Apple climbs down on rules for iPhone apps

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The Independent Online

An uprising by the software geeks who create apps for the Apple iPhone has forced Steve Jobs, the company's chief executive, into a rare and humiliating public climbdown. Five months after Apple imposed tough new restrictions on app developers and Mr Jobs posted a 1,600-word justification of the move on its website, the company said it was softening its stance and promised to be more transparent about how it chooses which apps, or programs, to allow on its iPhones, iPods and iPad devices.

The U-turn comes after the company attracted scrutiny by regulators and the US Justice Department, and amid complaints that Apple was covertly creating a monopoly and stifling competition.

It represents a significant victory for Adobe, the software company with which Mr Jobs has been engaged in a vicious public feud, and it means that videos that require Adobe's Flash technology to run might soon be available on the iPhone. Adobe shares surged 12 per cent yesterday.

While Apple's iPhone may attract the most publicity of all the smartphones in the market, many developers want to create apps that can run on all kinds of phones, including Blackberries and the increasing numbers of phones that use Google's Android operating system. Apple's U-turn means that developers can use third-party tools to ensure their products are compatible across different types of phone. "We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart," Apple said.

Adobe, whose own tool for developers appeared to have been a target of Apple's clampdown earlier this year, called on the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to investigate. Mr Jobs responded with an essay that lashed out at Flash, saying, variously, that the video technology was the number one reason Macs crash, compromised the reliability of smartphones, and was useless for touchscreen devices. And he concluded: "Adobe should focus more on creating great... tools for the future, and less on criticising Apple for leaving the past behind."

Apple also yesterday responded to growing criticism over its processes for approving apps for sale through its App Store, which remains the only official place users can buy programs for its devices. It revealed the list of 113 guidelines it uses to review apps before they are allowed on sale, and also the preamble it sends to developers.

"We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don't need any more Fart apps," the guidelines say. "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, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don't want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour."

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