Rotten Apple?

Rotten Apple? (iStock)I try not to use this as a platform for rants. I have always tried to be as objective as possible in my reporting of the events in the tech arena. However, as my Pop taught me, you need to speak up when you see someone being treated badly.

The “person” in this case is the community of application developers that have been crying out to Apple to be heard. Since the opening of the App Store on iTunes, honest mobile application developers have been receiving rejections from Apple to have their hard work shared with the world through the iTunes App Store. These devoted programmers believed that they were following rules set down by Apple as part of the SDK usage agreement.

However, in many cases the reason for the rejections are unclear. And in some instances, they are downright ridiculous. The one that is the tipping point for me, and is the reason for this rant, was a rejection of an application by developer Alex Sokirynsky.

Sokirynsky has developed an app called Podcaster. It is essentially an app that allows you to subscribe, manage, stream and download podcasts directly to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Very handy. Apple’s rejection of the App cites that because it duplicates some functionality of the native iPhone apps, it will not be allowed on the devices.

This is like Microsoft saying “Sorry, you can’t create an install of Firefox or Chrome for Windows because it duplicates some of the functions of Internet Explorer.”

Sokirynsky was able to sell about a thousand copies of the App directly to the public using a loophole in the SDK distribution topology. Apple then silently closed this loophole, essentially preventing Sokirynsky from selling any more copies to iPhone users. Sokirynsky has taken this all in stride and announced that he will be porting Podcaster over to Google’s Android platform. I applaud him for that.

As a former developer myself, I personally find this behavior by Apple to be deplorable. It is monopolistic, and anti-competitive. And, more to the point it is unfair to the development community as a whole who spend a significant amount of resources crafting useful Apps believing that they are following the rules set down by Apple.

The reaction by the community has been overwhelmingly in support of Sokirynsky. Developer forums are buzzing with angry posts admonishing Apple as tyrannical. Many posts suggest that this monopolistic behavior will ultimately find them at the wrong end of an anti-trust lawsuit.

Looking at this dispassionately, if these anti-competitive rejections continue, it will likely affect the number of “really” useful apps available on iTunes. No developer worth their salt will spend the time and resources just to have it dismissed out-of-hand by Apple. The iTunes App Store will become a wasteland of calculators and bar-room games.

Fortunately, Google’s Android is just around the corner. Unless Apple changes its policies, you can expect a large number of developers to follow Sokirynsky’s lead. Which may be just the leverage Google needs to propel Android over the iPhone OS in terms of its desirability.

I know I will be watching.