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Rogue iPhone dev unmoved by App Store spin

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Apple marketing veep Phil Schiller has put another smiley face on company's capricious iPhone App Store approval process - but at least one developer who spent months battling the App Store police isn't buying Schiller's spin.

As The Reg reported ten days ago, a bug-fix to Airfoil Speakers Touch - an iPhone app from long-time Mac developer Rogue Amoeba - recently endured a convoluted multi-month rejection process, ostensibly because it used trademarked Apple images.

Except that it didn't. It used a public Apple API specifically designed to gather and display Apple-supplied images of Cupertinian hardware.

In an wide-ranging interview with BusinessWeek published today, Schiller defends the App Store approval process. "If you don't defend your trademarks, in the end you end up not owning them," he says.

Meanwhile, Apple has now approved Rogue Amoeba's rogue update - with those offensive "trademarked images" - and it has reappeared in the App Store.

But Paul Kafasis, Rogue Amoeba's CEO, isn't satisfied. "Fixing one small problem doesn't mean the larger problems of the platform are fixed," he told The Reg, "nor that the business realities have changed for us."

Kafasis and his fellow Rogues won't be back to the iPhone. "We're shipping one update," he told us, "that's all, at this time."

Kafasis is not alone in his criticism of the App Store's approval process - and Schiller has been on a one-man crusade to defend Cupertino's policies. First, he tried to put out a firestorm of criticism about the rejection of an iPhone dictionary for what he characterized as "offensive 'urban slang' terms."

Then, he sent a personal email attempting to mollify a developer who said he was "furious with Apple and AT&T" about Cupertino's rejection of the Google Voice app and other third-party apps based on that service. And in August he got on the horn to a dev whose magic-trick iPhone app had been deemed too confusing - an app which was then certified by the App Store police.

Busy man, Mr. Schiller.

But the problems remain. For example, Joe Hewitt of Facebook fame recently blogged that Apple's "review process needs to be eliminated completely."

Kafasis also believes that Apple needs to clean up its act. Discussing Apple's refusal-then-acceptance of his iPhone app update, he told The Reg: "Apple isn't consistent between their published SDK agreement which all developers sign and their internal review policies. In this particular case, they're correcting an inconsistency. However, it highlights the fact that such inconsistencies do exist and that there's an internal rule book which no one but Apple sees."

And so the clamor continues for Apple to make public what Kafasis calls its "internal rule book." Or to follow Hewitt's advice and dump the approval process entirely.

Don't expect Hewitt's advice to be followed, however. There are, according to Schiller, some good reasons to screen apps. As he told BusinessWeek: "There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law, or which contain inappropriate content."

Fair enough - although "inappropriate content" is an awfully vague phrase.

And that's the problem with the App Store approval process: uncertainty. The SDK agreement may be specific, but then there's that pesky internal rule book that Kafasis refers to. The furor over App Store rejections won't cease until Apple puts all its cards on the table. ®

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