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Apple Inc. (AAPL) Opens Up App Universe With Relaxed Rules

The surging popularity of Android apps likely the culprit


Surprising analysts, consumers, and tech heads everywhere, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced this morning that they are making the application building process 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 (NASDAQ: GOOG) and its Android OS are making huge strides in the smartphone market and Apple is looking to fend the tech company off.

About a year ago, nearly 70% of all smartphone web surfing took place on the iPhone. Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) had around 10% of surfers on their machines, and Google had about 10% too with its OS on various smartphones 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 smartphone 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 an official statement, “relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps” following 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 only download 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 (NASDAQ: ADBE) Flash. Apple, unlike Google, has infamously restricted Adobe’s multimedia platform from their 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 their proprietary software on users rather than support Adobe’s.

Adobe recently tried to circumvent Apple’s blocks by independently releasing tools for programmers to create Flash-based iPhone and iPad apps, which in turn caused a huffy Apple to alter their iOS Developer Program License, a move that frustrated users and developers alike. Apple is now easing those restrictions to not only potentially let Adobe back through the iOS door, but other developers looking to build programming tools suited for multiple platfroms, from iOS to Android. The fruits of these changes could actually be seen at Apple’s media event last week. The new iOS-supported engine shown off by Epic Games, creators of the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) video game Gears of War, is a cross-platform set of tools that can run on a Droid X just as easily as an iPhone 4. Just the sort of thing that Apple wouldn’t have allowed just a few weeks ago.

That Apple is begrudgingly easing its iron grip on cross platform development for its smartphones is an open acknowledgement of Google’s threat to their market dominance. The company worked hard and spent a lot of money to make the word iPhone synonymous with smartphone, but Google’s eaten away at that mindshare in less than 24 months. Easing app development won’t be enough to win back what Apple’s lost. They’re just going to have to get used to sharing.

As of this writing, Anthony Agnello did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

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