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Feds break Apple's code of App Store silence

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The Jobsian coin flip

The government wastes no time in getting to the question at hand: "Did Apple act alone, or in consultation with AT&T, in deciding to reject the Google Voice application and related applications?" Apple, of course, denies AT&T's involvement: "No contractual conditions or non-contractual understandings with AT&T have been a factor in Apple’s decision-making process in this matter."

You know, every time I get arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, I make a good faith effort not to mouth off to the police. It's not exactly a "non-contractual understanding," but more of a "I don't want to use a billy club as a toothbrush" understanding. Maybe AT&T is helping Apple "study" Google voice, just like how the beat cop helps me study a brick wall, after I help some douchebag study an empty pint glass.

Getting more general, Barack Obama's FCC asks Steve Jobs (who only gave $26,700 to the Democratic National Committee this year, down from his usual $50,000 ... cheapskate) "What are the standards for considering and approving iPhone applications?" See, if the government had been following the iPhone scene closely, they would know not to ask this one. This is a deep philosophical question that scholars have been cogitating on for years. There have been studies, journal articles published, conferences convened, and careers have been created and ruined on this single question.

Apple gives the same canned response that they give to developers, basically "oh we have a set of guidelines and this is the part where you piss off because we're Apple and you're not." What's interesting, though, are the details about the inner workings of the App Store approval process.

"There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly." See, now that's informative. I had always wondered how Apple has been so even-handed with the application of its policy, laboring to ensure that if an app is rejected for some reason, that there are no other apps in the store that have precisely the same functionality or the same potential copyright violations. Oh, wait.

Unfortunately, they don't go into the details of this training process, but the word on the street is that one of the two reviewers flips the coin and the other calls out "heads" or "tails." The key to keeping the system fair is that the second reviewer calls it while it's in the air. Or so I hear.

What's better, Apple says: "95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted." And then a bit later: "We receive about 8,500 new applications and updates every week, and roughly 20% of them are not approved as originally submitted." Wait, what? Is this why you guys are taking so long to study the Google Voice app? I know that math is hard and all, but damn, don't make it harder. When the lawyers start adding conditions to statistics like that, everything gets wonky. A good lawyer can disprove subtraction.

After this, I've got to hand it to the FCC. They managed to pry more information out of Apple than any developer ever has. I guess they should add that to the iPhone Developer Guidelines: All requests for information must be submitted in writing from an organization with a standing army and the power to levy taxes. All else will be ignored. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

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