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Apple Yanks Toddler's Speech-Enabling App 573

theodp writes "TIME reports that four-year-old Maya Nieder's speech-enabling 'Speak for Yourself' app was yanked from the App Store by Apple due to an unresolved patent dispute at the behest of Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), makers of designated communication devices (not iPad apps). 'The issue of whether or not Apple should have pulled Speak for Yourself from the App Store before the case was decided is trickier. Obviously, Apple would rather be safe than sorry and remove a potentially problematic app instead of risking legal action. The problem, however, is that this isn’t some counterfeit version of Angry Birds.' 'My daughter cannot speak without this app,' writes Maya's mom, Dana. 'She cannot ask us questions. She cannot tell us that she's tired, or that she wants yogurt for lunch. She cannot tell her daddy that she loves him.' If you're so inclined, Dana suggests you drop a note to"
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Apple Yanks Toddler's Speech-Enabling App

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  • Side Loading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:18AM (#40307369)

    Don't you wish you could just decide for yourself what you could were allowed to install on your device?

  • Don't use iOS (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:19AM (#40307377) Homepage Journal

    Don't use iOS devices for anything important. This kind of risk is the exactly one of the reasons the App Store and iOS' close ties to that store, is such a dumb idea to become dependent upon.

    It's not your computer. Get that into your head.

    And if people would stop buying them because of that, then developers would target some other, much more friendly, computer. Then you wouldn't be screwed right now.

  • Stephen Hawking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:22AM (#40307413)

    He's the greatest mind of our time, very famous around the world, has millions of pounds in the bank, the best medical care money can buy, etc.

    Yet he refuses to upgrade the archaic system that allows him to spak.

    This is exactly why. You just don't trust something that important to a fly-by-night company that sells their wares through the Apple Store, of all places.

  • Re:Don't use iOS (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:26AM (#40307447)

    Totally agree. Arguably it's fine using iOS if you're just wanting to play some games, check your emails, etc - however when your child relies on it for their *speech* then it's inexcusable to use a device with such an unstable ecosystem.

  • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:28AM (#40307463)

    I believe one of the reasons he refuses to upgrade the system is because he now considerings it "his" voice and a new system would have a different voice. He sees at as part of him, which is understandable considering it practically replaces the functions of not just his voice, but also his hands. The fact that it's worked well for him for so long is likely part of the "if it ain't broke" mentality.

  • Re:why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:29AM (#40307469)
    Because some disabilities can leave you mute whilst still able to understand verbal communication (Deformed larynx for instance) although god knows what disabilities have left you such an insensitive clot.
  • by TimHunter ( 174406 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:32AM (#40307485)
    Apple is not a court and App Store policies are not the law. Due process does not apply.
  • Re:Side Loading (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:34AM (#40307495)

    No. I don't need to wish. Nor do I need to wish to reflash with 3rd party firmware. Or wish to run ad filtering software. Or wish to modify program access limits. Or wish to over/under clock my device. Or ... or ... or.

    Wishing is for people who can't.

    No, my wish is for ICS firmware to be released for my device.

  • Re:Don't use iOS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dupple ( 1016592 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:36AM (#40307521)

    The same thing could happen to software on an Android device. If this was available on Android the same companies that have had it pulled from the app store would have had it pulled form Google Play.

    This has nothing to do with iOS except that it happens to have been an iOS app and not an Android one

  • by Bad Ad ( 729117 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:37AM (#40307523)
    So do not update your iOS. Keep your iDevice how it is right now. If its that important to you, treat it as a non up-datable speech tool. It will work as it does right now...
  • Teach her to sign (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:42AM (#40307581)

    Seriously, if the kid is mute she should have been taught sign language from day one, then she wouldn't be in the position of being unable to communicate at the age of three.

  • by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <> on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:44AM (#40307605) Homepage

    So do not update your iOS. Keep your iDevice how it is right now. If its that important to you, treat it as a non up-datable speech tool. It will work as it does right now...

    Right up until your iDevice fails at the end of its 3 year design life and you have to replace it with something incompatable

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:52AM (#40307647)

    But its still on her device - so she still can do all those things. If she syncs her phone/ipad with itunes, she even has her own back up of the app and can reinstall it just fine.

    Apple has the ability to delete apps from your device.

    Oh, wait, you thought the iDevice belonged to you? Wrong - it's pwned by Apple, and Apple can do whatever they like with it. You agreed to that in the terms & conditions.

    Maybe you shouldn't do business with such a controlling, dictatorial company.

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @08:55AM (#40307683)

    Oh, wait, you thought the iDevice belonged to you? Wrong

    The *device* belongs to you - Unless you've stolen it, Apple can't stop by your house and take it away. It's the *content* on the device that is licensed. Perhaps it's semantics (the device is not very useful without content) but the fact remains that the device is yours.

  • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:02AM (#40307741)

    Historically, devices to help speech and hearing-impaired people to communicate were fantastically expensive. Mainly because they comprised a lot of custom-built hardware that simply doesn't sell in sufficient quantities to get mass production economies of scale.

    You needed to be rich and/or have some sort of a connection to an organisation that would fund such a unit for you. Make no mistake, if Stephen Hawking hadn't been blessed with the incredible good fortune to be a genius - and if he hadn't already started to establish himself as an excellent physicist before his ALS reached the point whereby he had difficulty with speech - it's much less likely he'd have had access to the sophisticated technology that allows him to communicate as early as he did.

    The iPad, however, is a complete game-changer here. It's truly a disruptive technology [] - suddenly, reasonably sturdy hardware with a touch-screen that's large enough for someone who hasn't (for whatever reason) got particularly good hand/eye co-ordination can be had for under £400. Pair it with appropriate software and maybe some sort of case and you've got a complete solution for under £1,000.

    Yes, the app's expensive. But the whole lot is still a fraction the price of a traditional solution.

    I'm not surprised the developers are in court. The companies who produce the custom-built equipment are probably terrified that their entire business model is in the process of evaporating and they'll be left with a product that is basically unsellable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:03AM (#40307749)

    The spin is necessary.

    If you want "ordinary people" to understand why a walled garden controlled by a corporate monolith might not always be a good idea, this is an excellent story. If you want "ordinary people" to understand the stupidity of software patents, this is also an excellent story.

    If you would like to see software patents stifle all creativity in the tech industry, and don't like the concept of people being able to own what they paid for, then I can see why you would dislike this story.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:26AM (#40307993)
    "There is no good or bad karma, there is only karma".

    I realise this is slightly OT, but it annoys me a little to have Buddhism replaced by cartoon-Buddhism. Buddhism is not Christianity. It's medieval Catholicism in which the patent lawyers and company executives would spend eternity in a nasty place. For traditional Buddhists, any and all engaging with the illusion that is the world of the five senses is karma.

    Modern relativism has largely obsoleted religious sanctions - and I'm not about to regurgitate Durkheim - but the fact is that there are an awful lot of people who in the past would have had the fear of Hell to create a check on their antisocial behaviour. Now, they just don't care. Hence increasing inequality and doctrines like Libertarianism (which basically comes down in the end to, he with the most money to pay lawyers always wins).

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:26AM (#40307999)

    Apps generally don't stop working when an new OS or device comes out. But if at some point in the iPad she has stops working, and new devices are incompatible with the app, she can buy an older one second hand. And restore from iTunes.

    Sorry but the sensationalism of taking away an app from a child that needs it just doesn't hold water. And the law, as best as the legal dept see it, must be obeyed.

  • Re:Stephen Hawking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xorsyst ( 1279232 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:27AM (#40308007) Journal

    He has the best medical care money can buy

    Isn't all his medical care paid for by the National Health Service?

  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:38AM (#40308129)

    When someone is unable to communicate at all, you advocate a method that allows them to only communicate with select people (those who know sign language) rather than the option she has now which allows her to communicate with a much larger group of people (those who know English)

    Why limit her?

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:43AM (#40308181)

    Will she get cancer? Will she get knocked down by a bus? Will a meteorite hit the house?

    Also, while the app is there currently for Dana, it's not available any longer for others who could benefit from it.

    This is not the only product on the market. It just happens to be the one she chose.

    Cut the supermarket tabloid emotional sensationalism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:43AM (#40308191)

    There's no real research here, only product development. Putting icons on a screen that make a device play back a recorded message when pushed. Not innovative at all, yet extremely useful for anyone who can't otherwise speak.

    The real reason for this lawsuit is not to protect R&D, but to protect a racket that hurts kids and tax payers alike. The alternative that these companies sell are $10,000 devices that don't work as well as an ipad+$299 in software ($1,000 total). The only reason they can sell these devices for $10,000 is because tax payers pay the bill. Of course, ipad+$299 software isn't covered by these same programs because the state run programs will only buy "dedicated devices" and an ipad is not a device dedicated to one use.

    The BS patent system (which in this case granted an "on a computer" patent) is only part of the problem here. The other part of the problem is state run programs that allow these companies to charge 10x as much for a less useful device at tax payer's expense.

  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @09:45AM (#40308213) Homepage Journal

    Why should we be flooding Apple's inbox with requests to put the App back in the AppStore?
    By doing so, they expose themselves to legal liability and potential lawsuits.

    It seems that if you are angry about this and wanted to see this app back in iTMS, you'd write the software creators and patent claimant urging them to settle their differences fairly and amicably in the interests of the consumer. iTMS will promptly put the app back online when instructed to do so and can be assured they will not be sued for doing so.

  • by deathguppie ( 768263 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:03AM (#40308431)

    My wife is a speech language pathologist. Years ago I remember looking at a Prentke Romich tablet she brought home to customize the interface for a student. I couldn't help but think how simple it was for a device that cost around $3k. Just for the basic version from there they go up to nearly $10k.(yes I know there is a bit into putting together the icon sets and sounds.. I'm speaking relatively) Prentke Romich sells to hospitals, and other major medical institutions that have need for such a device, and can afford it, they do not sell to individuals per se, simply because the average family cannot afford one. They charge a lot of money for them. I very much doubt they are concerned with the "actual" needs of people as much as they are their pocket book.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#40308467)

    New iOS versions don't typically make existing software stop working. But if it's that important to her then she doesn't have to update the OS.

    Really, we're supposed to be pandering to emotional fears of what may happen in the future? To make an exception to the law on the basis of it?


  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:08AM (#40308491)

    "Apple has the ability to delete apps from your device."

    Which they don't, unlike Google, who also has that ability. So what's your point?

  • by Empiric ( 675968 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:11AM (#40308527)
    And the law, as best as the legal dept see it, must be obeyed.

    Back in my day, we had a thing called... []

    Now that maximizing shareholder value (or, compatibly, keeping your job) is serving as a no-thought-required stand-in for ethics, though, by acting in effect as a rubber-stamping arm of the government on issues like this, that seems to be less and less in the public consciousness...

    Sorry, your post's phrasing seemed to have a certain... disturbing automaticness about it, and I haven't had my morning coffee yet.
  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:12AM (#40308541) Journal

    I'm wondering why the girl can't do sign language. Her physical problem is weak vocal cord muscles.

    I taught both my kids sign language before they could speak. Didn't cost anything.

  • Re:I'm speechless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c_sd_m ( 995261 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:16AM (#40308569)

    So she cannot speak without it, yet it begs to ask: "How did you speak before your iphone?" iphones haven't been around forever... what would you have done if it never existed... what did you do?

    Kids like this either found the thousands of dollars for a custom hardware solution or used paper words and photos, which are much less portable (if you want anywhere near the vocabulary available in an AAC). Or they just went through life with a significantly reduced ability to communicate, which is incredibly frustrating for them and their caregivers.

  • "Journalism" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:29AM (#40308715)

    o Two companies have legal dispute over some speech thing.
    o Apple is asked to pull app until legal dispute is settled.
    o Apple: (shrug) OK. (pulls app) (App remains on iPads that downloaded it)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:44AM (#40308937)

    Probably better that you just don't comment on stuff you obviously have no clue on.

    Same applies to you.

    Apple is better than Android in terms of backwards compatibility.

    Really? In the update from Android Honeycomb to ICS, I had a grand total of one app that had a problem. Every minor version update for iOS has killed at least two or three things for me, some of which are never actually fixed by their vendors.

    Apple hardware is available longer on the used market because it's worth more.

    Having a higher price tag is not the same as actually being worth more.

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?