Is Apple’s App Store Top Secret?

There’s been plenty of talk about Apple’s decision to restrict certain applications from the iPhone App Store. We even talked about it today on our Minnov8 Gang podcast (one of our team is head of marketing for DoApp, the startup iPhone app developer in Minnesota).

While I’ve observed some of the commentary about previous apps that were rejected after the developer had done the work and submitted the app for review (like this “Pull my Finger” fart one), I was somewhat agitated — but then very agitated — when an app I wanted was rejected (even though I still was able to buy NetShare and download it before it was removed…probably permanently).

Then at the end of the week, I had a jaw-dropping surprise over the rejection of an iPhone application from the app store called Podcaster (You can see a video of Podcaster, and/or order the application, here).

Now I fear that Apple is making moves which will give pause to the ecosystem and either ensure that the killer app is on Google’s Android vs. the iPhone, or at the very least slow development of applications as the developer ecosystem waits to see if the control-freak Apple attitude toward the iPhone persists.

As someone who started podcasting in 2005, was delighted with Apple adding podcasts to iTunes, and then incredibly bummed when Apple made it virtually impossible to locate podcasts in the iTunes Store (unless you were one of the absolute top of the heap of the more than 25,000 podcasts in the Store), I have learned how to find solid gold needles in the podcast haystack and thus listen to many podcasts when I’m cutting the lawn, on the treadmill or in the car.

The problem with snagging and downloading podcasts is this: I have to be sitting in front of my computer to find them, download them, and sync them to my iPhone. While I’m certain the reason Apple offers podcasts in the iTunes Store is so that they get eyeballs looking at the stuff they’d rather have we podcast listeners buy instead, they’re acting like the guidelines they’ve published have some sort of Top Secret aspect to it (since apparently there is nothing in them that would preclude an app like Podcaster).

Killing this app has now even pissed off a non-developer (that would be me) and has done so with many more people like: the developer of the Podcaster app, a guy that goes by the name of “Almerica”; Fraser Spiers, who wrote an iPhone Flickr app called Exposure and this post about how he’s “out” of the iPhone app creation business; Daring Fireball’s John Gruber who wrote this; and even Dave Winer who, as a developer, nailed the essence of why this policy of Apple’s is a really, really bad idea in his post, “Why iPhone is an ureliable platform“:

It’s pretty simple, Apple could decide not to approve the app, and if they don’t approve it you can’t sell it. You can’t even give it away. You don’t find out if you’ve been approved until the last step, after you’ve fully invested, which you could lose, totally, if Apple says no.

Apple…as a multi-decade fanboy, a guy sitting with far too much stock in the company, and a pragmatist who appreciates and is amazed by what you are doing to straddle the fence with record companies, TV networks and now cell phone carriers, your positioning of the SDK, the opening of the “platform” to 3rd party developers, is going to fail if you screw ’em (though I have a source whose indicated there are ~5,000 apps in the queue waiting for Apple to approve them so maybe Apple could care less if a few developers drop off).

Maybe you don’t see this as “screwing them” or that it matters, but for a company that shuns social media or transparency and thus isn’t in the dialogue online, this draconian ‘policy’ of yours has already started creating a perception with developers that you can’t be trusted.

In any event, here’s the kickoff Town Hall meeting where Steve Jobs pontificates to developers about how exciting it is that they’ll get a chance to get their app work in front of iPhone users. How exciting!! (Unless your app is rejected after you work your butt off):

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  1. PXLated on September 13, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Agree with ya Steve, Apple really blew this one, they need to open it wide and let the users decide what’s appropriate and useful.

  2. Fraser Speirs on September 13, 2008 at 5:07 pm


    Just FYI, I’m not actually the developer of Podcaster. I did write a completely unrelated iPhone app called Exposure (a Flickr client).


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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.