out 'classic' titles that, under the hood, run on an emulator.

Their apps will still have to go through Apple's review process if they're to be made available through iTunes to the vast majority of iDevice owners - and then face a host of commenters only too willing to point out with the Store apps that are slow, buggy or both.

The 'no downloading code' rule, meanwhile, will prevent the appearance of iOS apps that are themselves online stores, keeping the sale process in Apple's hands. It's not ceding that much control... ®

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