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Apple's developer treatment: too much about image?

updated 05:55 pm EDT, Thu June 3, 2010

Editorial questions Apple's short-term app goals

(Editorial) Recently, Apple quietly removed an application from its App Store called MyFrame, which allows users to view photos, manage their Twitter feeds, and control music over images a user chooses to display on their iPad. The application's owners e-mailed Steve Jobs asking why the application was removed. According to reports, Jobs said that his company is "not allowing apps that create their own desktops." He followed it up with a quick, "sorry."

Removing applications with little or not reason given is nothing new for Apple. The company has been removing (or not allowing) applications for all kinds of reasons since the App Store launched.

For its part, Apple seems to be controlling its image through its App Store. It doesn't want to be the company that allows children to download pornography on their iPhones. It also doesn't want to look like the company that will allow any application into its store, regardless of the impact it could have on its bottom line. To some, that might be commendable. After all, Apple has an image it wants to uphold, and it considers that with every decision it makes.

But to others, Apple's decision to use developers as a pawn in its own game of self-image is troublesome. Removing applications or types of applications is one thing. But informing developers on why, and helping them understand what they need to do to gain entry into the Store is something entirely different.

Apple has had a spotty track record when it comes to treating developers kindly. For a while, that didn't matter, since its App Store was the only one worth creating applications for. But all that has changed. Android is now a wildly popular platform that, according to a recent NPD report, outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of 2010. That means developers could have something to gain if they bring their applications to Google's Android Market. It also means Apple might want to think about being nicer to developers.

So far, it hasn't. Apple believes that the iPhone's strong sales and stature in the market will trump all. But that might not last forever. Mac OS X is arguably a better operating system than Windows. But Microsoft's operating system has a far greater selection of applications. And for some consumers, and especially companies, that means more than the value of an operating system.

Apple can't get caught up in the success of the iPhone and forget that its App Store is the key to its success going forward. That, in turn, means that it needs developers more than it lets on. As Apple continues to treat developers poorly and remove their applications with little explanation, developers will shift their attention to Android. If it works, they might be less likely to go back to Apple. And as more and more consumers look for applications on their smartphones, they might find more to like in the Android Market.

As understandable as it is for Apple to use its App Store for its own good, the company must also think about the future. Developers need to be treated well -- or at least, well enough. And they need to feel like they are part of something, rather than a pawn in Apple's game. If Apple can't accept that, it better hope that its iPhone and iPad sales will be enough to keep developers around. If not, all kinds of trouble could be awaiting the company.

By Don Reisinger

by MacNN Staff



  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Resinger again!

    I read this editorial and it really bugged me... trying to sound sincere, showing Apple the error of their ways, they are going to lose to Android etc. It made me sick, one person who knows all... then I got to the bottom and saw that it was written by that idiot Don Reisinger. Now it all makes sense (he doesn't however).

    When are jerks like R going to realize that Apple wants to be Apple and not everyone else? I doubt if deep down inside that Jobs cares if Android, etc. is the world's champion, now or ever.

    200,000 apps later and this clueless twit keeps writing about Apple's "defective" nature. He has a hobby horse and he can't stopping rocking. Does this dweeb write for MacNN? If so, it explains a lot. If not, he probably writes primarily for CNet, another PC "juggernaut" who finds nothing but faults with Apple, Jobs and are constantly around to try to inform Jobs how his vision should be.

    This guy is a sad version of journalistic intelligence. I doubt if R has ever done anything meaningful in his life unless he is or was president of Whiners of the World. Buy stock in Apple and get off your wickeed-ways platform.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple can curate the App Store all it wants, as long as that's not the only way to distribute iPad software. It's understandable that any retailer would want to manage their image by limiting what they choose to sell. When you're a computer platform vendor, however, along with the sole distributor of native software for that platform, then the ramifications of your decisions on whether or not to distribute a given piece of software become much more consequential to the platform's users. Apple could maintain both their image and their customers' sympathy if they would only allow alternative methods of distributing software for those who desire it.

  1. pysan

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Open platform

    Except for they have allowed an open platform, the web. To some that sounds like a cop-out, but in Google's case, they are actually betting Chrome OS that the web IS the only platform, so I don't think it is entirely unreasonable for Apple to have the walled garden for the AppStore, but leave the wide-open web for the rest.

    Now I do agree though that Apple should be more open on just WHAT those rules are, so everyone can play by them, and not just seem to change on a moment's notice.

  1. facebook_Pete

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2010


    Blah blah blah

    I agree that Apple is too murky and random in how it chooses reject or remove apps, and the problem it presents to developers who are hesitant to spend money on something when they literally have no idea whether they will get approved and stay approved or not. But at the same time, this has probably only happened a dozen or two times, ever, and there are over 150,000 apps, so there is clearly a lot of different kinds of apps out there, and the overwhelming majority of them are going through just fine, so I think this is a bit of hysteria.

    I do also agree that it would be nice if you could bypass the App store to get apps on your own. Technically you could if the developer wanted to go to the trouble of hosting their apps the way you're permitted to if you're a business with an in-house app you want to distribute to your employees. I believe you can completely bypass Apple to do this, except for the $99 you still pay to get a working certificate. But it would be nice if this could be simpler.

    As for Android.... YAWN. There are what appear to be some not too bad Android phones, and there's definitely some potential there. But comparing Android's sales in the first quarter to iPhone sales is completely meaningless. First of all, they have to offer Buy 1 Get 1 Free on them to get those unit numbers, they aren't making doodly squat off the hardware sales, its all about selling data plans. Secondly, when you start out at zero, you have nowhere to go but up, and Android phones ONLY started to take off after Verizon brought out the Droid last fall. iPhone sales happen mainly on a pretty predictable schedule, either when people's contracts are up, or a spike in the summer right after a new model is announced, but the trend is a steady consistent upward trend. It is perfectly reasonable that Android, having almost no sales until last fall, will have a much higher rate of growth. Get back to me when they have UNIT SALES numbers that compete with Apple, and get back to me when they generate anything close to the same amount of profits.

    I doubt anyone at Apple is losing any sleep worried about the looming onslaught.


  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Don't get me started on what I think of prom-queen Reisinger! I'm also tired of hearing about all these "poor" developers. The reality is that the majority of developers are 2nd rate hacks. This is the reason that first class developers shine so brightly in the firmament. There is no virtue in having 200,000 (cr)apps in the appstore. I would like to see Apple purge 60% of what currently clogs the iDrain. Apple can't be expected to have a rigid and predefined set of rules that can possibly anticipate every new piece of inane crud. The appstore is dynamic and evolving and Apple are constantly learning what developers are incapable of. They make mistakes sometimes and admit it. I'm glad the appstore is a walled garden, at least something half decent might rise out of the dirt. Google's open-ness with Android guarantees that the whole thing will become a nightmarish mess as it descends to the lowest common denominator. Please shut up Don and slide back to your greasy lair at c|net. Better yet, take a few more journalism classes and try to not sound like a fifteen year old on a high school debating team.

  1. CmdrGampu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Don't kill the messenger

    Whatever you think about Apple trying to control its market, the fact remains that they're treating developers badly. Fine, go ahead and say you're not allowed to make your own desktop, but at least be upfront about it. Don't let a developer spend time, effort and money writing an app and putting it through the approval process before finally shutting them out. Lay out some good, hard guidelines beforehand. Right now, Apple has all the power but they refuse any semblance of transparency in the process.

  1. @okli

    Joined: Dec 1969


    REISINGER is...

    like the f^got Arendt... a freelance commission mol!!!
    they lost their journalist creditability long time ago...
    and only can make money that way...
    the errand from Google is clear here:
    get the Apple developers run over to us!!!
    because Apple has 225k Apps - Googloid just 50k
    iOS has over 100 Mill users world wide and fast growing
    they are not just Phone... but mostly iPod users
    and iPods are significantly cheaper than any Androphone...
    but the most important point is that Andro-users are notorious
    freeloaders and don't like to pay for any software...
    Reisholesinger also forgot the Murphy's golden rule:

    " who ever has the gold... make the rule!"... DUDE :)))

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