Apple has quietly issued an update to its App Store Review Guidelines that clarify the company’s position on remote mirroring apps such as Valve’s Steam Link, according to a new report by Reuters. The move comes on the heels of Apple’s controversial rejection of the Steam Link app late last month, despite it having been previously approved. At the time, according to Valve, Apple had cited “business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team,” however Valve tried to insist that the Steam Link app functioned as a “LAN-based remote desktop” much like “numerous [other] remote desktop applications already available on the App Store,” however Valve’s appeal was denied. There was also some speculation that the rejection may have also been due to in-app purchases, however Steam had disabled purchasing in its iOS app and this did not appear to appease Apple’s App Review team, as Steam Link remained barred from the App Store.
While Apple explicitly says that apps cannot build their own app marketplace within their apps or provide the ability for users to “browse, select, or purchase software not already owned or licensed by the user,” the company has adjusted its rules to clarify that “remote mirroring apps” that simply transmit the screen of a desktop computer to an iPhone can allow purchases outside of the App Store as long as the transactions are processed on the desktop and not within the iPhone app. Specifically, section 4.2.7 of the new App Store Review Guidelines describe remote desktop apps that act as a “mirror of a specific software or services,” differentiating them from generic remote desktop apps, and provide four additional points that such apps must comply with, including only connecting to personal computers that are on the same local, LAN-based network, full rendering of the software not he screen of the host device as well (as opposed to within a background process), account management handled only from the host device, and no store-like interface on the UI that appears on the client iOS device. This suggests that the real sticking point for Steam Link’s denial was the presence of an “app store” within the Steam service in general, which effectively bypassed Apple’s own App Store; this week’s rule change clarifies that position and should clear the way for Steam Link to make its awaited debut on the iPhone and iPad.