Technically possible, fine. But there's a big gulf between "possible" and "not extremely painful".
Let's say I create a personal fork of the open source Bitwarden password manager, to add some trivial quirk that makes the software better fit my life. How do you propose I actually use my custom version without paying Apple an extra $100 per year?
Every 7 days, my version of the app will suddenly refuse to launch, until I get back to my computer and re-sign it. I would need to create a weekly calendar reminder, and never go on vacation without a computer nearby. Oh, and I'd better not have more than three of these forks, because that's another limitation for free accounts.
The 7 day limit is not Apple refusing to provide "free access to the development tools", it's an artificial restriction explicitly created to make running un-blessed code impractical for more than rudimentary testing.
The free account is good for playing around with the environment and learning how to write code for iOS. It is not well suited for running production software on your phone. If you want to run production software on your phone, blessed or unblessed, you probably want to pay Apple $100/yr for the longer duration and higher app limit.
In my opinion, if you could do what you wanted for free, it would contribute massively to app piracy, and devalue the work of millions of developers on the App Store. $100/year is at about the right level to dissuade most people from circumventing the App Store (the average Apple user spends ~$75/year on the App Store).
> ...it's an artificial restriction explicitly created to make running un-blessed code impractical for more than rudimentary testing.
Crucially, paying Apple $100/year does not mean they ever see or have to bless code you deploy to your own devices. It just removes the limits in the development environment!
But, I also fundamentally believe we shouldn't be restricting user freedoms to protect copyright.
$100 a year is completely and utterly cost-prohibitive for a lot of people, even within the context of someone who already owns an iPhone. A lot of children begin coding so they can create something for themselves, or change one thing in an application. With a 7-day limit, who would want to do that? While it's true that free accounts can technically experiment with coding, there's not much incentive when you can't really _use_ anything you've created.
I worry about a generation of children who is given iPads rather than computers. Sure, most of them would never have touched code anyway, and that's fine. But iOS completely removes the incentive to learn and explore—to actually hack and tweak and create the tools we use everyday, instead of blindly consuming them.
I’m pretty sure they said the same thing about shells when GUI came along.
> But iOS completely removes the incentive to learn and explore...
I guess I just have an entirely different perspective on this. If the PC was a bicycle for the mind, what we have now is a veritable rocket ship. Consider the devices, peripherals, platforms, APIs, connectivity, distribution, and tooling that is available today for anyone with any interest in creative artistic expression, be it coding, non-textual programming, or otherwise...
Anyone with a inventive flair is going to look at the mind-bogglingly advanced technology that a billion people are carrying around and just salivate at the opportunity that provides.
Modern devices and the modern Internet may placate the masses, but they are likewise catnip and catapult for anyone who wants to code the next great solution for Problem X.