Careful Apple, you’re becoming an Oppressor
Over the past few months developer frustration over the App Store has increased considerably. Not because things are getting worse, but because they aren’t changing, at all. The main the problem seems to be lack of clear rules with regards to why, what, how and when iPhone applications get published in the store.
My big concern is that the App Store is such a money-maker, that most developers will just look the other way. The whole situation gives me the feeling of businessmen during right-wing dictatorships1: It’s business as usual (99¢ fart apps) as long as you stay out of the way of the dictator (Apple). Problem is your most creative and important developers don’t tolerate this environment. The see themselves as: The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.2
Don’t doubt for a second that these developers would put ideology over numbers and stop developing for the iPhone. That’s exactly the reason why many of them moved to the Mac from Windows in the first place.
Here’s a sampling of some of the developer comments and situations going around today:
There’s been no indication that Apple want to do anything to resolve the problems with app store policies that have been laid bare a hundred times over. There’s no indication of anything, as a matter of fact. Nothing. After a year. It’s a black hole yawning back at us.
With iPhone, Apple decides which independent applications will be allowed, and it can pull the plug on any application at any time, without explanation—as happened in July to several developers of iPhone apps. “I spent four weeks trying to get through to Apple via e-mail and phone calls, and they wouldn’t return my messages,” says Cyrus Najmabadi, developer of an iPhone application called Now Playing, an online movie-theater guide that Apple yanked in July after receiving a complaint about the program.
As with many other serious iPhone developers recently, we’ve made the hard decision to kill all but one project in progress, and stop investing any resources in creating new applications. We’ll continue to sell and fully support our existing iPhone offerings, however we’re already moving to platforms which show signs of real viability.
More important than the money is my enjoyment as a developer. I no longer enjoy building software for the iPhone because of the bureaucracy and infrastructure that surrounds it. I can build great software for the Mac without the headaches and bullshit of dealing directly with Cupertino and their AppStore.
It’s about killer apps. Not just number of apps.
The effect of developers moving to other platforms takes a long time to register. But it does happens very fast once it starts. I love my iPhone, but if Instapaper, Tweetie, 1Password and Comiczeal were to move to Android, that would be reason enough for me to switch.
Apple should know better than anybody that it’s not about how many apps you have available in your platform, it’s about how great they are. I’m pretty sure they understand this, and soon we will have another Steve Letter addressing the problems with AppStore and the planned improvements.