Apple said it will begin relaxing restrictions and providing specific guidelines for iPhone application developers, but that doesn't mean that the vetting or selection process will get any easier. Any app is eligible, provided it follows Apple's lengthy and sometimes subjective guidelines.
The guidelines say, among many other things, that hastily-assembled code, pornography, any video game identifying enemies as a specific race or ethnicity, or "mean-spirited applications" will be rejected.
Apple continues: "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." That covers a lot.
It’s obvious that at least some of the reason Apple has lifted restrictions is to compete with Android’s little-regulated apps. In July, Google released its beta version of App Inventor for Android, a do-it-yourself kit to create an app to sell in Android’s marketplace. It meant that anyone, not just a programmer, could create an Android app using its building blocks and fill-in-the-blank forms.
While many thought this would lead to more mindless glurge, some useful apps have also been created simply because everyday people, not just engineers or programmers, can create inventions for everyday use.
Being able to create apps is great for the business market because it allows a quick and easy distribution for a program that may have small, or possibly universal use. An employee could easily create an app that scans competitors' Websites for new information, and one that keeps track of events on the company calendar, tracks expenses or weekend shift rotations.
The apps can be as complex as a full-fledged timecard system or as simple as saving a few extra keystrokes, but all can be created by an office worker who knows exactly what they need rather than a programmer usually two or three degrees away from the process.
While Apple hasn’t gone the DIY route, at least it seems to have relaxed its stance on developers, backing away as long as code and quality adheres to its guidelines. Now if they and their code can only make it past the approval board or Apple's "walled garden," they might be golden. But that process seems to be covered in landmines. My favorite veiled threat from the guidelines is this: "If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps." (However, there still might be a place for your app on the Android market.)
There's speculation that this announcement may be opening the door to Adobe Flash for iOS, but Apple has not specifically said so, and Steve Jobs hasn't lessened his anti-Flash stance.
Unfortunately, while Apple has opened up its app development a little, it still can't benefit from apps that non-developers create. Apple still has a way to go, including offering a DIY app market that could be as closed-off as it likes, but can fulfill needs not available in its store.
Android has and is beginning to get noticed for its openness rather than its hands-off approach. And with the rising number of Android phones and devices flooding the market, Apple has to compete or it will simply rot on the tree.