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Ok, this is getting ridiculous.  First the removal of the ‘I Am Rich’ application (which whatever your thoughts on the app itself, it didn’t violate any rules, just that the powers that be at Apple didn’t like the pricing scheme), and now others are being prevented from joining the AppStore.  Here’s the latest two I’m aware of:

Podcaster

Podcaster is a native iPhone app developed by someone in the Apple developer program and not using anything that isn’t permitted in the terms and conditions of the SDK.  It provides the ability to search/add/download podcasts from your iPhone without having to have any software on a desktop sync for updated downloads.  The developer, Alex Sokirynsky, has let the world know of the reason his app was rejected by the AppStore:

“Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

Actually it provides more functionality, Apple…is that your problem with it?  That users are able to add new podcast subscriptions from their iPhone and not wait to get to their iTunes sync machine because you don’t allow guest syncing from iTunes?  And so what if it duplicates the podcast section of iTunes?  This is an iPhone app, not an iTunes extension.

MailWrangler

The latest to get hit is MailWrangler, a native iPhone app that enables access to GMail accounts.  The developer submitted the app on July 17th and received a reply more than 30 days later indicating:

“…Your application duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail without providing sufficient differentiation or added functionality, which will lead to user confusion…”

There was also other feedback given to the developer, Angelo DiNardi, that seemed appropriate (no way of editing the account) to which he agrees and seems like open to fixing.

So the problem seems to be duplicity of features according to these two rejections.  Really?!  So all those calculator applications (currently over 30 doing a search on ‘calculator’) don’t duplicate the built-in calculator functionality?  What about the 10+ weather applications that seemingly provide the same features as the built-in Weather application?  What about the StockWatch app ($2.99) that provides what looks like identical functionality of the built-in Stocks application?

      

C’mon Apple, this is getting ridiculous.  Your are letting the likes of “DaysTo Christmas” in the AppStore ($0.99 by the way in case you can’t look at a calendar), but not allowing me to choose if I want to use a different mail app or download podcasts wirelessly?  This is getting absurd.

Are they violating the terms?  I don’t think so.  A look at the iPhone SDK Terms shows no restrictions on the types of applications that can be built (except for real-time route guidance/automation) only noting that applications “…may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or Private APIs.”  Neither of these applications do that!  It seems there is a conflict in the SDK Terms and the AppStore Terms…which I haven’t seen – anyone have a link to AppStore-specific terms that might indicate that no duplicate functionality can exist?  I’m guessing it isn’t there.

Apple – either enable alternate distribution channels for iPhone applications, or stop rejecting my choice as a consumer because it might be better functionality than you are providing.  Guess what, that’s what developers do – find ways to increase the value of the platform.  You shouldn’t have a developer program if you think people aren’t going to find ways to implement new functionality that may compete?  What gives Apple?  Why are you deciding what I can/can’t install when all other things being equal (i.e., not violating any terms of any SDK))?!  I can’t believe there is no developer outrage beyond these two developers. 

Apple is increasingly falling out of favor with the hi-tech crowds by doing things like this without explanation.  I only see this increasing.  Someone in Steve Jobs’ organization needs to get a wake-up call and start making some changes.  I think the easiest change for the AppStore would be to enable other distribution channels (and not just the beta-tester channel they finally opened up for app developers) so that anyone who has a native app built with the SDK can provide me, the user, the choice to decide what may “lead to user confusion” or what might be better functionality!

Wake up Apple…seriously.


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9/22/2008 8:54 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Hey Tim, what did you expect, seriously... It's Apple you're talking about, remember? Their dictatorial policies were well accepted by the fan base when they were just doing computers for a small number of people, but now that they hit mass markets with a mobile phone, they start noticing that not every user is a fan. It's a good thing really.

Cheers,
Laurent (gonna buy me a Nokia E71 :))
9/22/2008 9:39 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Tim, good post. Clearly Apple is overreaching its gatekeeper duties in these 2 cases and I'm certain they will cave to the pressure that's mounting. This is a clear example of abuse of power, but fortunately, they are also good about fixing issues like this quickly. With over 3,000 apps in the app store, they don't seem to be making this mistake frequently, which is good.

Hamid
9/22/2008 9:59 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Hamid, they do have 3000 applications in the app store. The only good apps seem to show up as games. Maybe they should have called it a Game Developer SDK instead.
9/22/2008 10:30 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
makes you wonder what all the hype is about the App Store and the iPhone for developers. Windows Mobile has a larger user base and a huge range of application yet because it's MS I guess it's expected... so no-one gets excited and gushes off column inches of prose.

there are things WM can do that leave the iPhone in the dust (running apps in the background for one thing!) but because it's seen as a business device the cool kids don't want to play :(

Their loss
9/22/2008 10:36 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
offbeatmammal: agreed, but AppStore *has* enabled a great discoverability and installation model in a nice package. All apps in one place. It sounds great (and could be), but with these types of tactics, it is starting to break down. Maybe the AppStore could be the premier store and developers have to buy into it...but another distribution channel should be enabled for others.
Gravatar
9/22/2008 11:16 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Hehehe... I wonder what would happen if Microsoft and Windows started to disqualify 3rd party applications that somehow provide similar functionality to something Microsoft does and/or is selling... :-)))
9/22/2008 11:21 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
P.: yeah, that would be equally bad. But if you look at everything MSFT makes, there is an alternative out there, all of which are installable on Windows, none of which are blocked (even the ones that don't go through the certified for windows process).
Gravatar
9/22/2008 11:28 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Tim: That's not what I meant. Microsoft gets sued for hundreds of millions of $$$ just for installing its own stuff by default. Imagine Windows telling you "you can't install this application because Microsoft has one with similar functionality."
9/22/2008 11:39 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
P.: oh yeah, MSFT would get nailed for that for sure...that's why I'm surprised there isn't a lot of discussion around this. Not allowing something that provides similar functionality smells like anti-competitive to me!
9/22/2008 11:40 AM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
P,
Agree with you. Seems that MS get slapped everytime there's an impression that they are not allowing outsiders to install stuff on their platform. Seem odd that Apple would be allowed to get away with this attitude.
9/22/2008 8:05 PM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
I loved my ipod and I think this is where it all started. I like to run so had to have the Nike + but here is the thing NIKE + so restrictive, so anticompetitive. My $20 switch easy solved that and meant my Asics where safe. But then was the fact that the reciever would only work with Ipod nano so I had to give my wife my Ipod and buy a nano. So Steve 1 Apple 1. At least now the latest ipod has built in support.

Then Itunes. I don't think that any other piece of software updates itself more than itunes does. Not even Mcafee. Well I am rife about Itunes update installing Safari. My wife's laptop now has Safari as the default web browser. Now they are doing the same with MobileMe.

So when it came to buying an iphone I did not get that rush out and line up type feeling I wanted to have. I have sat back let the others like yourself do the hard work for me, which I appreciate. Then see what else pops up before making the decision, which due to contracts, I am stuck with for 2 years.
9/22/2008 8:10 PM | # re: Apple’s AppStore Restricts User Choice
Why is this a surprise? Apple is evil (in the "Don't be...") sense. If you give them a lever to stamp out competition in an area they care about of course they will use it. Why in god's name based on their history would you expect otherwise?

 
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