Apple talks down (another) iPhone App Store critic
Words are easy. Action is hard
Again lifting its famous veil of silence, Apple has responded to a prominent blogger angry about its arbitrary iPhone App Store approval procedures.
But Apple's new found, uh, openness is not being expressed in official company pronouncements or press releases, but rather through personal emails sent by the company's SVP for worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller.
Last week, Schiller responded - albeit in a somewhat convoluted and ill-informed fashion - to a posting on a John Gruber's Daring Fireball blog post that took Apple to task for what appeared at first blush to be an act of censorship of an iPhone dictionary app, Ninjawords.
Now comes word that Schiller sent another personal email to a developer "furious with Apple and AT&T" about Apple's rejection of the Google Voice app and other third-party apps based on that service.
The latest developer to receive a Schillerian emollient was Steven Frank of long-time Mac software house Panic, developers of the Transmit 3 FTP utility, Coda web-development software, CandyBar 3 icon customizer, and more.
On his personal blog, Frank last week lambasted Apple over the Google Voice decision and vowed that - even though he had been a devoted Apple fan for many years - he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. Frank swore off "any future iPhone OS based devices" until Apple got its App Store act together.
"I’ve reached a point where I can no longer just sit back and watch this," Frank wrote in that post. "The iPhone ecosystem is toxic, and I can’t participate any more until it is fixed. As people have told me so many times: It’s Apple’s ballgame, and Apple gets to make the rules, and if I don’t like it, I can leave. So, I don’t like it, and I’m leaving."
After receiving a personal email from Schiller, however, Frank is now reconsidering.
Unlike Gruber, Frank declined to release the contents of Schiller's email. He did, however, summarize Schiller's missive as saying "We’re listening to your feedback."
As a developer whose livelihood is based on a cordial relationship with Apple, Frank was understandably concerned when he saw first saw that he had received a message from Schiller. "Concerned," however, might be understated. "I had a minor freakout" is how Frank explained his initial reaction.
But his concern melted after he read what he referred to as "such a courteous, polite, and reassuring email."
But Frank isn't enough of a newbie naïf to be completely mollified by Schiller's noblesse oblige. "Technically, nothing specific has actually visibly changed in the last few days," he wrote. Referring to his self-imposed boycott, he reminded his readers that "I said I wouldn’t go back until I could see actual demonstrable progress being made."
And so for Frank, Gruber, and all the developers and iPhone owners who have been buffeted by the App Store's heavy-handed policies, the ball remains in Apple's court.
"Let’s push that communication down from executives-to-bloggers to app-store-to-developers,' Frank wrote, "and I think we’ve really got a breakthrough." ®
"You could be the worlds' most prolific code-writer, but if Apple decided you were unfashionable or undesirable you'd never get to sell a single app".
I'm not a developer but from a business perspective, I really don't believe Apple expected the App Store to be quite as successful as it is. The process for managing the reviewing of apps appears to have been on the back foot from day one. I just think Apple needs to commit more resources to the iPhone developer community and ensure developers have professional, open lines of communication to discuss their problems.
Lets also not forget Apple has made a lot of people a lot of money through their approach to selling apps.
Only Know After...
"How many ways do Apple need to say "You aren't allowed to modify the OS" ? You waste your time developing something that does precisely that and then complain that you didn't know it would be banned from the app store? I thought developers were supposed to be at least marginally intelligent, not morons who haven't learned how to read terms and conditions. Most developers are experts at writing terms and conditions themselves, so you'd think that a few might bother to read those written by other people."
From what I understand, the T&Cs basically say "we can refuse your app for any reason we like". A guy had a podcasting app banned because it competed with Apple. They banned Obama Trampoline (a load of politicians jumping on a trampoline in the Oval Office) which seemed to do nothing but mock politicians. Smack Boxing had to remove Kim Jong-Il, George Bush and Fidel Castro as opponents in order to get into the store.
The fact is that they can ban whatever they want from it, and you can't find out until you submit it, nor can you get clarification on what would need changing to pass.
It's certainly not a model that I could go for as a developer.
"You're talking about a system where you pay to develop software when you've got no idea if it'll even be allowed for sale. "
How many ways do Apple need to say "You aren't allowed to modify the OS" ? You waste your time developing something that does precisely that and then complain that you didn't know it would be banned from the app store? I thought developers were supposed to be at least marginally intelligent, not morons who haven't learned how to read terms and conditions. Most developers are experts at writing terms and conditions themselves, so you'd think that a few might bother to read those written by other people.
Apple don't make their money selling SDKs, they make most of it selling their hardware. The tiny amounts they get from apps sales probably doesn't even come close to the insignificant amounts they make from the rest of their iTunes content.
What is important to them is whether they can sell iPhones to AT&T and iPods to Best Buy and Walmart.
To do that they need content and apps are indeed a part of that content. For the iPhone that's probably quite important. So disgruntled developers could potentially be a problem. Not much of one though. After all how many fart noise apps and tit viewers do they really need and how difficult would it be to find someone in house to write replacements?
Not that those developers are under much threat. They're quite happy to allow all the silly noise making software and bikini clad women viewers as can be written. But not so much the OS modifying junk written by people who think their whining on the glorified forum Web 2.0 really is, amounts to journalism.
As for a 3rd party mod that allows coders to create an app that can make phone calls over the internet? Yeah, I see that right at the top of their list of priorities.
But then again perhaps they thought that allowing 3rd parties to modify the OS so a phone can make phone calls over the internet, in a different way to how it does this already, might not be more important than preventing 3rd parties from fucking up their OS by modifying it.