Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No Rules, Just Whims

My Frame was first accepted and then rejected from the App Store:

A month ago I wrote a blog post about how Apple were not actually evil, because I was getting sick of all the media hype and bashing that was going on. Little did I know that a month later that blog post would come back and smack me in the face. Just yesterday the company that I work for (Groundhog Software) got a phone call from Apple, telling us that our photo frame application for the iPad My Frame was to be removed from the Apple App Store. They refused to be pinned down to an exact reason, simply stating that they were doing a cull of any applications that presented widgets to the user. All the guy on the phone would say is how much he liked our application, and how sorry he was, but there was nothing he could do. All we got out of him was that Apple no longer liked ‘widgets’ and wanted all widget apps removed. They refused to say what (if anything) we could remove from our application, or even who we could discuss this with.

I wouldn’t even describe it as a widget app. It’s not trying to bypass the App Store or the iPad home screen. It seems like a nice collection of features. But regardless, this is ridiculous behavior on Apple’s part.

As of this writing, My Frame is still available. So, assuming this isn’t a marketing stunt—and I have no reason to believe that it is—you still have a chance to buy it if it looks useful to you.

Update (2010-06-03): It’s gone from the App Store.

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"No Rules, Just Whims"

It's not about whims. It's about not violating any of the core (unwritten) rules. Or put another way, there are some pretty clear and widely known rules, they just can't be written down or spoken aloud for legal reasons.

The (unwritten) rule violated here (to my best guess) is to never duplicate functionality that an Apple app offers currently, or plans to offer in the near-term future.

For example, I'd strongly guess here that Apple is planning to roll-out a "dashboard" display with widgets that Apple negotiates with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, in addition to time and weather.

So they're culling the AppStore not based on whim, but for entirely sensible unwritten rule-based reasons, once/if you accept that their overall strategic framework is sensible.

Now, of course, you can say: how could Groundhog have known ahead of time that Apple was secretly planning on writing an app that would make their app redundant to an Apple app and thus unacceptable to sell through the AppStore? But, hey, if you want to write for a game console, them's the downsides.

@Chucky Is it going to replace personal computers as we know them, or is it just a game console?

Or think of it this way:

Having the AppStoreReviewMonster manning the velvet rope makes it so much easier to do stuff like steal Watson and Konfabulator from developers and roll them into the OS. With velvet rope control, now Apple can not only steal the software, but they can also make the developer's original work disappear at the same time.

It's a win-win from Apple's POV.

"@Chucky Is it going to replace personal computers as we know them, or is it just a game console?"

Oh, good lord. It's a very groovy game console. It's an iPod. It's a damn good phone.

But it's not going to "replace personal computers as we know them", at least for people who actually like using computers.

My worry is the possibility that it's going to replace Apple computers as we know them.

10.7 will happen someday. But does Apple ever release 10.8? Or do they just toss iPhone OS into a laptop form factor and call it a day?

My worry isn't that I won't be able to get a personal computer in the future. They'll be a vibrant market for personal computers. My worry is that I won't be able to get a personal computer in the future from Apple.

"My worry is that I won't be able to get a personal computer in the future from Apple."

It's funny. I've been a heavy computer user for a long time, and have managed to completely avoid ever learning the first thing about Windows, even during the dark days of the mid-to-late-90's. (Well, that's almost true. I've got an XP image I use with VMWare once in a blue moon to handle some TiVo related duties.)

But in the last couple of months, I've been thinking of installing Windows 7 into a Boot Camp partition to play with once a month to get myself familiarized if the doomsday scenario unfolds. There is sanity in web importing into EagleFiler using PDF instead of webarchive...

And finally:

We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops. Sorry.

If one has historical memory of the "desktop icon" war Microsoft was involved in during the late 90's that ended up playing a big part in the DOJ's action, this brings back some echoes.

Apple's assumption really seems to be that as long as they don't achieve "common carrier"-style monopoly status (which they won't because of their pricing strategy), the DOJ will leave them be. If their assumption is wrong, they're going to be in a world of hurt five years out. IBM was never the same after the DOJ came calling, and neither was Microsoft.

"We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops. Sorry."

I said, "finally", before, but I'll add one more anyway:

This rejection crosses a line that seems important to me.

Every previous objectionable rejection from the AppStoreReviewMonster has had a semi-defensible internal motivation to me.

- Nothing that isn't family-friendly? Not the way I'd go, but I understand.
- Defending the cell carriers, the music/movie rights holders, and device performance? Makes a fair bit of sense to me.
- Forcing everyone into using native build tools? Perhaps not my first choice, but in big strategic terms, I see the logic.

But saying that Apple owns the desktop? The only motivation there is quite ugly to contemplate. That crosses a line from ordinary villainy to cartoon super-villainy in my book....

[...] Panic’s StatusBoard iPad app looks interesting. But, frankly, I’m surprised they even submitted it to the App Store. I thought widget apps were banned. [...]

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