Apple Inc. Thursday gave software developers the guidelines it uses to determine which programs can be sold in its App Store, yet it reserved for itself broad leeway in deciding what makes the cut.
The move follows more than two years of complaints from developers about the company's secret and seemingly capricious rules, which block some programs from the store and hence Apple's popular iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.
The guidelines go some way toward addressing those complaints and broadening the discussion about Apple's custodianship of the App Store.
"Developers had been telling Apple that they felt they were being required to jump through too many hoops," Richard Doherty, head of The Envisioneering Group, a technology analyst firm based in Seaford, told the Los Angeles Times. "To its credit, Apple listens to its developers."
Software developer Nate Weiner said the approval process has always been "a black hole."
"If you submit an app, you have no idea what's going to happen," he said. The guidelines should be a big help, especially for novice developers, he added.
The rules consist of a long checklist, specifying, for example, that "apps that rapidly drain the device's battery or generate excessive heat will be rejected."
Apple also says it will block applications that don't do "something useful or provide some lasting entertainment."
Corynne McSherry, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a watchdog group, said the guidelines help, but Apple customers should remain concerned that Apple is dictating the content of third-party software.
Despite Apple's restrictions, or perhaps because of them, Apple's store has been a runaway success since its launch in 2008, and it now has more than 250,000 applications.
Also Thursday, Apple said it will lift restrictions imposed earlier this year on using third-party development tools that "translate" code written for another platform. That means developers who work in Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash or Oracle Corp.'s Java language can convert their programs into iPhone apps without rewriting them. It doesn't mean that Web pages with Flash will work on the iPhone.