Of Apples, Carrots, and Sticks [Opinion]

By Kshitij Sobti Published Date
07 - Jul - 2009
| Last Updated
07 - Jul - 2009
Of Apples, Carrots, and Sticks [Opinion]

The iPhone platform is apparently so lucrative that developers continue to develop on it despite being constantly abused by Apples policies and behavior. There is a constantstreamofcomplaintsfrom developers, whose applications rejected from the Apple App store for trivial or ambiguous reasons.

Yet Apple iPhone is just too juicy a carrot for most developers to let go. It is still the phone with the best multi-touch features, still a sexy and sleek beauty. One that people are willing to buy applications or not. The Apple iPhone is a revolutionary device, and if people have learned something from Apple iPod, it is that "sexy" sells.

As long as people use the iPhone, people will develop for it. Developers are bound to be attracted to any platform that takes their work to more people, and this is where the iPhone delivers. Then of course we have the stick, which Apple casually uses to give all developers enough lacerations to make Gordon Freeman's HEV shy.

In a recent update to their policy they had introduced a clause which essentially meant apple could make money even while giving refunds for applications in the store. It entitled Apple to keep it's share of the money earned from an application, which asking the developer to cough up the entire refund amount, which they didn't even get!

What we have now is Apple rejecting a karaoke application1, because it had filed a patent for such a feature. The iKaraoke application uses the .kar file format which is basically MIDI with embedded synchronized lyrics, and provides karaoke functionality to the iPhone. What they say is that it "duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application, iPod, without providing sufficient differentiation or added functionality."

Since the functionality is not yet present in the iPhone, what seems apparent is that Apple has the right to decide what functionality people can get, and when. Which is rather contrary to the very purpose of an Application store, to expose people to as much functionality as they want, need or is available. The application is being rejected on the basis of a feature that Apple might perhaps some day provide.


Another reason they cite is that the application "downloads media files that are not managed by the iTunes application, which also manages media files, we believe this would be confusing to the user". Sine the formats natively supported by the iPhone are not capable of the same functionality, using a different format is necessary. Now you have to wait for Apple before you can improve the functionality of the iPhone.

As Apple's terms state that an application developed for the iPhone should not duplicate functionality provided by the built-in applications, they have the right to reject the application. However this doesn't make the policy itself fair. Let the people decide how they should be presented with the functionality. If Apple is confident that people will prefer their applications to the ones other people make, then this shouldn't be a problem. Being somewhat of a developer myself, I find myself very put off by such kind of behavior.

Apple has also taken it upon itself to decide what content is appropiate for you, and blocks any applications, which merely load content that might be pornographic in nature. Such as in the case of an application called Newspapers, a news aggregation application, which was blocked, due to some topless pictures appearing on Page 3 of "The Sun", a UK tabloid. This is rather strange, considering that their own Safari browser will allow you to browse just about any website anyway.

The most bewildering thing about the Apple store policies is the lack of consistency. Some applications are allowed through, while others which do pretty much the same thing aren't. The same functionality may be used in different applications, and while one will make it into the store, the other will not!

Take the example of the Commodore64 emulator, an application ment to paly old Commodore64 games, and included an interpreter for Commodore Basic. The application known as C64 was rejected as it violated the Apple's SDK terms: "An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise. No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple's Published APIs and built-in interpreter(s)." However at the same time, the Apple store contains other interpreters and games which run on emulation.

The Apple iPhone is perhaps much more popular now that it has a wide variety of applications available for it, but like all Apple devices it is the sheer appeal that attracts the most. The iPhone can still be popular even if it doesnt support third party applications. However that is not justification for the the monopolistic way in which they run the store.