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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?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 26, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Gripes  
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The hamstrung WiFi-only iPhone SlingPlayer sucks. Both for the company that invested a lot of money developing it that I assume they will not recoup and for me as a customer. (Yes, I used to work for Sling. Now I'm a civilian who wants *my* TV in the gym and it's not going to happen on this platform. Funny my SIM works the same in my Blackjack II where I can sling television.)

Posted by: davezatz | May 26, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Not sure the Safari parallel is a perfect one. What did he mean by, "He invited me to re-build and submit a version of Eucalyptus with no filters for immediate approval..."?

Safari doesn't have filters. Perhaps it's not so much the ability to show questionable (har) material as in some way shuttling your users towards storehouses with such content. Remove the active pointing -- as with Safari -- and you're golden. ??

Posted by: WorstSeat | May 26, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for spam... closing out the tabs with his blog, I caught sight of the filter.

"Even though it has meant creating a specific filter on search results, I have now submitted a new version that specifically blocks access to the Kama Sutra book you identified. Is this what you mean?"

That was removed, so you're right; Apple came to its senses.

Posted by: WorstSeat | May 26, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Now if only Apple has an app to 'read' Gent or Gem magazines coming up [pun intended.]

Posted by: | May 27, 2009 3:52 AM | Report abuse

You inquire: "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?"

Yes I worry about Apple's app-approval process.

I love their products [first Mac in 1984!], and appreciate both their innovation, and their sense of style. But the Apple aesthetic, while undeniable, is also not MINE. I probably seek the very programs that they "deem 'objectionable'." And I would hope that they would be content-neutral -- the only "objectionable" feature being one that directly affects the functionality of their fine iPhone.

If the Kama Sutra is objectionable, will they also object to an App that is insufficiently "green"? That trumpets, or at leasts assists, in "wasteful" practices [of course "wasteful" would be defined by Apple . . . .]?

I am pretty sure I understand -- Apple's target demo skews young, and any whiff of unseemly "adult" affiliations with the iPhone could damage their marketing efforts and their share of 13-yr.-old smartphone users [whose parents pay the freight]. But of course I'm worried -- their decision-making in the case of mister montgomerie and his Eucalyptus should make anyone worry.

Posted by: mistermuleboy | May 27, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

This is why I don't pay for apps; the selection is weak and watered down, and most of the things I want to do I've gotten through Cydia apps (for jailbroken iPhones), or sometimes free App Store apps. I'm closer to a socialist than a capitalist, but Apple is seriously throttling the market. Fortunately for them, most users don't care.

Posted by: MaxH | May 27, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

iCan't help but cringe (the first time iLaughed) every time I see that iPhone commercial, you know the one that shows somebody entering their credit card iNformation iNto an iPhone. Are they freaking iNuts? iDon't Get iT. Here's why: When you do that you are entering your valuable credit card iNformation iNto a "BROWSER." Any guesses as to why they call iT a browser? iF anyone said: "Because hackers can browse for iNformation on iT" congrats! So here's my beef: "Where's the Security?

Posted by: anthonymfreed | May 27, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't own an iPhone, but I have considered since it seems to be the trend. However, I have owned and continue to own Windows Mobile products. Personally, I worry that the app-approval process that developers have to go through is stifling creativity and innovation. I think Apple has finally found a method that will keep the iPhone controlling a large percentage of the Smartphone market - give the customer teasers ($.99 programs) that will keep them coming back for more. And, oh yeah, let's make sure they only run on one type of phone OS that can only be purchased from one manufacturer. What happened to choice, Apple?!?!

Posted by: TechnologyTeacher | May 27, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I keep seeing the old Orwellian Apple commercial with Steve Job's image up on the big screen.

Posted by: danatay2 | May 27, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I have considered buying an Iphone, but it's not the app-approval process (which does sound ridiculous) that's holding me back. I'm more annoyed that AT&T and the other carriers continue to behave like totalitarian regimes, insisting that you subscribe to data service if you have a smartphone.

Posted by: fergus1 | May 27, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The Kama Sutra is just a text available from Project Gutenberg. I have 2 readers (Stanza, Kindle) approved by Apple that can read the same thing from Gutenberg. A little consistency or rationality in the approval process would be nice.

Posted by: fall1 | May 27, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I would never consider buying any Apple product for myself. Apple is not my Mother or Father. Their stuff is barely usable at best because THEY know what you need and will only supply what they know you need. This is not good for intuitive types.

They may make passable electronics, but they have the social skills of beavers. They have no background in any social science, yet they act as the social police as well as the technology police.

Buy an Apple - get Jobbed.

Posted by: therev1 | May 27, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The saga of Netshare is a classic example. Tethering a laptop (accessing internet via iPhone) is not allowed in the USA but many overseas carriers allow it. Due to the arrangements with ATT in the USA, Apple pulled Netshare from the App Store last August. This just encourages overseas users to consider jailbreaking their iPhone and installing alternative software.

Posted by: mpainesyd | May 27, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"I'm more annoyed that AT&T and the other carriers continue to behave like totalitarian regimes, insisting that you subscribe to data service if you have a smartphone." ~fergus1

I totally agree with you on this one. Just plain dirty.

Posted by: choqokat | May 27, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Why would anyone pay $9.99 for an e-book reader app when you can get another one, Stanza, for free, that can pull ebooks from the same source as Eucalyptus? That's the real question here.

Posted by: josetucson | May 27, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Apple - Done for me. No more. I too bought a mac (feb 84) too. But, when they pushed QT 7.6 to my current mac and crashed the ONLY program I had installed. Took NO responsibility, did even respond to the software developer. And, Even with Apple Care they treated me like a pos. Never again. I'll buy a Dell, and be treated like a pos but, save a thousand bucks to drink it off.

He is a clip of the email response they sent me after the yanked my post in 30 seconds......


Apple removed your post on Apple Discussions titled "Re: Quicktime 7.6 causes Sims 2 crash AND CIV IV not to run" because it contained the following:

Speculation or Rumors
Discussion of Apple Policies, Procedures or Decisions
Non-constructive rants or complaints

We are including a copy of your post at the end of this email for your reference.

And, here is the kicker........

Kind regards,
Apple Discussions staff


May be I read that wrong but, did they tell me to have relations with myself?

So, BYTE me Apple you have lost a lifetime customer.

I hear windows 7 isn't junk like vista....Can run unix too...Has five million more programs....Steve is a moonbat.

Posted by: georgethornton1 | May 27, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

apple prudes who knew? prunes next? new name change?

Posted by: sindioses | May 27, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

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