Apple makes app access easier

The highly protective company eases its regulations on programs as Android apps surge.

By InvestorPlace Sep 9, 2010 1:54PM

Surprising analysts, consumers and tech heads everywhere, Apple Inc. (AAPL) announced this morning that it will make building applications for the iPhone and every iOS-powered device a whole lot easier.

The move from highly protective Apple surely isn’t an act of charity, however. Recent statistics show Google (GOOG) and its Android OS are making huge strides in the smart-phone market, and Apple is looking to fend the tech company off.

About a year ago, nearly 70% of all smart-phone Web surfing took place on the iPhone. Research in Motion (RIMM) had about 10% of surfers on their machines, and Google also had about 10% with its OS on various smart phones like the Droid.

What a difference a year makes. A recent study from Quantcast shows that now, at the end of summer 2010, just 56% of smart-phone owners are using Apple's iPhone -- and that the Google has sucked up nearly all of them. New iPods and iPads might not be able to stop Google’s ascension either as Android-powered tablets and gadgets continue to trickle out.

And that, of course, is why Apple is looking to developers to improve their fate.

In response to a great deal of criticism (a lot of which was based on the relative openness and flexibility of Google’s Android), Apple is, according to its official statement, "relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps" after the publication of brand-spanking-new "app review guidelines."

So that’s great if you’re a developer, but what does this mean to the average user? Well, it means that a whole lot of apps that you could download only on an Android-based phone will be available on iPhones, iPads and iPods in the very near future.

The biggest change will most likely be support of apps using Adobe (ADBE) Flash. Apple, unlike Google, has infamously restricted Adobe’s multimedia platform from its devices. While Apple CEO Steve Jobs has often stated this is because Flash will soon be outmoded by the impending widespread adoption of the HTML5 web page language, Apple has really been trying to push its proprietary software on users rather than support Adobe’s.

That Apple is begrudgingly easing its iron grip on cross-platform development for its smart phones is an open acknowledgement of Google’s threat to its market dominance. The company worked hard and spent a lot of money to make the word iPhone synonymous with "smart phone," but Google has eaten away at that marketshare in less than 24 months.

Easing app development won’t be enough to win back what Apple has lost. It's just going to have to get used to sharing.

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