Apple limits Design Awards to App Store residents

You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus

Apple has piled another brick onto the ramparts of its walled garden: to be eligible for this year's Apple Design Awards, Mac OS X developers must sell their apps through the Mac App Store.

"How are apps selected for the Apple Design Awards?" Jobs & Co ask themselves in the ADA FAQ. Their answer: "iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps on the App Store will be considered by Apple to receive an Apple Design Award."

As The Reg warned when the Mac App Store was first announced, this move makes it clear that Apple is enforcing a two-tiered status for Mac OS X apps: those it allows into the store, and those that remain outside it.

The awards, given out during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), were instituted in 1997, and first known as the Human Interface Design Excellence Awards – or, more affectionately, as the Heidis. iOS apps first appeared in June of 2008, even though the iPhone App Store didn't debut until July. In 2010, Mac OS X apps weren't eligible at all in an all iPad, iPhone field.

Receiving an Apple Design Award has not proven to be a marketing bonanza for its winners: the trophy – a silver cube with a backlit Apple logo – mostly confers bragging rights among developers. But by dividing Mac OS X apps and their developers into two camps, Apple is clearly creating an "on the bus, off the bus" scenario.

When we've talked with Mac OS X developers about the Mac App Store, we've heard a variety of opinions. Some find it a great convenience and a powerful way to promote their products in the Mac marketplace. Others find its restrictions on trials, demos, and upgrades a burden, and its severing of a developer's direct relationships with customers a concern.

And then there are those developers who can't get aboard the store in the first place because their app runs afoul of one of the 93 strictures in Apple's Mac App Store Review Guidelines. While some of the Guidelines are eminently sensible – such as those that provide users with privacy protection and freedom from spam – others, such as the prohibition of shared libraries, privilege escalation, or non–App Store update mechanisms, are more problematic.

The Guidelines also contain such now-standard Apple silliness as "Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other computer platform will be rejected," along with Cupertino's famous prudishness. And, of course, there's Apple's 30 per cent cut of all Mac App Store revenue; while that's a reasonable fee for many if not most developers, it's a burden to others.

In short, since the Mac App Store opened for business on January 6, there have been two classes of Mac OS X developers: those blessed by Apple's App Store police, and those kept out of the walled garden. Monday's announcement that only those inside that garden are eligible for an Apple Design Award is merely further proof of that schism. ®

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