Let's just ask it: is it time for an open letter from Steve Jobs concerning the state of the iTunes App Store? Apple's CEO has written several of these over the course of the last few years -- rare public statements typically addressing wide-spread perceptions of critical problems or situations facing Apple. He's taken on DRM in music (but not video) to prevent the EU from forcing Apple to license FairPlay DRM, offered $100 to early iPhone 2G buyers incensed by a rapid post-launch price drop, addressed the lack of native apps on the iPhone amid massive developer dissatisfaction, espoused Apple's commitment to the environment given Greenpeace's constant PR pressure, and spoken about the uncertainty surrounding his health prior to Macworld to help assuage investor panic. There was even a "leaked" internal letter regarding the troubled MobileMe launch, one of the worst customer relations situations Apple has faced in recent years.
While the App Store is not yet a large-scale consumer facing problem like the iPhone 2G price cut or MobileMe were (some consumers don't even use the App Store, many others don't follow any backstage news about), nor a regulatory issue like DRM-music threatened to be (Apple is hardly a monopoly in the smartphone space) or Jobs' health might have been to investors, it is and will continue to cause Apple pain in one very important area: tech savvy, power users (and media) who typically influence friends (and readers) and generally presage public perception.
Jason Calacanis, who's frustration at this point clearly overcame his reason (see Marco Arment's retort), and Mike Arrington, who might again garner Leo Laporte-esque responses himself, are easy to dismiss given their bombastic personalities, passion, and self-interests. Others aren't so easily dismissed. Long time Mac developer Steven Frank is one example. Daring Fireball's John Gruber is another. Dieter's ranted about it on iPhone Live! and Jeremy and I have even written a word or two. Heck, even Apple's highly operational COO Tim Cook and perennially affable Senior VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, have mentioned it.
But Steve Jobs hasn't.
Granted, Jobs is just getting back to work after an extended leave of absence and has been letting his team do their share of heavy lifting, but despite Apple's highly innovative, world class executive team, Steve Jobs is still the voice of Apple, and there's likely very little else -- aside from carefully watching and tracking tiny improvements over an extended period of time -- that will help ease the growing concerns about the App Store and grant Apple a little renewed faith along the way.
An open letter from Steve Jobs in Apple's news feed, symbolic though it may be, stating a clear "we want a delightful App Store experience for developers" manifesto, reflecting an understanding of the current concerns, offering a "Mobile Me News" olive branch of openness -- doing what he did for DRM, the $100 credits, the green initiative, the native apps SDK -- would not only address the immediate perception problem, but could start fixing the root cause. Even a "leaked" letter like the one that followed MobileMe's launch would be a start.
Apple's often effective, often decried, culture of secrecy is widely thought to emanate from Steve Jobs. He's shattered it before for Apple's benefit. Is it time for him to shatter it again?