When Apple announced the app store I was a little nervous, but I could see the positive side and was prepared to believe that Apple would be good gate-keepers. It soon because clear I was too optimistic. I was already annoyed with Apple when they started to impose their taste on the world by banning joke apps they didn’t approve of like Slasher and Pull my Finger. Myself and Allison had a big argument about it a little over a month ago on NosillaCast Episode 164. Allison felt that Apple should be allowed to choose what to sell in their store, and she has a point, however, when you block all other options and make yourself the sole distributor of software for an entire platform it’s not wise to go all Victorian with your policies. Obviously Apple CAN block what ever they want, I just think they shouldn’t because it’s bad for users, bad for developers, bad for the platform, and hence, bad for Apple. My solution was simple, have a rating system. If you think something is rude or in poor taste give it an explicit rating! At that stage we were just talking about matters of taste, this week things have taken a very different turn and Apple have moved on from Victorian prudishness to anti-competitive and anti-use practices. They have denied a better podcatcher access to the store because it competes with Apple software. Granted, Apple use the word “duplicate”, but it comes to the same thing in my mind, if you’re not allowed to duplicate any functionality Apple implement then you’re not allowed to compete and that’s bad. To be honest I’m shocked Apple were so blatant about this. When you start creating monopolies for yourself and then banning competition it’s hardly a massive leap to jump to “anti-trust”.

[tags]Apple, iPhone, iPod Touch, App Store, developers[/tags]

The application in question is called Podcaster and it deliveres two podcasting features users have been begging for since the first day the iPhone came out, the ability to download podcasts directly to the iPhone/iPod Touch over WiFi or the GSM network, and the ability to stream podcast episodes directly rather than even having to download them. Having to sync your iPhone or iPod Touch to the one and only computer it is paired with to get new podcast episodes is ridiculous since the devices have internet access. Since the addition of the WiFi store this omission has become even more insane. These are legitimate features that users genuinely want. Apple have failed to deliver these features, so a third party jumped in, and by all accounts, did a great job of creating a better podcasting app than the built-in iPod software from Apple. The company have not broken any of Apples terms of service, or any other rules, but Apple have denied them at the very last hurdle and they are now left with a great app but nowhere to sell it since Apple control the ONLY access to the entire platform. What’s worse is that this arbitrary vetting process happens at the end, AFTER companies have spent time and money developing the entire app. There is no pre-approval process, there are no clear guidelines, Apple just arbitrarily trash the hard work of developers on a whim, and without any actual justification.

To say this carry-on is annoying developers is putting it mildly. The system is broken, it simply cannot continue. Lets imagine the future if Apple don’t act promptly to deal with this mess. As more and more software companies loose more and more money less and less developers will develop for the iPhone/iPod Touch. The reality is that this policy of arbitrarily denying legitimate apps after they have been fully written has the ability to kill a small software house. As more developers get annoyed more and more bad press will build up and eventually even the media will pick it up. Developers leave, Apple gets bad press, not good. But the effect on users is worse because less developers means less apps. If all that’s left on the app store are hobbyist apps and those written by Apple it won’t be a very appealing store will it?!

Bottom line, software does not just appear out of thin air, it’s written by developers. Developers are the heart-and-soul of a platform. You have to treat them fairly and with respect. Apple’s current policies are immensely unfair on developers who are rightly very annoyed. The longer this is let continue the more developers will leave the platform. Apple must start treating developers fairly or we’ll all suffer.