Apple’s remarkable track record of bad decisions in the past few months makes me wonder if management has completely lost touch with reality.
The free U2 album.
If, instead of making capricious decisions for people how they can use their phones, Apple cracked down on Twitter for privacy violations, or had done so in the past with Path, for example, or the countless developers who use push notifications for spam, app review could actually help position the iOS platform in a way that’s consistent with company policy.
This time it’s different, though. This time, there’s clearly a conflict within Apple going on. I simply can’t believe that Craig Federighi’s team built all those wonderful new APIs into iOS 8 and didn’t intend for us to do anything interesting with them.
The issue is that nobody (except perhaps someone at Apple) seems to understand what the rules are regarding what apps can and can’t do.
If Apple wants its ecosystem — perhaps its most valuable asset — to shine, it needs to nail down its policies from top to bottom. Every person in the chain should know what is and is not allowed and this information should be communicated clearly to developers.
As developers, we can’t afford to spend time building features that we won’t be able to ship. Good iOS and Mac developers want to obey the spirit of the law when it comes to the App Store rules. We want to build features that Apple will allow us to ship, and we want to take advantage of the newest features in the OS. As it stands, the company is making it riskier for developers to do so. Giving a window into the thought process behind enforcement of the rules would be a great start toward fixing that.
The latest events, of which the Transmit iOS feature expulsion is but the most visible, have made me think and eventually reach the conclusion that the iOS (and Mac, to an extent) platform is not governed in a way suitable for a platform of this importance, to put it lightly; even less so coming from the richest company on Earth. Apple has clearly outgrown their capability to manage the platform in a fair and coherent way (if it ever was managed that way), at least given their current structures, yet they act as if everything was fine; the last structural change in this domain was the publication of the App Store Review Guidelines in 2010, and even then, those were supposed to be, you know, guidelines. Not rules or laws. And yet guidelines like those are used as normative references to justify rejections and similar feature removal requests. This is not sustainable.
Update (2014-12-10): David Sparks:
I’d argue they’ve always had warring factions over this issue but the battles have always been behind closed doors in Cupertino. Now it’s public. Now we actually see some really great functionality only to have the carpet yanked from under us. If Microsoft or Google were changing its mind publicly like this, all of us Apple geeks would be giggling about it.
There is no doubt in my mind who should win. I think the extensions mentioned above only make iOS better. They are all in applications that users must download and extensions that users must enable. I can’t see how the “this will confuse users” argument holds any weight since these all require action by the user to enable.
Update (2014-12-15): Adam C. Engst:
So let’s take score. Apple gets bad press and loses developer loyalty, though the company presumably prefers that to setting and following explicit guidelines. Developers waste vast amounts of time and money trying to please Apple. Users lose because useful apps are rejected, removed from the App Store, or never developed in the first place. In fact, the only player who wins is the media, which gets to publish story after story about how big bad Apple is grinding small developers underfoot.
But you know what? I don’t like publishing such stories. Call me old-fashioned, call me naive, or call me a Pollyanna, but I want iOS to be a platform upon which developers can write software that will astonish me and give me capabilities I could never have imagined. Instead, Apple has constructed a tightly controlled system where survival requires pleasing a capricious boss and gaming a system of artificial rules and regulations. As much as I appreciate Apple’s hardware and software achievements, I strongly disagree with the company’s policy management.
Update (2014-12-17): Federico Viticci:
The original Drafts widget was removed from the app after an Apple rejection two weeks ago. As with PCalc and Transmit before, Apple reversed their decision and the widget is back – and it’s even better than before.
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