Apple’s Phil Schiller Defends App Store Reviews

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Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, spoke out in defense of the App Store and the application review process the company uses to decide which third-party iPhone and iPod touch apps make the cut. The App Store review process has been a bone of contention for many developers, and in some cases they are giving up on coding for the iPhone.

Apple's App Store is the only place to go for officially approved iPhone and iPod touch Apps. Before an application appears at the store, it goes through a review process that has left some developers frustrated because of delays or seemingly random rejections.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Mr. Schiller defended the App Store review process. "We've built a store for the most part that people can trust," Mr. Schiller said. "You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you'd expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works."

In most cases, the review process probably does work as expected. With 10,000 apps being submitted each week, however, there are plenty of opportunities for issues to crop up.

One recent case involved the rejection of an update for Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil Speakers Touch app because it accessed Mac hardware images that Apple said were off limits. It took several months to get the bug fix update approved, and in the end Rogue Amoeba decided to walk away from the iPhone market.

"We need to delineate something that might confuse the customer and be an inappropriate use of a trademark from something that's just referring to a product for the sake of compatibility," Mr. Schiller said about the Rogue Amoeba incident. "We're trying to learn and expand the rules to make it fair for everyone."

The App Store review process, according to Mr. Schiller, is in place to make sure that the apps iPhone and iPod touch users download are safe. "There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law," he said.

Finding the balance between customer and developer needs, however, is proving to be difficult. Apple has been making changes to improve the application approval process, and more are likely on the way. Getting the right balance won't be easy, but hopefully Apple can make that happen without losing too many developers in the process.

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Comments

Jeff Gamet

The App Store review process is going to be a pain in the neck for Apple for some time to come. I’m glad we’re seeing improvements, but those probably aren’t coming quick enough to make some developers happy.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Funny, I thought the justification for the App Store was to keep malicious apps off of AT&T’s network. Funny there is no mention of that by Schiller. You guys all know how this joker was hired, right? Flash back to 1997…

Steve: What’s your name, son?

Phil: Schiller, Ph….

Steve: Perfect, don’t ever disappoint me. OK, I have a resume for John Fluffer, is he in the waiting room?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

But seriously. The problem that a growing number of developers have with the App Store is simply philosophical. Nobody has a problem with App Store distribution being an option, and even a preferred option on the iPhone device. The problem comes in when there are is no option for self-distribution. And no, “ad-hoc” distribution is not that option. It is limited to 100 devices and you have to know the UID of those devices when you build your app.

Until Apple lets go and allows developers to ship products without Apple’s approval, it deserves all the grief hurled at it. The funny thing is that just about every developer who is criticizing the arrangement now would probably submit a portion of their products to the App Store if there were a parallel self-distribution route. Apple has done well dealing with what are essentially micropayments and setting up a trusted source. There’s value in that. But it’s suicide to give one company control of your product. It sets a terrible precedent for the software industry to have hardware and OS vendors control the 3rd party market.

James

@bosco Everything you say on, well, any subject reminds me of a monkey throwing poo, or a four year-old having a tears of entitlement laden temper tantrum of impatience. Please put away your poo.

Any system takes time to hammer out. Sometimes I think the worst thing to happen to us were the overnight fortunes of the dot-com era. I think there was a small window of time there where a certain generation of people just came up with unrealistic expectations for pretty much everything. It isn’t as though an editing process is anything new in any medium. No one is twisting anybody’s arm. If you don’t like it, find ways to work within the system or go to a different platform. Everyone is born with their own creative resources. Use ‘em.

Peter

Things that amuse me:

1.  “For The Most Part.”  He used that, twice.  The question becomes, is “For The Most Part” good enough?  And, if it isn’t, would it be better to drop the whole thing?

People trust the App Store.  They trust that Apple will do their best to ferret out Apps which are security risks.  The problem is, when Apple fails, what happens to the people who trusted Apple?  Would it be better for Apple to drop the whole “App Store” and, thus, force people to be concerned about these things?

2.  “There have been apps submitted [...] which are intended to help the user break the law.”  Phil brings up a card game app (I assume it’s some sort of automated card counter).  I’ll bring up another one that brought the same claim from Apple.

There was an iPhone App submitted which allowed the customer to view the progress of their Bit-Torrent queues.  They could add new items, delete items, or just see what the status was.  This was denied by Apple because Bit-Torrent could be used to download copyrighted material, despite the fact that this App was not downloading anything.

(That said, the solution to this is to make it a web app.)

Nice try, Phil.

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