Apple Backs Down In Latest iPhone App Store Drama
You just can't make this stuff up: A developer of a book-reader program for Apple's iPhone had his application blocked from the market for weeks because somebody might use it to read an approximately 1,800-year-old dirty book.
Edinburgh, Scotland-based developer (and former Apple employee) James Montgomerie wrote an e-book app called Eucalyptus, submitted it to Apple for the usual App Store review -- and then discovered that somebody at Apple didn't appreciate the fact that it could be used to download and read the Kama Sutra.
No, really. Montgomerie related the story on a long, detailed blog post that related his increasingly Kafkaesque correspondence with an unnamed App Store representative:
If you're wondering why Eucalyptus is not yet available, it's currently in the state of being 'rejected' for distribution on the iPhone App Store. This is due to the fact that it's possible, after explicitly searching for them, to find, download from the Internet, and then read texts that Apple deems 'objectionable'. The example they have given me is a Victorian text-only translation of the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana.
As you might imagine, publicity accomplished what polite persuasion could not. A few days after Montgomerie's post began getting attention at other sites, Apple contacted him to say that it had changed its mind:
Earlier today I received a phone call from an Apple representative. He was very complimentary about Eucalyptus. We talked about the confusion surrounding its App Store rejections, which I am happy to say is now fully resolved. He invited me to re-build and submit a version of Eucalyptus with no filters for immediate approval, and that full version is now available on the iPhone App Store.
And so now iPhone and iPod touch users can buy this program $9.99. But Apple has yet to explain publicly why it would want to block Eucalyptus from the App Store -- a death sentence in the iPhone economy -- because it can be used to read smutty literature, when the same description applies to the iPhone's own Safari Web browser and pretty much every other browser released.
Apple has done very well with the App Store so far, but an undocumented, seemingly arbitrary set of criteria for application authors is no way to run a railroad.
A lot of developers seem to resent this state of affairs -- since hearing one publicly compare the App Store approval process to undergoing a root canal last week, I've heard two Washington-area mobile-app developers privately echo that sentiment (and complain about the difficulty of writing iPhone code). The iPhone's popularity appears to trump those concerns, but that doesn't have to last forever; at some point, another smartphone can offer programmers a combination of a more predictable app-approval process and easier coding that will be appealing enough to peel away iPhone developers.
("At some point," however, doesn't equate to "now." Today, Nokia launched its own attempt at an app store -- and, as this TechCrunch post outlines, the new Ovi storefront promptly imploded. Nokia's managers have since posted an explanation and an apology.)
If you own an iPhone or an iPod touch or have considered buying one, do you worry about Apple's app-approval process? Or do you think you already have more than enough programs to choose from to fret over the ones that Apple excludes?
May 26, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Categories: Gadgets , Gripes
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