UPDATED: Phil Schiller Addresses App Store -- Not to Developers but to BusinessWeek

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UPDATE: As expected, Rogue Ameoba's Airfoil Touch has been approved, with the original graphics displayed from Mac OS X. Meanwhile, Gx5 tells us it took over a year to get their one-touch search portal app, iClueless approved following a string of rejections (arguably some warranted, but still incredibly time consuming given Apple's process). Again we wonder if having a "big voice" makes a big difference?

ORIGINAL: Apple Senior VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, has once again stepped forward to address growing concerns about the iTunes App Store approval process -- but this time he's avoided developers and their complaints about opacity and inconsistency, and instead gone to BusinessWeek to get ahead of the story going mainstream.

Let's think about this for a moment. Schiller's previous, highly publicized comments have been emails addressed to bloggers and Mac developers, and wrung truthy enough to give a tiny glimmer of hope to those who just assumed Apple's upper management was oblivious to the problems around rejected apps. These comments read more like spin; like instead of fixing the App Store, they're worried concerns are spreading beyond developers and the blogsphere, and instead of earnestly working even harder to fix them, they just want to minimize and marginalize the complaints in the minds of the general press and public, who might be hearing about it for the first time following Facebook developer Joe Hewitt's high-profile exodus from the App Store.

The problem is, Apple has historically proven they're terrible at handling bad PR. From the original iPhone price cut to MobileMe's disastrous launch to Steve Jobs' health to everything involving the App Store approval process to date, they come off as wrong-headed and out of touch until it seems almost too late. Case in point, Schiller's comments to BusinessWeek today, where he cites 90% of rejections being related to technical bugs in the app (and contends developers are happy about the "safety net" Apple QA provides). 1% which fall into gray areas Apple hadn't previously considered (example given, apps that help cheat at Casino gambling), and an undisclosed amount that violate trademarks or copyrights:

  • "We've built a store for the most part that people can trust. You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you'd expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works."
  • "Whatever your favorite retailer is, of course they care about the quality of products they offer. We review the applications to make sure they work as the customers expect them to work when they download them."
  • "There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law, or which contain inappropriate content."
  • "We had to go study state and international laws about what's legal and what isn't, and what legal exposure that creates for Apple or the customer."
  • "We've had a lot of eyes on us. We've had inquiries from governments and political leaders asking us what we were doing to protect children from inappropriate content,"
  • "If you don't defend your trademarks, in the end you end up not owning them. And sometimes other companies come to us saying they've seen their trademarks used in apps without permission. We see that a lot."

Rogue Ameoba's Airfoil Touch rejection is used in the article, and Schiller responds in the abstract:

  • "We need to delineate something that might confuse the customer and be an inappropriate use of a trademark from something that's just referring to a product for the sake of compatibility. We're trying to learn and expand the rules to make it fair for everyone."

Apparently it will work out, however, as Airfoil Touch is being re-submitted with the original Mac OS X-pushed artwork restored. And some of Schiller's points are fair enough, we suppose, they're just addressing the wrong forum, and overall (still) avoiding the real problem. And no, it's not Apple being a "gatekeeper".

If Apple wants to run a boutique instead of a flea market, good for them -- the market will decide if end-users ultimately prefer that to the webOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and WebApp alternatives. Just stop being a bad "gatekeeper*. Talk to your developers. Get a dedicated developer point man like Palm has. Take questions about the App Store (especially at WWDC). Spend less time with BusinessWeek and more talking to the great developers, so end users get those great apps. B'okay?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

UPDATED: Phil Schiller Addresses App Store -- Not to Developers but to BusinessWeek


The idea that apps must be approved for anything at all is a failure. They should run an Apple Certified Store and an uncertified, load at your own risk store. Or only permit Certified apps on their store and let other app stores operate.
I shouldn't have to jailbreak my phone to change the background, add lock screen notifications and twiddle with my hosts file.

No they shouldn't, jailbreak it if you want that option. People just want everything their way. Apple is in a crap position, the best phone but people want more freedom. What does freedom cost Apple? Buggy software, phones not working properly, help desk slammed, carrier pissed because free phone calls or to much bandwidth, parents mad because of nudity and the list goes on and on. Talk about gatekeeper, how about world peace.

Nice apocalyptic list there, without any backing whatsoever. I especially like how you even threw in a "won't somebody think of the children" at the end there, to make sure you cover all bases. If you actually are a parent, and you trust any third party -- much less something as opqaue and poorly run as the App Store review process -- to protect your kids from "nudity" on the internet, you have already failed your children miserably.

The idea that apps must be approved for anything at all is a failure.

Look at the application count, the total downloads, the frequency of big-name software releases, the revenue, and the profit margin. Then compare that to Palm, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry. Apple's App Store is a failure?
Morons. The reason why they're not changing the system is because it's working EXCEEDINGLY well. The negatives of the current situation are far surpassed by the drawbacks of opening up the platform. That's why they won't do it.

I have backing, android store. Many poor written apps, not saying there aren't good ones. Many articles on android apps that crash phones. I didn't throw any crap in, and I have protected my kids as much as I can. I won't be a puke like you want everyone to be and just let my kids see anything.

Today it is 5th day when no new apps appears on App Store. It is probably only next symptome of cancer growing in Apple App Store.
Someone in Apple wants take more control over employees, over developers and contributors all over the world - discourage them and "make calm".
Everything what people loves about App Store begins to disappear. Nokia, Sony, Samsung wants create something like iPhone and never understand that core of this succes is AppStore. Why? What do you do when you are waiting for something? Open store and download something new - because there's still something new! And this is it! AppStore is still very interesting place! It is wild, vibrant, cool and sexy!
Last changes of practices on the store clearly shows the purpose: less competition, more static, place only for big dev studios. AppStore becomes to be frigid and boring, so why to buy iPhone? There's much more better hardware featured phones than iPhone.
It is the time? Is this the mistake Nokia and Samsung was waiting so long? And developers?Is this the time for change? Can we earn more money on Ovi Store?

@Bosco He said the fact that you need approval is a failure, not the store itself. Learn2Read
@Brian Ratings on Apps can fix the parents being made about nudity part. If your kid is downloading 18+ apps with nudity and they're only 13 or 14, that's your problem not Apple's. All developers have to do is warn that there is sexual content and throw 18+ in the description.
You shouldn't need to Jailbreak to be able to customize your phone. My crappy throw away phone can be customized, but not the iPhone...

You say, "If Apple wants to run a boutique instead of a flea market, good for them," and then point out all of the flea market app stores. That's giving Apple might short shrift, however, as the current App Store is far from a boutique. Apple runs a giant "everything including the kitchen sink" grocery+department store instead of a flea market: you can get 100,000 products that have been screened by the retailer, and at flea market prices to boot.
Plenty of problems with the store and the approval process, but a "boutique" attitude isn't one of them. No self-respecting boutique would have so many screened-but-largely-worthless products.

i for one want apple to stay gate keeper so when i search for a app i dont have only the reviews to go by. i do feel like apple should be a little more transparent. i dont want a flooded app store with all really bad apps but there needs to be more communication with dedicated developers so they dont get frustrated and stop writing apps.

LOL. What's wrong with you people? It's an APPLE store an Appple has all damn rights to run it any way they believe works. Don't like it? Go shopping elsewhere! It that simple.

You're absolutely right, however this isn't some service where Apple gets money from govt contracts..its for customers! So when customers are complaining (like about streaming tv over 3G) the business has to make moves to alleviate those issues, otherwise Joe Hewitt and Rogue Amoeba are only the beginning.

@Mav. The problem is that there is no alternative avenue for developers to deliver software to iPhone end-users. How ironic that you state that if you don't like it you should "go shopping elsewhere." Yet, in reality, there is no other place to go.
That is why developers take such issue with the inconsistencies of the App Store approval process; they're completely depending on Apple to allow for the delivery of their software. If Apple creates inconsistent policies, then developers can't effectively deliver software to the end-user.
That being said, this issue really isn't about developers, it's about us, the end-users. We support the iPhone, in large part, because of its apps. Our relationship with the device really hinges on the App Store and its complete transparency (in terms of policies), and how it relays that to developers.

Come on, lets get serious. The average iPhone user is happy, except for the Google Voice disaster. Only techies are "upset". Sure a few developers may back away, but there is money to be made. Also, as Mav said, it's Apple's store and they can do what they want. Same with the iPhone, if you want total freedom on you phone, then go Android. No where did Apple say, oh you can do anything you want. Like most other phone platforms there are limitations. This idea that I can do anything I want because is pure BS. Grow up, because the iPhone (and BB, S60, WM) have limits. People like the iPhone because it works and there are few problems with apps they buy.

I love how people say "if you don't like it, LEAVE" are the same people who tell others to "grow up."
In the adult world, if you like some aspects of a product, but not others, you do what you can to make your voice heard with the producer. Taking your money elsewhere is the last (and yes, most effective) option, but not the only one. For the vast majority of customers facing early termination fees, that option is not realistic more than every 18 months. Could they have not bought the iPhone in the first place? Sure, but a) Apple does not say what you can and cannot do before you buy the phone, but applies rulings on an ad hoc basis, and b) for the people complaining, that is water under the bridge; the money is spent. Voicing complaints publicly is therefore their only alternative.
More to the point, it has been shown the only effective way to prevail upon Apple. The RogueAmoeba timeline is an instructive example:
1) Apple says RogueAmoeba cannot misuse trademarks.
2) Developer makes application, and uses public standard APIs implemented by Apple to call another Apple device remotely, and that remote Apple device transmits an image identifying itself.
3) Apple rejects app as a misuse of trademark, without explanation or clarification.
4) With US law (Lanham Act) firmly on their side and specifically referring to this sort of use as non-infringing, the developer thinks this is a mistake, and, and, after hearing no explanation, resubmits.
5) Apple rejects again, again without clarification. Months pass.
6) Developer complains publicly.
7) Apple "reconsiders" and accepts the app as is, indicating that it is NOT infringing, and 100% reversing their decision of 3 months prior and subsequent affirmations, also without explanation or clarification, just 3 months of wasted time and frustrated customers.
So, from this we can conclude:
1) If Apple even understands their own rules, they apply them inconsistently and on their own schedule.
2) Most importantly, when bit by #1, working through Apple channels does not work, and complaining publicly (or "whining" as people here put it) appears to be the only way to get the job done.

BTW, nobody said that Apple is perfect and doesn't make mistakes. They are humans after all. If developers or end users believe Apple is wrong in some specific cases they have full rights to complain. But it's up to Apple how they run the Appstore. Like it or not. Like a saying goes: you cannot please everyone.

@Red Herring #15
Well said.
Quote of the year award:

I love how people say “if you don’t like it, LEAVE” are the same people who tell others to “grow up.”

And more importantly, those shouting LEAVE tend to be under 18, have never run a business, or done any software development, had their mom and dad buy them the phone, and still live in their parent's basement.
People have a right to biTch about products, because that is how things get improved.
People look at 100,000 apps and leap the the conclusion that all is well and nothing needs improvement,
In almost no other aspect of life does sheer numbers equate to perfection and the justification for shouting down anyone with a better idea. If it Microsoft would be the ONLY software company, and Bill Gates would be GOD.
No other hardware of software manufacturers get this Like it or LEAVE ranting from the fanboys. Its a cult I tell you. Jim Jones and the koolaid. Sun Young Moon, Job's Jihadist.
You expect Rene to be something more than an average enthusiast, but even HE said:
I thought Rene said it best:

Talk to your developers. Get a dedicated developer point man like Palm has. Take questions about the App Store (especially at WWDC). Spend less time with BusinessWeek and more talking to the great developers, so end users get those great apps. B’okay?

I feel as though Apple should show a bit of guidance to developers after rejecting Apps so they can 'fix' them for approval.
Maybe Apple should open an optional 'crApp' store for those who don't appreciate Apple's inner control-freak.
I'm glad that Apps are tested for bugs and security. Although I don't like them limiting functions, making moral judgements and restricting the potential of the iPhone. I understand it is their product and they will do as they please, but I'm paying them.
I have support for developers leaving the iPhone if it will, in the long term, make the iPhone a better product.
@Joel Comm
Nice video and good luck, maybe your 'Ka-Ching' reviewer had a bad day. Maybe a counter would help, you could market it as a sales counter. How about 'Ziiing', 'that's what she said' or 'there's an App for that' buttons.

You're right, but only because average consumers don't know what the hell is going on. When I show them how I can run multiple apps they are impressed, or something as simple as managing my Wifi in a hurry by tapping the stausbar, or how my Pre handles notifications. The iphone is completely capable of doing these things and its up to tech heads to get the info out there so somebody can complain and get Apple to meet their needs.

Wow almost a year to get approved. I guess Chad was wrong on the podcast when he said it wasn't a big deal. Can you imagine putting a ton of resources into development and then being rejected for arbitrary reasons?

I do not accept as true with this particular post. Nevertheless, I did searched in Yahoo and I have found out you are right and I had been thinking in the wrong way. Carry on producing top quality content similar to this.