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Respected Developers Begin Fleeing the App Store 485

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-known-as-the-french-rush dept.
wiedzmin writes "Facebook's Joe Hewitt, Second Gear's Justin Williams, the long-time Mac software developer known as 'Rogue Amoeba' and other respected App Store developers have recently decided to discontinue their work on the platform, citing their frustration with Apple's opaque approval process. Continued issues with erroneous and snap rejections of applications and APIs are prompting more and more developers to shun the platform entirely. Though there are tens of thousands of other developers who have pumped out over 100,000 apps for the platform, continued migration away from iPhone development will most likely result in lower quality software."
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Respected Developers Begin Fleeing the App Store

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  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:19PM (#30159116)

    Access, while perhaps not "so great/must have" doesn't really have a viable alternative on any other platform.

    Access doesn't have a truly viable solution under Windows, either. At least, not if you care about your data.

  • Re:Irony (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:23PM (#30159198)
    Irony where, exactly? I was recently involved in Facebook app development, and the whole system is very open, no approval required.
  • by Chatterton (228704) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:28PM (#30159284) Homepage

    I beg to differ. Access have a viable solution if you care about your datas: Use access as a front-end to a MsSQL back-end. You have then all the power of Access as a RAD tool with the integrity of a real database.

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:36PM (#30159420) Journal

    This is one of the many reasons I bought the 'berry instead. I can purchase whatever apps I want from whomever I want. I bought it, I paid for it, it's MY smartphone, I'll do what I want with it.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:43PM (#30159532)

    Do you have a citation for your Vlingo complaint? Vlingo is available on the iPhone and can dial numbers, search, bring up maps and update social networking status. It can't take dictation, but it seems Vlingo has also stopped selling free dictation on the Blackberry (it now costs $17.99) so it may simply be that they haven't written it for iPhone yet. I wasn't able to find anything about Vlingo getting rejected from the app store. The ability for applications to send e-mail is a fully supported feature in iPhone OS 3.0+.

  • Re:Irony (Score:5, Informative)

    by schon (31600) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:44PM (#30159550)

    Could you point it out to the rest of us? Last time I checked, there was no approval process for FB apps, and the FB API requires no NDA. So I'm having a pretty tough time finding any irony here.

  • Re:Cry wolf (Score:4, Informative)

    by localman (111171) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:51PM (#30159678) Homepage

    Sorry, everyone knows that Apple likes total and complete control

    I hear this and I hear people buying into it and it's just a foolish statement. I can develop whatever I want for OSX and that works out just fine. Sure, Apple tends to be a controlling company, but their flagship product is so useful precisely because it isn't overly controlled. Hell, they embraced a UNIX underpinning and let people run X-Windows and Windows/Fusion stuff now. And it's great -- that flexibility is a huge part of what I like about OSX.

    The iPhone approval process isn't so bad as to kill things (as this article implies), but it's a disadvantage. Restricting a platform/OS is always a disadvantage. Currently the iPhone has enough other advantages that it doesn't matter, and maybe it'll stay that way. But it's still stupid.

    Oh, and the article named three developers (two people and one compnay) so "all" is appropriate and "developers (people) and others (company)" is also appropriate. If you're going to read the sentence carefully, as you said. I agree though that they're trying to make far more out of it than it is.

    Cheers.

  • by alen (225700) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:56PM (#30159810)

    forgot who it was, but someone blogged that RA was told by Apple that their app was rejected because the iphone API doesn't allow Apple copyrighted content to be used. the Mac API does. instead of fixing it, RA sat on it for months, whined on the blogs and then decided to stop developing for the iphone.

    tweetdeck was also rejected at first because they sent an app that crashed all the time.

    most of the other sob stories i read about Apple rejecting apps also had a real story where they were told why it was rejected but didn't want to fix it. the C64 emulator games app is a perfect example

  • by oldmankdude (1196325) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:58PM (#30159846)
    This is already possible; Verizon doesn't lock down their Android devices. "Open Application Development" was actually something that Verizon advertised for the Droid. Android's app store isn't restrictive at all (there's even software for rooted phones on there), and if the software you want isn't there, you can download and install it from somewhere else.
  • by tsa (15680) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:58PM (#30159858) Homepage

    Yes! I hope they all flock to Maemo to develop for the awesome Nokia N900 and its children and competitors.

  • by CaseM (746707) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @12:58PM (#30159864)

    No, the GP post is correct. At a previous employer we had a mantra about using Access to store data: it's not a matter of *if* the database is going to corrupt, it's a matter of when. Even moreso in a multi-user environment where the database is being accessed by several client computers. And I'm not talking about typical concurrency problems of user A's data getting overwritten by user B's - we're talking about 'oh shit, the backups better be working' type of corruption.

  • by ickpoo (454860) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:02PM (#30159954)

    I'm not really sure. Visual Studio fails the most basic requirements for editing code. It isn't actually very good at editing text. The vaunted intellisense frequently fails to suggest anything, I have to actually think about indenting when using it, I can't define custom syntax highlighting, management of buffers is lacking (how can I put the same file into two windows displayed side by side?), and the compiler is really slow.

  • Re:part of the story (Score:4, Informative)

    by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:07PM (#30160056)
    Personally, I like Objective-C. But even if you don't, its quite possible to do most of the code in C/C++, and I believe there are a few frameworks that try to expose the Objective-C parts in C. Hell, there are several apps written in Mono C#.
  • Re:Cry wolf (Score:5, Informative)

    by DdJ (10790) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:16PM (#30160232) Homepage Journal

    Except I'm not really sure if Joe Hewitt counts.

    The app isn't leaving the app store. The app is still going to be updated. Facebook owns it. Joe Hewitt threw a hissy fit, and stopped working on it, and Facebook assigned other developers to it, so in practical terms there's nobody actually leaving, just some noise.

    At least that's my understanding from reading up on this.

  • by demachina (71715) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:28PM (#30160438)

    While you are doing the math....

    A few months back it surfaced that a Pakistani company was submitting a couple apps a DAY... and Apple was approving them. They were $5 apps which were complete garbage, like "WWF News" where they would steal wrestling news off the web, violating copyrights, and package it as an app. With app names designed to draw in customers they could count on at least some sales, and Apple no doubt took a cut, for apps that were complete garbage. Before Apple finally developed a clue and took them down for copyright infringement they had something like 800 apps on the app store. There was another company doing the same thing with something approaching a 1000 apps.

    So when everyone throws out that 100,000 apps number, do the math, and realize a large percentage of those are garbage.

    The other moral of this tale is that Apple is blocking and frustrating apps trying to do useful things including Google Voice while they were gleefully approving two apps a day, and taking a cut, from a company that was doing NOTHING but ripping people off. That is the definition of "arbitrary".

  • by JohnFen (1641097) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:43PM (#30160758)

    "using Apple icons improperly"

    I assume that you're referring to the Rogue Amoeba [rogueamoeba.com] rejection here. As I understand that situation, it's not entirely clear that they did use Apple icons improperly. They weren't shipping any Apple icons in their software, they were obtaining the icons through documented API calls and using them in a nonconfusing and reasonable way -- the implication of doing so is that they were using the calls in precisely the way that Apple wanted. There certainly is nothing in the developer agreements that made this obviously a Bad Thing.

    That Apple thinks differently points to one of the (perhaps the) major problem with iPhone development: the rules aren't clear, and appear to be largely arbitrary. That's anti-developer right there.

  • by psm321 (450181) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @01:56PM (#30161008) Journal

    how can I put the same file into two windows displayed side by side?

    Focus the file you want to split. Go to Window->New Window. Now you have 2 tabs for the file. Then right-click one of those tabs and click "New Vertical Tab Group"

    Credit to a comment here: http://www.kevinwilliampang.com/post/Visual-Studio-Split-Views.aspx [kevinwilliampang.com]

  • by edmicman (830206) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:01PM (#30161072) Homepage Journal

    OMG please don't do this....we inherited an "app" that did just that - essentially the data had outgrown Access but they kept the front end. It was beyond awful - a hodgepodge of screens and controls, bumping up against the limits of how many controls could be painted on the screen....I think it was worse than if they'd kept it all in Access in the first place.

  • by doojsdad (1162065) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:18PM (#30161358) Homepage
    As a part time Android developer I'm debating jumping ship too. This article sums it up nicely: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/11/android-fragmentation/ [wired.com] Between dealing with the SDK idiocy of Google, complaint emails from users of 10 different phones all running a different version of Android, and the shitty design of Market itself, the last sentence echoes my thoughts: “I will have to decide then how much return I am getting and if it is worth it.” There has got to be some kind of happy medium between the anarchy of Market and the totalitarianism of App Store.
  • by LOLLinux (1682094) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:20PM (#30161392)

    I'm not really sure. Visual Studio fails the most basic requirements for editing code. It isn't actually very good at editing text.

    Then you're either using an ancient version or you fail at using a text editor.

    The vaunted intellisense frequently fails to suggest anything,

    Never seen that issue in 6 years.

    I have to actually think about indenting when using it,

    Uhh, yeah. I've never seen a single person have to worry about indenting when using Visual Studio.

    I can't define custom syntax highlighting,

    Yes you can. How do you think all the various plugins for VS do it? Magic?

    management of buffers is lacking (how can I put the same file into two windows displayed side by side?),

    Wow, you really are incompetent. That takes 4 mouose clicks. Click Window, Click New Window, Right click on the new tab, hit new vertical tab group.

    and the compiler is really slow.

    Can you provide some actual objective quantification for this? On any system I've used since VC++ 2003 it's been comparable speed to ICC and GCC.

  • Re:Security (Score:3, Informative)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:38PM (#30161766) Homepage

    I don't hear anyone complaining about security breaches, viruses, spyware, and malware in general on the iPhone

    Then you haven't been paying attention [sfgate.com]. Any iPhone app can read your entire contacts list and upload it to the internet, including your own phone number and details. This hasn't just happened once. It's happened more than once [readwriteweb.com]. Who knows how many of those 100,000 apps do this?

    It's a fallacy that the app stores approval process can catch malware. Apples inspections aren't deep or focussed enough to do that and there are examples of this problem in action. Contrast this to Android. If an app reads your phones data Android tells you that up front when you install it. Apps cannot access that data if they don't have permission to it. That's how real security works - the idea that overworked reviewers who spend less than an hour on any given app are a replacement for sandboxing is crazy.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:43PM (#30161856)

    They weren't shipping any Apple icons in their software, they were obtaining the icons through documented API calls and using them in a nonconfusing and reasonable way

    They were using images obtained from an API on the Mac desktop - not on the phone.

    They then sent those images to the app on the phone.

    Would it also have been OK to just download images from Apple.com ? After all, they would not have been stored in the app then...

    The whole issue of transference is very grey to me, I can see why they thought it might be OK but can also see why Apple decided in the end they were not.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @02:53PM (#30162026)

    He said its in multiple apps. He said the reason it can't integrate with other apps is because apps aren't allowed to integrate with each other.

    That is false. Using custom URL handling, you can easily have a "cloud" of apps all passing data to each other, even if they are from different creators. There's no reason they could not build it out like that if they wished to.

  • itunes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Spaham (634471) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @03:06PM (#30162242)

    For me as an iphone user, the biggest problem is the app "browser" or the app store.
    It is very slow, very cumbersome to find things.
    There are supposedly 100k apps, but somehow I can only get 100 games to show up
    on my phone's appstore, in a specific section. And when you install one app and go
    back to the store, the list has forgotten your position, so you have to reload everything...
    Mac's app store isn't any better. No real way to see big lists quicky, sort with keywords, compare...
    Apps abuse keywords, some have a hundred keywords just to attract searches. This should be enforced
    (and get your app stalled for a couple weeks).

    As a developer, I hate to see so many people copying other apps. It makes me very nervous to
    imagine having a great new idea, and to find out that 10 other apps do the same things a few weeks/months
    afterwards. And, relating to what I said earlier, I'm not really sure that people get to even see
    all the available apps.

    But, to get back to the headers here, there are millions of iPhones out there.
    thousands of apps. This is just the beginning. Try to picture it in ten years.
    Would you flee from such a big market just because there are too many devs ?
    Sounds silly to me.

  • by urulokion (597607) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @03:28PM (#30162660)

    No one will tell you what you cannot do?

    Um, this is obvious bullshit.

    If you design something that interferes with the wrong person's profits, or might mess with the stability of the device, then that app will be disallowed just as surely on the N900 as it would be on any other cellphone, including the iPhone.

    Uh, no they can't. The base software on the N900 does come an xterminal program. The N900 is "locked down" (I use that term very loosely) to prevent a casual user from inadvertently screwing up their phone. But for the knowledgeable user, you can gain a root shell on the N900 quite easily. If you have root, well, you own the device.

    Maemo is built on top of Debian. You can do 'agt-get install x' from a root shell to install software from any repository yourself. If you screw up your phone well it's you own fault. But one that can easily be corrected. Just reflash it with a base image. Restore all your contacts and restore from a previous Backup, reinstall your apps (the restore will do that for you if you want) and you're good to go. Want OGG support? Install it. Want tethering? (yes it's not setup by default) Just tweak some configuration files. Want OpenSSH? Install it. (That's Openssh Client AND Server mind you).

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @03:48PM (#30162970)

    If Apple's terms say that apps aren't allowed to communicate (which AFAIK they don't; I'm just going on what he said -- 'not allowed'), then how can you be sure that your clever system of URL handling isn't going to be rejected anyways?

    How can I be sure? Because it's officially documented as an API on the phone? Because I have shipping apps that use this mechanism already? Because Apple has stated explicitly that custom URL handling is the official mechanism for application IPC?

    Pick any one, or all of them because they are valid. It's simply not the case this is "not allowed" or even a grey area. This is well understood and documented.

  • by rinoid (451982) * on Thursday November 19, 2009 @04:26PM (#30163794)
    Actually Bonjour is a feature called ZeroConf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeroconf [wikipedia.org] which allows iTunes to discover neighbors and share tunes.

    I find it quite nice to browse my network neighbor's libraries and my own machines at home.


    As for AppStore rejections ... arbitrary to us yes. I believe there is communication to the developer's as to why apps are rejected. It's not as if Apple says no and there is not a reason given but that the developer may not agree with the reasoning or how enforcement is applied in one case vs. the other which does seem to indeed to be arbitrary.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @04:59PM (#30164452)

    Not true.

    Yes, I read that DF link when it was first posted. The only problem is that Gruber totally misunderstand the point LeMarsh was making, because all of his comments were centered around "The first rejection" and not later cases. That alone invalidates pretty much every point Gruber made (in relation to the list of four items, though I will debunk the general case in a moment).

    At the time of the initial submission, Apple had no way of knowing the icons were not contained by the app. That was only known by Apple four weeks later - AFTER Rogue tried to game Apple by "Resubmitting and hoping for a different reviewer". That whole portion of the delay was on RA for trying to game the system instead of address the problem. So the initial rejection was perfectly justified, it was only later ones (after the stupid resubmission attempt with an unmodified application) that were more in question, and if you read the full RA account you'll see that actually the Apple reviewers gave this a ton of thought and one reviewer was even pushing to have this use allowed.

    And my point IS true, because like I said I have known since the SDK launch you could not use Apple trademarked images. We've all known that for a long time because apps that use them generally get rejected, and there are other portions of the agreement that lay this out more clearly than the portion you use - which basically says you can use what trademarks they allow, but the fact is they do not allow that so the portion you quote remains true even while you cannot use these images.

    the Airfoil Speakers Touch iPhone app does not contain any of these images. It contains no pictures of Apple computers. It contains no icons of Apple applications. It displays these images after they are sent across the network by Airfoil for Mac.

    Bingo, you posted the reason for the rejection. They sent the images FROM THE MAC to the iPhone. No the application did not technically ship with the images, but the rejection centers around USE not STORAGE. The portion of the agreement you post says you may allow trademarked images with permission, but where does it say in the API docs for the OS X call to get those images that you may distribute them for other uses? That was the first thing I looked at when this whole issue arose, and it does not say anything about that. In short, that API is NOT giving you permission to use the images on other systems.

    Would it be OK to download images from Apple.com and use those, or do you imagine that would be rejected? I know what I would assume as a developer.

    As I said in another message, I can understand why they thought it might be OK in this instance because the existence of that API implies you can use the images in your own application, and possibly by extension other applications on other devices. But the API that generated those images has no allowance in the documentation for transferring them off of the system the application is running in, why is it so surprising to think that redistribution is not allowed? I would have probably tried what they did myself, argued my case with Apple but then when the note came down I couldn't use them - I would have understood, shrugged my shoulders and moved on.

    I also have to wonder if there was not a licensing path RA could have followed to obtain official permission to use these images. Surely that is an option for some applications if they really want to use Apple images, and I would have asked who to contact to work out licensing. I never saw that they tried that.

  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @06:46PM (#30166014) Homepage Journal

    Webapps don't work if you are going into a disaster zone. You can't count on any infrastructure other than a sat phone, which you can't lug around with you. I've worked with guys tracking emerging diseases in the bush; they have to lug in everything using native porters -- just like in the old Tarzan movies -- and run their diagnostic machinery and serves on solar power.

    Believe me, I know what I'm doing with this stuff, at least. You can't assume anything; paper would be ideal in this respect but you want to get the information out faster than it can be faxed and reentered. A team with handhelds sharing a couple of sat phones in a protected place works. Seriously, these guys *literally* have to navigate minefields.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 19, 2009 @08:38PM (#30167150)

    As someone who has also been there and done that, I can say no different than that you have hit the nail on the head and I completely agree.

    As I have also had dealings in mobile applications, I will add that in the mobile world, it's nigh impossible to sell the really interesting apps as the more interesting they are, the higher the support costs (usually) become. Combine that with that the normal users have grown accustomed to $0.99 per app, this has pretty much destroyed the market for apps that do interesting things. Against the odds I've had reasonable success with this, but it is becoming harder and harder as more and more people start to believe that (a) any app, no matter what it does, or the complexity, is $0.99 and (b) you can buy unlimited support for $0.99, and they do ask the silliest completely unrelated questions.

    You get what you pay for, and these days people only want to pay crap. So they get crap. Quality is rare in the mobile world these days, as it's just not profitable to make anything interesting. And even if you do make something really interesting, the mobile OEMs will just rip you off and leave you with nothing. Been there too, missed out on a lot of money. Right now, the ideal mobile application is:

    - Wanted
    - Really simple / little complexity, easy enough that no support is needed and development time is short
    - Interesting enough to catch the eye of a nice percentage of the users
    - Not interesting enough to catch the eye of the OEMs
    - Priced at $0.99

    This is hard to come by, and even if you do figure something out that fits, it'll be really boring to work on and make you want to commit seppuku.

    I'm now happily returning to B2B dealings with pretty much free software and pay-for support. Oh the relief! The mobile market? Perhaps if MS gets their shit together, WM actually seems to be the only viable platform for software that actually does things, aside from looking pretty and making farting noises. But then again, MS seems to be making a grand fiasco of their new Marketplace as well as actually updating the OS, so I guess it's the end of mobile, at least for me.

  • Re:part of the story (Score:3, Informative)

    by quadelirus (694946) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @11:44PM (#30168160)
    Actually, I found Objective-C to be incredibly enjoyable to code in. Once I became proficient in Cocoa it became much nicer to code in than C++ or Java or other mainstream programming languages.

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