Concerns about “App Store Review Guidelines”

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Apple today announced the release of its “App Store Review Guidelines.” From one perspective, this is a dramatic and welcome shift in Apple’s policy — signaling a new “transparency” in Apple’s approval process. From another, it changes almost nothing. It’s still “business as usual,” except that Apple is now more open about its lack of openness.

The dilemma

In the past, developers have too often been frustrated by rejection of an app for reasons that were never adequately explained or anticipated.

Consider the dilemma that confronts developers: They have no idea whether or not their app will be rejected until after they submit it. In order to submit an app, they first have to complete it. In order to complete an app, they have to invest a significant amount of resources (time and money). If the app is ultimately rejected, the time and money invested in the app is potentially down the drain. Other than offering the app via “jailbreak” stores, there is no alternative for getting it on an iOS device.

There is almost nothing comparable to this in other environments. For example, book authors typically don’t tackle a project without getting assurance from a publisher (usually in the form of an advance) that their work will be compensated. In the world of Mac OS X software, you don’t get an advance, but you can publish your program without needing approval from Apple or anyone else.

Anything that helps developers avoid this dilemma is certainly welcome. And the new Guidelines do help. However, it’s no panacea and I find aspects of it to be troubling.

The document

The Guidelines document is divided into two main sections. The first section is an Introduction. The second section is a detailed itemized list of what to avoid if you don’t want your app rejected — from what not to do with Push Notifications to what levels of violence are unacceptable in an app.

For the most part, the list offers useful policy statements. There are a few oddities however.

For example, one item says: “Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary.” Does this mean that “amateur” satirists are not exempt? I assume so, although it is not clear to me how one defines “professional” vs. “amateur” here. Apparently, Apple defines it however it wishes.

Another item states: “Apps that exhibit bugs will be rejected.” I am sure this item is well-intentioned. Ideally, it should keep buggy half-finished apps out of the App Store.  Still, when I consider all the apps that have been updated to “fix bugs,” this clause could probably be used to reject virtually every app currently in the App Store. Apple has a lot of latitude here.

Still, having this list is much better than having no list at all.

My concerns focus more on the Introduction, which summarizes the “broader themes” of the Guidelines and which may ultimately be more revealing as to how Apple views the entire document. From the tone of the Introduction, I suspect it was written by Steve Jobs himself. I can’t imagine anyone else getting away with saying “We don’t need any more Fart apps.” But who knows. In any case, to me, the ultimate message of the Introduction is a disturbing one. To explain why, I list each item (as cited from a ZDNet article) followed by my comments:

• We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.

In other words, the presence of Parental Controls is meaningless as a defense for a rejected app. At one time, I had hoped that Apple would would make meaningful use of its 17+ rating. Apps given this rating could then contain content not appropriate for children. It would be up to parents to enforce the restriction via Parental Controls. Sadly, this is not the case. Essentially, this item implies that, unless an app is thematically acceptable for an 8-year-old to view, don’t expect to see it in the App Store.

• We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.

I applaud the intent of this item. I agree that we don’t need any more Fart apps. Even one is one too many for me. Still, I am concerned about the words “useful” and “lasting entertainment.” Who gets to define this? Hint: It’s not you or me. What if I think something is useful, but Apple does not? This item could ultimately be used to justify rejecting almost anything.

• If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.

Again, I applaud the intent here. I don’t want “practice apps” in the Store. But once again, I wonder about the basis used to define terms — in this case, “amateur hour.” I have some concern that this may be used to favor apps by large companies over similar, but less “professional” apps by smaller developers. I hope not.

• We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.

This item is particularly disturbing. The basis for going “over the line” is to “know it when you cross it”? I’m sorry but I don’t find that helpful at all. To me, this simply encourages self-censorship and a lack of risk-taking. I imagine most developers will react to this by saying: “To avoid rejection of my app, I will stay as far away from the ‘line’ as possible.” Any app that might have gotten close to the line, but not crossed it, will never be submitted in the first place.

• If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.

Whoa! I view this almost as a form of intimidation. In my opinion, Apple is threatening developers here. While the actual text says “it never helps,” the not-so-hidden subtext is: “If you go to the press, we may retaliate by never accepting your app no matter how you revise it.” This coerces developers to become complicit in Apple’s desire to maintain secrecy regarding the approval process.

I’m not suggesting that it is wise for developers to run to the press after each and every rejection. But sometimes it is appropriate. Developers and Apple are not “partners.” It’s not a “partnership” when one side has all the power and rejections are given with no explanation.

• This is a living document, and new apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your app will trigger this.

Put another way, this can be read as: “Even if your app doesn’t violate any of the rules in the Guidelines, we may make up a new rule just for your app and reject your app on that basis.” Nice.

Bottom line

As I look over the Guidelines, it becomes clear that very little may have ultimately changed. Yes, Apple has provided specifics that will help developers avoid wasting resources on an app that would ultimately be rejected. However, the Guidelines will likely have little effect on the sorts of apps whose rejections led to controversies over the past years. Apple is still able to reject apps for almost any reason it wishes and still provide no feedback to the developer as to why a rejection occurred.

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Comments

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ted wins insightful point of the year for pointing out that the intro looks like it was written by Steve himself. We need to take this further. Why do this and why now? There are two reasonable explanations: (1) anti-trust heat, and (2) heat from content publishers (WSJ, Conde Nast, etc.). That they decided it was the right thing to do or felt pressure from Android is horse feathers. Steve doesn’t think it’s the right thing to do. And they still have 3x to 5x as many apps, if that’s how we’re measuring things.

Nemo, in a previous thread wrote:

As for mosquitoes, if you apps don?t violate new Section 3.3.2 and conform to Apple new guidelines for reviewing apps, particularly the requirement that, in sole discretion of Apple?s New Review Board, your apps runs well enough, Apple will let them into the App Store; otherwise your apps will get caught in the mosquito netting that screens non-conforming apps.

In my two reasonable explanations though, Apple really doesn’t have the flexibility to put up mosquito netting. If this is to head off anti-trust concerns, they have to behave in a more than accommodating way wherever a question of improper monopolistic behavior might apply. So Flash developers would really have a big advantage.

But explanation (2) is far more interesting (and likely) in my mind. See, if Apple rejects a new Wired app that’s Flash based and compiled to AIR, Chris Anderson and Conde Nast won’t go running to the press. They are the press. Funny how that might play out.

Nemo

Notwithstanding Mr. Landau’s hyperbolic editorializing, a developer who follows the new guidelines (Guidelines) for reviewing apps can be fairly certain that his app will be permitted into the App Store.  Remember that Apple, prior to these new guidelines, approved 95% of all apps submitted to the App Store.  To use the new Guidelines to increase the odds of getting into the App Store north of 95%, a developer and his counsel need only reasonably interpret the language of the Guidelines and then proceed in good faith to honor the provisions of the Guidelines.  North of 95% certainty is far more certainty that one gets in most business ventures and shouldn’t and won’t stand as any impediment to anyone accustomed to the normal risks of being in business.  Certainly the other factors that affect an apps success reduces the odds of its success to well below 95%, so the Guidelines, when reasonably interpreted and honestly complied with, permit a developer to determined the likelihood that his app will be accepted with better than 95% certainty.  If that isn’t enough certainty, then perhaps life itself is too risky for you.

Bosco, your first reason has no merit, and the second one has too little merit to be persuasive.  First, there was no antitrust inquiry into Apple’s process for accepting and rejecting apps from the App Store.  Even the most ardent critics of Apple’s review process had to admit that rejection of apps was based on either the content, performance, and/or whether the app perpetrated fraud.  None of that sounds as a cause of action in U.S. antitrust law, not even under Charter 5 of the FTC.  What antitrust inquiry there was appeared to be focused on Apple’s banning the use of cross compilers to code apps for the iOS.  Therefore, antitrust pressure could not have motivated Apple’s change it its review policies, because there was no such antitrust inquiry.

Your second argument has too little merit, because when presented with the choice between iOS devices and Flash, the big publisher, for the most part, choose iOS.  Also, the movement is away from Flash, because, not to put too fine a point on it, Flash sucks, as Flash 10.1’s miserable performance on Froyo demonstrates.  Flash imposes a far greater burden on developers large and small than any benefit it provides:  Adobe’s tools for Flash are wickedly expensive, so that once you have a lot of seats, the costs are exorbitant; it runs so poorly on mobile devices that your ads or other content are poorly presented to the end user; and it is a closed platform that Adobe develops with the principal purpose of continuing its near monopoly on desktop content.  It is in no one’s interest to continue those vice and extend them to mobile devices.

Thus, nothing will impede Apple in a reasonable and good faith enforcement of the Guidelines.

And one final thought about jailbreaking, it seems that, aside from jailbreaking being legally dubious, because, notwithstanding the recent decision by the Librarian of Congress, no federal district could has ever held that jailbreaking the iOS is Fair Use, the principal jailbreakers have announced that they are quitting after iOS 4.1, because continued jailbreaking only increase the invulnerability of the iOS to jailbreaking, as Apple patches each new jailbreak.  So I it seems that trying to make an app for profit that depends on jailbroken iOS devices is far more risky than complying with the Guidelines.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

So this article for example, besides being prescient, is complete BS, right Nemo? Perhaps it wasn’t anti-trust issues that had the FTC and DOJ sniffing around. Perhaps Adobe prompted them to investigate whether Steve Jobs used undue influence to get a new liver.

As for the supposed move away from Flash… You think we’re talking about a browser plugin. That’s actually just a small piece of “Flash”. There is a huge publishing platform that firms like Conde Nast had banked on for hitting rumored tablet devices. Spurned by Apple, they scrambled to come up with an alternative with the help of Adobe. It’s funny that people noticed the bloat of the first issue delivered while singing its praises for content. The upcoming Flash-based issues will have a lot less bloat grin. Plus they’ll be deployable across a range of platforms in formats that allow the publisher to monetize their asset differently based on platform.

Nemo

Bosco:  You should read the articles that you cite for authority.  A direct quote from the article that you cited:  “The changes banned the use of tools that convert apps built on other platforms into iPhone apps.”  Thus, Adobe’s complaint, as I said, supra, was about forbidding the use of cross compilers to code for the iOS.

No, I meant that the movement is away from Flash to code apps and content.  And, of course, that also includes the Flash plugin, that constant bane of security on my computers, and if there is no plugin, then Flash doesn’t run in the browser, which is where a lot of computing takes place.

But the big move has been away from using Flash for apps and content.

To make my life simpler, all of my browsers, except for one of four, which I don’t much use, block Flash content.

iVoid

“We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don?t work unless the parents set them up (many don?t). So know that we?re keeping an eye out for the kids.”

In other word Apple is saying “Since you won’t raise your own kids, we will.”

Parents don’t even get a chance to decide what’s appropriate for THEIR kids or not. Apple has decided for them.

In the meantime these devices without parental controls setup can goto sex.com and get all the porn they want. Pretend all you want Stevo, you sell devices that can be used to watch porn, see political humor, and do many things you don’t want parents to think their kids can’t get to by your overreaching ‘guidelines’.

One wonders why they even bothered with parental controls in the first place if they think all parents are too stupid to use them (granted some parents ARE too stupid to use them, so they can get their kids to help them smile ).

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ah yes, I knew Wired would be on top of this… Check out this pull quote:

Apple did not specifically mention Adobe ? though investors drove up shares of the company up 12 percent on the news ? but the changes seem to mean that you can use Flash to develop your apps, and then compile them to work on the iPhone and iPad with a tool called Adobe Packager. This could be boon to publishers, including Cond? Nast, owner of Wired, which use Adobe?s Creative Suite to make print magazines and would now be able to easily convert them into digital version instead of re-creating them from scratch in the only handful of coding languages Apple had allowed.

But hey, I’m just here lying to you guys…

daemon

Amateur
2: one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession

Professional
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs <a >
webster

So basically if you don’t make any money off your app you’re an amateur, professionals make money?

Salesmen say “you get what you pay for.” This is the only response that they can say when you present them with a product that is cheaper, better, and more reliable then the one they’re trying to sell you. It allows them to imply through fear, doubt, and uncertainty that their product is somehow better without lieing.

“Amateur hour” is another one of those phrases.

vasic

Brad,

You apparently didn’t understand Nemo’s response. The article you quote implies anti-trust fishing expedition due to an issue totally unrelated to the App Store review process. You seem to be confusing two events; one is the publication of App Store Review Guidelines, the other is the change in iOS Developer Programme License. While the two were announced on the same day, they are, for the most part, completely unrelated. There was no anti-trust sniffing around the process, so your first point does not stand.

As for the second one, I can see your point, but it is far from clear. Right now, publishers are using iOS SDK to deploy their magazines. Will they switch to Flash from now on? Possibly. How likely? We simply don’t know. You may be right, and we will have to see this. However, I don’t believe, for one moment, that Steve Jobs decided to let Adobe provide tools for wrapping Flash content inside an iOS app because publishers were vocal about it. I’m sure Steve’s plan for publishers was (and still is) to sell their wares through his eBook store, not as individual apps. If there was ANY pressure, it could have come from those who actually develop complex, elaborate applications using Flash. These were effectively shut out of the iOS market, as porting a Flash app over to iOS is just not worth it, regardless of the massive size of that iOS market. It is just that complicated. Jobs has successfully ignored businesses and industries significantly more powerful (and meaningful) than the publishing industry (remember Universal’s ultimatum over iTunes music and videos?). There is no way he would make an about face of this kind for the publishing industry.

vasic

One other thing; the Review Guidelines document seems to be read and interpreted by most here as if it were a binding legal document. Based on the tone and spirit of some of the text quoted here (particularly, the Introduction passages), it seems to be that it is just a common-sense guideline. To me, the clue was mentioning the word ‘fart’ in it. No real legal document ever contained such colourful language, and it should be an indication to anyone reading it that it should be read as exactly what it is - a guideline (and not a license agreement, or something similar). In other words, use some common sense when you read it, and you’ll understand it. This effectively precludes lawyers from reading it, since they are not supposed to allow usage of common sense during reading and understanding of a document.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Of course the language requirement is tightly intertwined with the review process. Both are highly subjective in practice, whether explicitly outlined or not. By your “understanding”, it would be impossible for Fruit Smash Organic to be in the App Store, since it was made with Flash. But there it is, available for $2.99, as I pointed out in another thread today.

And why should the publishers give a flying firetruck about “Steve’s plan”? There are two reasons they want to make apps. (1) They have interactive content. (2) They want to ensure that they can monetize it. Playing within someone else’s static reader defeats them on both fronts. The publishers are not fanboys. Steve’s little stunt cost Cond? Nast millions of dollars, while at the same time, Steve was getting weird “credit” for offering hope to the publishing industry.

You know what I think is funniest about that Wired article? They use Wired and Cond? Nast as an example without writing the obligatory “potential conflict of interest” statement. They jump into the discussion using themselves as an example within hours of it starting. Is there even an app for bitch-slapping Steve Jobs so blatantly?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Oh, one last thing… The only reason any of the App Store requirements are an “issue” or even interesting is that Apple does not allow side-loaded apps on iOS devices, regardless of whether they are subsidized by a carrier or purchased outright by a consumer. Let developers sell to their customers privately and there’s nothing to see here.

MOSiX Man

In the meantime these devices without parental controls setup can goto sex.com and get all the porn they want. Pretend all you want Stevo, you sell devices that can be used to watch porn, see political humor, and do many things you don?t want parents to think their kids can?t get to by your overreaching ?guidelines?.

You’re missing the key point here. It’s not about whether or not iOS devices can be used to display ‘adult’ content, but rather whether or not Apple allows such content to be sold via their store. Of course Apple is well aware that there are other means of viewing such content on iOS devices! Do you really think that they care if little Timmy goes to sex.com and get’s himself an eyeful of naughtiness? What they really care about is making sure that little Timmy’s mom doesn’t get pissed-off about them directly providing the content to little Timmy. If they did directly provide the content, then they’d be open to claims of illegally providing such content to minors. Steve Jobs does NOT want to end up being compared to Larry Flynt.

vasic

Brad,

You keep looking at everything from your own, fairly unique perspective, which is fine. That is the reason you own an Android, rather than an iPhone (you want to get an app from the developers privately; you want to install whatever you deem suitable for your device; you don’t like any “higher authority” limiting or controlling the way you use your device). Apple has decided that in order to provide most attractive, trouble-free and intuitive experience for majority of their cusstomers, they needed to erect a walled garden and plant some flowers inside. Most people actually like walled gardens; they feel safer inside, and everything is nice. For those who feel deprived (of whatever it may be they feel deprived of), Apple clearly does NOT provide adequate solutions.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Vasic, the problem with that argument is that Apple is not a benevolent dictator in the iOS space. Nor do they make optimal decisions for the space. Cond? Nast and Adobe spent millions of dollars they didn’t anticipate having to spend to come up with an alternative publishing platform to satisfy Steve Jobs’ whims. Given that Steve’s whims have now changed, they’ll go back to their original plan, because it was simply a better, less expensive plan that will yield better, more consistent results. If you wonder why there is a war, look no further than that.

But as to Apple protecting its customers. You mean from Google Voice, right? Arbitrarily putting in “rules” that prohibit apps from initiating industry standard dial strings from the phone. Claiming to the FCC that allowing that would downgrade the user experience for Visual Voicemail (which sucks ass for anyone who gets 10 calls a day).

Or the ad network provisions that pretty much gave Apple a monopoly over ads on iOS devices after many other companies had invested over multiple years in the space. That’s just protecting users, right?

Apple isn’t even subtle about aligning its revenue interests with this “walled garden” to the exclusion of other parties. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to monetize things. But call it what it is, and then see how many people actually want to be party to that.

Nemo

As Google’s and RIM’s misfortunes have shown, permitting unregulated side-loading of an app store or of any online facility isn’t a viable approach for an international apps store or facility.  The argument that Bosco advances is that is you permit side-loading, that is, if you eschew control of what apps get on Android devices or that appear in MarketPlace, then you need not concern yourself with the content of apps, because you won’t be blamed for anything.  Well, China has put paid to that argument.  It is precisely because Google exerts no control or very little control of Android MarketPlace that caused China to de facto ban the MarketPlace in China.  China insist on controlling what apps its citizens get.  And China isn’t the only country where an oppressive regime or cultural sensitivities place Google’s laissez-faire management of the MarketPlace at risk.  Wherever there is a sensitive cultural belief or government mandate, there must be regulation of an app store, because the operator of that store will be expected to honor government policy and/or cultural values, and trying to hide behind the excuse that it is the developer and not me only results in your apps store being severely restricted, if not banned.

Apple and Google both do business in sensitive regions, where their respective app stores will be expected to honor policy and values.  Apple can do that; Google can’t do that or at least hasn’t done that.  So whether you have to face the demands of the Indonesian government or of a west Texas school board, you have to be able to comply with their wishes and do so, or you won’t be doing business in those places.  RIM and Google’s plight are the dispositive proof that laissez-faire regulation or regulation that doesn’t comply with local policies and values won’t work.

Mr. Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, must wake in cold sweats at the though that some religious bigot here in the U.S. or elsewhere will get the idea of striking back at the planned ground-zero Mosque by insulting Muhammad with an app in the MarketPlace.  Fortunately, these jerks are about as computer literate as my cat.  But, as Mr. Drummond knows, the day is coming for the MarketPlace in some other commercially significant country.

Does this mean that the App Store is less a bastion of free speech than one would wish?  Yes, it does.  But Apple is a business that operates its business and its App Store throughout the world; it is not responsible for preserving free speech but must comply with local law and custom.  If you want free speech, you have it in the browser, if a government firewall does not block it.  For those, who want free speech in the App Store, go transform the world into a tolerant place of free expression.  I sure that Mr. Drummond will thank you, and Steve Jobs too.  Good luck.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Good grief Nemo. That’s what I mean about claiming to align user interests to monetary choke points. You can open Safari and search for “Danish Cartoons” in Google images.

And yet, Apple is protecting us all by not allowing someone to make a calendar of these images and distribute it on his website without Apple’s involvement at all. Whatever. The mental gymnastics you guys have to go through to justify douchebaggery in pursuit of maximum profits is hilarious. Have you no shame?

Nemo

You really need to read my posts more carefully.  Browsers don’t count.  No one, except perhaps the North Korean government, would hold Apple or any company responsible for what can be accessed on a browser.  Browser are apps that conform, more or less, to industry standards, so even the most tyrannical dictator understands, that unlike an app store, no company controls the browser.  China handles the problem by surrounding its entire domestic Internet with a Great Firewall of China that a Chinese citizen breaches at the risk of his liberty and perhaps his life.  And some countries have at least considered trying to impose modified browsers, but that is pointless, unless you can control access to the Internet, as China has done and as others do.

So that I can point Safari to Danish Cartoons proves nothing to diminish my argument.  App stores ain’t browsers.  A company will be held responsible for app stores, not browsers.  Why?  Because Google chooses to not to regulate the MarketPlace, while it can’t control the browser.  Even on the iOS, there are third party browsers that can access the Web.  Governments and cultures hold you responsible for what you can control, whether you choose to control or not; they don’t hold you responsible for what you can’t control, such as the browser, the Internet, and that the Sun rises in the East.

JonGl

I’m not sure why you guys are even bothering responding to Bosco. It is obvious that there is only one person in his world—him, and there is room for only one person—him, and room for only one person’s viewpoints—his. He is a troll—a self-absorbed troll who adds more noise to this site than anybody I’ve ever seen! The guy is a pit of vitriol of his own hatred. Ignore the guy! Please!!! It’s polluting the comments!

-Jon

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You’re tough to follow Nemo. I really thought we were talking about side loading, not App Stores. You know, basically the concept of it’s my phone and I can install the content and software on it that I wish without that content having to be approved and filtered by some designated authority. Kinda like you can do on your Mac.

Is it much of a stretch from your argument that being able to install unapproved software on an iPhone might result in more Americans dying in Afghanistan?

Dude, I’m really trying to understand you, and it’s difficult. Take this:

The argument that Bosco advances is that is you permit side-loading, that is, if you eschew control of what apps get on Android devices or that appear in MarketPlace, then you need not concern yourself with the content of apps, because you won?t be blamed for anything.

Maybe you don’t know what side-loading is?!? Apple actually does permit it in a cumbersome way for Enterprise deployment. Are you saying that I could start World War 3 by making a Mao v. Muhammad smack-down app and sharing it with a few friends? Hmmm.

Nemo

The issue is control and culpability.  Apple controls its Apps Store and side loading, and technically savvy people, who work for depots, bigots, school boards, CIOs, and other that have an interest in controlling apps, know that Google and others can do as Apple has done.  That control makes you culpable, whether it is the the ability to control what apps get on your app store or what apps get side-loaded on your devices.  Google can control both but doesn’t control either, except where its commercial interests are at stake, and that gets noticed by depots and bigots everywhere.  Apple acknowledges the world that it and all of us live in and its responsibility to reasonably exercise its control over the App Store and side-loading.  Google’s attempt to dodge that culpability by saying that it declines to exercise control wasn’t persuasive in China and won’t be elsewhere.

And I am sorry you think that it is your phone to do with as you wish.  Let me disabuse you of that notion.  It depends entirely on the terms of the transaction.  iPhones aren’t provided to customers on terms that let them do as they wish with their iPhones.  But neither is any smartphone.  The terms vary, but the extensive control is the same. 

Google, by the way, is among the most restrictive in deciding what apps go on Android phones that are sold outside of China.  Outside of China, you must have Google’s apps and a Google account to use an Android phone.  And while experts and not ordinary users may circumvent the need for a Google account and replace Google’s apps, the resulting Android phone isn’t much use, can’t be used by ordinary users, and you will never get phone from an OEM that sells Android outside of China that doesn’t have Google’s apps and require a Google account.

Well depots and bigots everywhere notice that Google has that kind of powerful control of Android but only uses it to benefit its commercial interests.  Well, that wasn’t accepted in China and won’t be accepted in by CIOs or small town school board or by bigots and despots, who rule or live in countries where the Internet can be used to communicate ideas.

So the concepts that you want to focus on are culpability and control.  That Google has the capacity to control both the apps on the MarketPlace and side-loading on its devices but only exercise that control sole for its commercial benefit won’t be accepted, once that refusal to control collides with a national policy or an important cultural value. 

And another aspect of Android that makes it a much greater threat to freedom of choice and competition. Ironically, despite Google supposed openness and in the unlikely event that Android were to prevail, the carriers control over a phone’s hardware, OS, apps, and app store would return, because Android devices are just fungible parts.  That was a time when hardware and OS where so fragmented that development was an impossible and costly nightmare; when a developer would be lucky to keep 50% of the revenue of the few apps that carriers permitted; when customers where gouged in price to buy apps that ranged from bad to mediocre; when any app that conflicted with a carrier’s revenue opportunity wasn’t permitted, and when phones generally sucked.  That’s the world of mobile devices that Android’s success would bring.  And the only two parties to benefit from that world would be the carriers collectively and Google, whose apps would be on those awful phones, kicking out the ad revenue for Google, but you, Bosco, as developer wouldn’t see much revenue, as no mobile developer did prior to the iPhone.  How soon we forget.  But that would at least shift the burden of control from Google back to the carriers, and then you will really learn what control and restrictions mean.

Lee Dronick

depots and bigots

Nemo, I have added to my vocabulary by reading your posts, but was “depot” a typo and did you mean “despot?” If it is a legal term let me know the definition.

Thanks

rjackb

the Review Guidelines document seems to be read and interpreted by most here as if it were a binding legal document. Based on the tone and spirit of some of the text quoted here (particularly, the Introduction passages), it seems to be that it is just a common-sense guideline.

vasic, those were my sentiments exactly. Everyone seems to be reading the document as if were a legal document but it obviously is not and thankfully it isn’t.

Nemo

No, it’s a typo.  My shortcomings in spelling and as proofreader are legendary.  But for secretaries and proofreaders, I’d be ashamed to show my face in court.

Lee Dronick

Thanks Nemo, from you I learned that supra is more than a Toyota smile

Nemo

And no, guidelines are not anything that give a developer any rights beyond those established in the iOS Developer’s license and Apple giving a reasonable interpretation to the license’s language.  But the guidelines are carefully crafted to give Apple broad discretion in determining what apps comply with the guidelines.  Reason and applicable law appear to be the only things that cabin Apple’s discretion.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo, Half (give or take 20%) of the apps on combined App Store and Marketplace are free. Not everyone’s business model involving mobile apps requires payment for the apps. There are all sorts of very standard business reasons for wanting apps on mobile device and not wanting users to pay for them.

As for the international relations argument against side loading… I am reminded of the one jury trial on which I was a juror. The defendant was accused on driving under the influence of alcohol. Testimony against him was that he blew a number off the scale of the field device, then threw the test an hour and a half later at the station. The defense attorney presented that the defendant ate a quesadilla (this is important) and drank a beer. Then he proceeded to discuss how a quesadilla could (a) soak up alcohol in the stomach and (b) cause a nervous person, such as someone arrested to regurgitate uncontrollably, basically once every couple of minutes, which would (according to prosecution witnesses) throw the breathalizer at the station. OK, so with this we have a standard pissing match and the jury would have talked it out and probably found a lesser charge to convict the guy on. But no, the defense attorney had to jump the shark, with a math lesson on a large flip chart involving quesadillas, beer, time, and BAC values. He insulted the intelligence of several jurors, and he paid. Quickly.

Nemo, I respect that you genuinely care about Apple and maybe even about not starting World War 3 because of some greedy rogue software developer. But you’ve jumped the shark. The ban on side-loading for widespread distribution is about one thing and one thing only. That is giving Apple a monopoly on legitimate distribution of software on the iOS platform.

Now, today we have witnessed something that Nemo promised us repeatedly over the past few months could never happen. Apple has relented on its third party tools ban for whatever reason. I gave you the two best candidate reasons above, but you can believe whatever reason you want. The fact is, Apple relented. So what will Nemo say if Apple relents on side-loading at some future time? Or asks Adobe to deliver a Flash plugin for its browser? Then what Nemo? How will you spin that?

Apple admitted today that it got its ass handed to it over a braindead, anti-intellectual policy. I think we’ll see the extent of that handing by how quickly and broadly Flash penetrates the selection of the App Store. And I predict that the way Apple will save face is to again ban Flash from its App Store but allow side loading, which would have been the right way to deal with this from the beginning. Let the customers who want Disneyland have DIsneyland. Let the customers who are grown up enough to take care of themselves do do.

Nemo

Well, you can ask Google who jumped the shark in China.  As for Flash, after Apple’s change in policy, Flash still isn’t permitted either in the App Store or on iOS devices, so no, we won’t see Flash flooding into the App Store, though we may see more mediocre apps developed with Flash packagers.

And blocking side-loading preserves Apple’s monopoly?  It is some strange monopoly, where Apple approves 95% of all submitted apps.  So this monopoly consists of the five percent of apps that are rejected?  Take it from one who knows, five percent is not even close to what the U.S. Supreme Court considers to be an effective monopoly; that isn’t even market power.

And I don’t recall promising that Apple would not permit cross compilers.  What I said is that Apple had a good legal case for arguing that its prohibition against cross compilers was not anti-competitive and that it made business sense from the perspective of improving the quality of apps and allowing Apple to better control the development and enhancement of its iOS.  I still believe that is all correct, but there is more than one way to skin a cat or to trash Flash.  And I think that I am beginning to see what Apple may be up to.

As for side-loading, Apple will permit side-loading for the three to five percent of apps that it rejects, many of which are unquestionably malware or are used to perpetrate fraud?  Why would even Google do that?  Side-loading has such a tough time as a business proposition, because there isn’t much to side-loaded that anyone would want that isn’t already in the App Store.

I don’t recall that Apple has admitted anything today.  What it did was change policy in a way that may well permit it to accomplish its end in a more practical way, just as it has done with the jailbreakers.  Sure Apple could have wound up its lawyers and conducted a multi-year and multi-million dollar lawsuit over whether jailbreaking iOS is Fair Use and done so with reasonable prospects of success.  But instead it let its engineers handle the problem in a way that is much quicker and much less expensive, which has made the Librarian of Congress’ decision a nullity.  I don’t think that Flash and/or AIR will do any better on the iOS, nor should they, because they are obsolete and poorly performing technology that does nothing but maintain Adobe’s near monopoly on computers and tries to extend that monopoly to mobile devices.

But we shall see.

Nemo

Bosco: You also need to check your numbers regarding free apps on the App Store and the MarketPlace.  Based on the numbers that I’ve seen repeated by many reports, the App Store has about 29% free apps, while the Market Place has more than twice that number of free apps at 60%.  See http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/02/distimo-july-2010-2/.  These numbers from Techcrunch are from a paper that is strongly biased in favor of Android and against the iOS.  And the App Store has more than twice as many apps.  So no, half the apps on the App Store are not free;  only 29% are free, though the absolute number of free apps on the App store may be larger than the number of free apps in the MarketPlace.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo: “Half (give or take 20%)” covers 30%. The Droid, Droid 2, and Droid X on Verizon allow side-loaded apps. The Droids accounted for 27% of Android phone sales last quarter. So we’re talking millions of shipped Android phones that allow side-loading without rooting or other workarounds. Three apps you might want to side-load that were not approved by Apple: (1) Google Voice. (2) Original South Park app, which 1.5 years ago, sparked the debate over Apple’s approval process. (3) Scratch from MIT which was banned for allowing kids to write “programs”. The horror.

The part I can’t figure out is why Wired would even consider switching back to the Flash platform for their iPad app if Flash is so inferior. They and Adobe spent a lot of money kludging something together that would meet Apple’s old requirements while preserving Wired’s workflow for print and other online publication. Splain it to me Nemo. Why are they going to dump that work if it is so superior?

Nemo

And give or take 100% covers even more.

All Android phones, except the ones in China, let you side-load apps.  But what they don’t do is let you make use of an Android phone without a Google account, nor can you get one, outside of China, without Google’s apps, which, of course, means that there is no fair chance to compete against Google’s native apps.

Google Voice was denied because it altered iOS code and the basic function of the iOS.  I have Apple response to the FTC that alleges that to be true, and I have Google response to the FTC, which does not, as far as I can tell from its heavily redacted answer, deny that allegation.  Nor, as far as I can determine, has Google ever publicly denied Apple’s allegation that Google Voice altered the iOS’s code, which is something that Apple has never permitted and which no court would require it to permit.

Well, if it let kids write programs that ran on the iOS that is side-loading, which, as we’ve discussed, is not permitted.  But Android is full of amateur, free junk apps, so that’s an idea platform to on which to learn programing before your graduate to professional development on the iOS.

As for South Park, it didn’t comply with Apple’s guidelines, so, if that’s a deal killer for you, then go to Android.

Nemo

As for Wired, like my Grandma use to say, there is always one [or even a few] in the bunch.  That, and the fact that Wired’s app has been regarded by some as piece of hackneyed junk.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Fact check…

* The HTC Aria on AT&T does not allow side-loaded apps.

* The changed code that Apple alleges Google Voice makes is a standard dial string that changes network behavior, not phone behavior. Apple went so far as to disallow dialing the * and # keys from an app, as these are used to program the network. If you have a phone book from your local telco, it probably has instructions for programming call forwarding, and busy forward to another number. It’s a frigging standard.

* Users of MIT’s Scratch have written and shared over a million Scratch apps. I would wager that MIT has more expertise on how to write good programs than Apple. In fact, they have such a surplus that they can consider how to teach kids the basic skills they need.

* Reviews of Wired’s iPad app have been exceedingly positive across the board with the notable exception of the price point. Again, why change it to an obsolete technology, as you call Flash?

This takes the cake Nemo:

But what they don?t do is let you make use of an Android phone without a Google account, nor can you get one, outside of China, without Google?s apps, which, of course, means that there is no fair chance to compete against Google?s native apps.

Huh? You can certainly use many features of an Android phone without a Google account. You can replace every one of Google’s native apps. And having the Google apps is highly desired by the manufacturers, not shunned. Google requires the devices have a GPS and a cellular radio to get Marketplace. What tablets are doing is putting the radio requirement under scrutiny. Perhaps I don’t get your point?

wab95

Ted:

I’d like to go back to what I understand of your basic premise, namely that Apple’s guidance to developers renders transparent only their continued lack of transparency. This is what I understand to be your argument.

I am not a developer, and have never written an app for the App Store, but permit me to offer the perspective, from a different professional reference frame, yet of someone who has to develop intellectual content for a living. I have to write grant proposals. This is how I get the money to pay my salary, as well as that of a team 150 strong, and provide salary support for colleagues worldwide.

I am sympathetic to the issue of not knowing if the literally 100’s of manhours devoted to developing content will be accepted. Beyond this, my sympathy wanes for the following reasons.

Many of us have to produce content in the midst of uncertainty, and some of do so in extremely competitive circumstances, where failure can dictate precipitous career change. What you portray is not the exception, but the rule in competitive markets (think aerospace, medicine, construction, music - I could go on). In most of these markets, matriculation is high. If it is true that somewhere near 95% of submissions are accepted at the app store, I see little basis for complaint. I write grants to institutions where the rejection rate is nearly that high, certainly north of 90%. The question is, how many and what fraction of submissions to the app store (or any institution) are accepted? In my profession, the success rate is somewhere below one in three overall. I would gladly take the app store’s odds of success. 

This leads to another issue you raised, namely, knowing what is the basis for acceptance or rejection. You need to know whom you are writing/developing for. I only wish that the places where I submit proposals would tell us what they will and will not accept. But a professional should not need it. Instead, the professional assumes the responsibility of understanding the interests of a potential institution. Not only should you read their mission statement, you should look at what they approve, particularly in your field of interest. This, more than reading guidelines, will tell you what is likely to succeed. I get no points for submitting a proposal on acute infections in kids to an institution that funds work on chronic diseases in the elderly.

Regarding Apple’s guidelines, to me it’s clear who this company is and what they want. You have to look at the big picture, rather than nit-pick at minutiae. What little you’ve quoted from Apple’s guidance tells me that this company wants well-written apps that can be openly marketed to a family audience. That is what I would write. I also differ in your assessment regarding professional political satire. My interpretation is that Apple are saying, ‘If you are an established satirist, apply; but don’t debut your career in political satire here’. Fair enough.

The third issue is understanding contracts and guidelines; the good ones are just that, guidelines. This is an artform whose objective is to keep things general enough to allow flexibility, yet specific enough to apply brakes to things that do not meet an industry standard. I sign off on multiple contracts each year, and although Apple haven’t published a contract, the principal is the same. You want to avoid being pigeon-holed where you need to keep options open, typically to everyone’s benefit, while only nailing down those elements about which you are certain will not change.

If one of my junior colleagues or post-docs provided the arguments you’ve posted against these basic guidelines, I’d fire-wall him/her from assisting with grant development for failure of imagination and understanding. I would also tell them that unless they learn to think more broadly, they should plan on a new career.

To be fair, I am not in your profession, and admit that I cannot walk in your shoes. Nonetheless, using the standards in my own profession, and looking at the quality and calibre of your other publications, I would have expected a better, more well-rounded analysis.

Nemo

Dear wab95:  Well said.

jecrawford

Bosco

“But hey, I?m just here lying to you guys?”
Maybe, maybe not. But ?

? and “Oh, one last thing?”

Followed by 3 more posts!

I wish it was “one last thing” ?? permanently. Drop the crusade. It’s boring.

trrll

With respect to the Guidelines, it is clear that the terms have not changed:

Apple, at its sole discretion, will decide what apps may be distributed through the Apple store. Apple will not establish a firm set of rules such that a developer whose app is rejected could conceivably sue Apple, arguing that his app was improperly rejected because it technically does not violate the rules.

That’s the deal, and I will be very surprised if it ever changes.

What this appears to be is an effort by Apple to be more forthcoming about its criteria for approving apps.

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