Daniel Eran Dilger
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SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth

SDK 3.3.3
Daniel Eran Dilger
According to a growing swell of supposedly outraged developers, the creator of the Podcaster app had no warning that Apple might restrict the app from the iPhone App Store because there are no clear guidelines about what apps might be rejected or why. They’re wrong, here’s why.

Apple and the New Software Market
How Apple Is Changing the PC Software World… Back
iPhone Apps Store Growing Twice as Fast as iTunes Music
The Other iPhone Apps Store
SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth
Banned iPhone Apps and the John Gruber Podcaster Defense
The iPhone Monopoly Myth
A Word on the Other Apps Store.

When I wrote “The Other iPhone Apps Store,” I primarily had in mind the marketing angle of Google’s Android Market and other mobile platforms that are trying to get across that Apple’s restrictions in its Apps Store are nothing like what they offer or will offer, not the sham controversy surrounding Podcaster.

The point was that while the iTunes’ App Store serves the needs of most iPhone users, there is also an option to get the kind of experimental, do it yourself open app scene that exists on other platforms. Like Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Palm, the iPhone jailbreak community has no central market or billing mechanism, a factor that has limited the effectiveness of all of them to deliver apps to users.

I wasn’t presenting that iTunes was rivaled by the jailbreak community, nor that there was any guarantee that jailbreak apps would work flawlessly, look as good as Apple’s own store apps, or be as financially viable. I wasn’t comparing jailbreak apps to Apple’s App Store at all; I was comparing them to the potential for Google’s Android Market and the existing dysfunctional markets for mobile software.

Jailbreak apps are plagued with uncertainty. They could serve as a vector for malware risks, brick your phone, kill your battery, and can certainly make the iPhone look as clumsy and junky as any other mobile phone platform. The point was that those jailbroken apps are just as good (and certainly no worse than) other mobile platforms’ official software models.

The difference between the Apps Store and the jailbreak community apps is quite obvious in terms of all the factors I outlined: expense, quality, and security. Jailbreak apps simply aren’t going to solve all of the issues anyone can raise with Apple’s App Store (the series of limitations I noted) without creating serious new problems, but I never claimed they would.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 09 200809131836

The Other iPhone Apps Store
The Class Filter.

However, the idea that developers are building apps and then getting rejected out of nowhere is being taken in absurd directions. The idea itself is simply wrong.

Apple does have a series of undefined limitations on taste and class, the most obvious being that it doesn’t want to mock itself by proliferating its App Store shelves with fart jokes. It might wiser for Apple to create a ghetto category that allows for these less classy apps for those who would be amused by them, without just making a blanket refusal on such a difficult to define line. Apple probably couldn’t have anticipated needing a policy that defined fart jokes as a category that would be expressly forbidden, nor does it need to articulate such boundaries.

At the same time however, there are clearer guidelines in place for serious apps. Among them is the fact that apps can’t install nagware or even refer to the paid version of their app using certain language. One app, VNC Lite, was asked to remove a sloppily worded nag screen for its paid version (below), which it has since excised in an update.

Img 0007

Apple is an expert merchandizer, and spends a lot of thought about how to market items. Just as the iPod and iPhone create a halo over its other products, a sloppy, ugly product would create a negative cloud over other products it sells.

Deciding where to draw the line between classy and restraint of expression is difficult, and Apple needs to take caution that it does not set up an entirely lifeless monotony of apps burdened by excessive rules. However, it is far easier to decay into a cesspool of junk than it is to accidently become too sophisticated and elite. The Apps Store has only been open for two months, so Apple and developers are still figuring out how things work.

The Podcaster Surprise Myth.

That having been noted, the “controversy” surrounding Podcaster is a joke. The iPhone SDK clearly outlines “Your Obligations” in its section 3, with 3.2 addressing “Use of the SDK” and 3.3 laying out “Program Requirements for Applications.”

Under section 3.3 (I’m looking at a “pre-release confidential” version that was freely available on the web from a Google search; this may have changed slightly in newer revisions), it lists fifteen very simple requirements related to APIs and functionality. The third one:

3.3.3 Without Apple’s prior written approval, an Application may not provide, unlock or enable additional features or functionality through distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes Store.

SDK 3.3.3

Podcaster quite obviously serves to unlock a feature using a distribution mechanism outside the iTunes Store. This limitation would also include apps that are designed to install other apps independent of iTunes (such as the Cydia jailbreak app – it’s not in the Apps Store either), or any other app that distributes song, TV, or movie downloads or podcasts.

One can complain that Apple is not handing its platform over to third party developer control again, something that worked out disastrously on the original Macintosh, but it’s simply ignorant to complain that Apple is shooting developers out of the sky without warning.

Other limitations in the SDK expressly forbid:

  • using unpublished or private APIs
  • installing or launching other executable code (such as plugins)
  • writing data outside ‘the Application’s designated container area’
  • failing to ‘comply with the Human Interface Guidelines’
  • any recorder apps that fail t’o comply with all applicable privacy laws and regulations […] including but not limited […] a reasonably conspicuous visual indicator
  • illegal use of location services or marketing apps ‘for real time route guidance’, automatic control of vehicles, or life saving purposes
  • location based services that do not ‘obtain consent from an individual’ when data is collected or transmitted
  • overriding Apple’s warnings and consent panels to secretly use location data without the user’s permission
  • using any copyright material without the proper licensing
  • ‘contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind’
  • ‘contain any malware, malicious or harmful code’
  • using FOSS in ways that do not comply with its license, or would subject any part of the SDK to any external licensing terms or restrictions
  • when using cellular data, failure to ‘comply with Apple’s best practices and other guidelines on how Applications should access and use the cellular network […] in Apple’s reasonable judgment excessively use or unduly burden network capacity or bandwidth […] have Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) functionality [over cellular networks]

Those limits are clearly stated and part of the agreement every developer has to sign off on when joining the iPhone SDK. Most of them protect users in ways Google and Microsoft won’t. Some protect Apple’s image, some protect FOSS, some protect Apple’s cellular partners. There’s very little that can be reasonably attacked, but no iPhone developers can say they weren’t aware of them.

Additionally, to clarify, while Podcaster the SDK app was not accepted into the Apps Store, there is no restriction upon web apps such as Podcaster.fm’s Podcaster 2.0, which can present and stream podcasts. The complaint revolves around a local app that downloads files to the iPhone, a potential restriction of other limitations cited above, including bandwidth on cellular networks.

Misrepresented to Users.

This is a particularly shameful thing for developers in the SDK program to misrepresent, because the restrictions are covered in the program’s SDK are are not supposed to be published publicly. That makes it particularly unfair to create a myth about “Apple persecution” when the developers should have known from the start that the app wouldn’t be accepted, and that they should have obtained “prior written approval” before starting any work.

The developer of Podcaster may not have paid adequate attention to what he was doing, but that’s not Apple’s fault. It appears that he simply doesn’t understand the issue. The Almerica blog complains “Apple Rep says: Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes,” and continued, “I find this a bit strange considering there are numerous apps that duplicate the functionality of other apps. For example, any calculator app is duplicating the functionality of Apples calculator app.”

Does he really not see a difference between replacing the calculator and installing an end run around iTunes for distributing podcasts? Here’s a hint: the calculator isn’t an integral part of the business plan behind the iPod and iPhone, while iTunes is. Should Apple be forced to allow competitors to install competing platforms such as Real Player, Windows Media, Flash, Java, alternative mail readers and web browsers?

That was a primary complaint about Microsoft, which set up a software market for an open API on PCs and then subsequently used its existing monopoly position to increasingly restrict trade across the entire PC market throughout the 90s. Does the same argument apply to Apple, a hardware company which has never positioned the App Store as an unrestricted, open platform, and which does not maintain a monopoly on mobile hardware or software?

The next article in this series will examine that issue, but register your own ideas below.

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

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  • deadcow

    thank you for this piece that sticks to apple technology. i’d suggest that you not use this forum as your personal soapbox for political ideology. it detracts from your journalistic credibility.

  • jerome_from_munich

    Indeed the so-called outrage about Podcaster is disingenuous. Apple policies on software distribution are quite clear and their purpose is to protect:
    -Apple image
    -Apple business plan (iTunes)
    -Apple partner’s business plan (cellular).

    And this are the exact reasons why I did not buy an iPhone.

    I see the advantages of these policies, of course. But they also give Apple a lot of control. Luckily, Apple is not abusing this control (yet?), but to me the amount of control that Apple keeps on this platform is unacceptable. Just think about what the same policies would have meant in the hands of Microsoft for the Windows platform. Just think what it would mean if Microsoft could, on windows computers:
    -restrict applications to what support their business plan
    -restrict applications to what support the business plan of their chosen partners (e.g. i.s.p. to draw a parallel).

    I use Apple computers. I would not have bought one if it had had the same limitations on software distribution than the iPhone has. So I vote with my checkbook, and do not buy an iPhone. There are alternatives.

  • lysander

    For the first time reading your posts, I think you really got it wrong here. Reading the language of 3.3.3 it seems to forbid selling apps (or additional functionality for an app) outside of the appstore. That is, you can’t have a free version of your app on the appstore and then charge to upgrade that app remotely via some other mechanism.

    Are you saying that this podcaster app did this? I do not believe it does.

    What this app does is let you download podcasts off of the web and play them on your phone. You can do this with safari, though its a bit inconvenient.

    I don’t see how its making an “endrun” around iTunes.

    AOL radio, and other internet radio stations are available in itunes, you can listen to them within itunes. These apps are also available on the phone, as separate apps. In a sense they are running an “endrun” around itunes as well.

    Its possible you’re saying something other than what I think you’re saying– you spend very little of your article talking about exactly how this app violates the agreement.

    Personally, I think apple’s quite wrong here. But I think it was someone within apple who got overzealous or did a poor job, rather than a policy on their part.

    But as someone who is going into their third month working on an app for the appstore, I am personally worried that Apple may not approve it for some reason, even though I’m not doing anything remotely untoward.

    Apple really needs to make things clearer, or give us a way to verify with them in advance that specific functionality won’t be a problem.

    I have an idea for another app that I think would be pretty revolutionary, and that fits within the spirit and the statements of the agreement– but at first blush it might not seem like it, and I have no way of getting my idea clarified to apple and communicting to them how it works and how it doenst’ violate the agreement…. all I can do is submit it (after spending the time developing it) with *zero* comments addressing concerns they might have, and hope that somehow they understand that its within the agreement.

    Because of this risk, and no way to mitigate it, I’m working on the other app, and the revolutionary / neat app is going to be on the backburner for the foreseeable future.

  • roz

    I don’t agree with your reading of 3.3.3. Playing a podcast is not new functionality, its a built-in function and an existing functionality. I read 3.3.3 as disallowing a developer to make an installer app that creates an alternate way to download or install new functionality to the device. I would not consider an app that plays podcasts to be doing this. A newsreader of any kind should not be allowed by your definition, because its allowing another “distribution” mechanism and its a new feature. Of course a newreader is allowed because it is not enabling the distribution of new features or functions but only helping to distribute content. Like the news, a podcast is content. I don’t think a reasonable person would be expected to think that a podcast player is creating an alternative distribution mechanism for new functionality, its simply providing an alternate way to access content, something many apps do.

    I am not saying Apple has to allow the app. I think Apple reserved the right to deny permission to apps at its discretion. The question is, do developers really want to live in that world?

    Personally I think the iPhone platform would be bigger and better if Apple permitted developers to compete with Apple’s apps. As long as it did not disrupt the device, competition is better.

    Perhaps part of the issue with the podcaster app is that it was not limited to wifi and part of Apple’s deal with ATT is to require that for music and podcasts other than streaming.

  • TonyR

    Give it a break Deadcow. It’s Daniel’s blog. He can write what he wants. I think he doesn’t give a deadcow’s arse about what you think of his journalistic integrity. Nor do I think he cares what you suggest. Who made you the blog censor of the internet? Hmm?

  • http://maelstromsky.wordpress.com alanjcfs

    deadcow, he talks about other things. he had a post about san francisco muni, for example. while i defend your right to make your opinion known, i criticize it as an expression of ignorance. this isn’t an apple-only “forum”/blog. you should look to apple insider for that.

  • furball

    Dan, since the repubs have found out your influenece (page view & unique visits), it seems that they wish to attempt to silence you via censure from a distance.

    I can only encourage you to continue speaking your mind, outlining your facts and reasoning for all to see and your claims based thereon. You have the courage to speak where others do not.

    To those who do like Daniel’s blog, which is presumably exactly as Daniel intends, given the recent criticism which clearly ensures he already understand the complaints of some; then I suggest those people take a hike and read only the AppleInsider version, which is politic free analysis by the same person (Prince McLean; Dan, what type of pet was Prince and did he/she live on McLean St with you ?).

    Alternatively, pipe down yourself. Or better yet, get a blog of you own that shows why your views are worth having.

    I’m with Dan; dangerous times ahead and only the truth and rational argument will suffice.

  • http://www.antiorario.it/ antiorario

    Since when one writer’s “political ideology,” if and when honestly founded, should detract from his credibility? And enough with this negative connotation of the word ‘ideology’. It’s people who don’t have one – or buy into pre-packaged “ideologies” – who are afraid of it.

    Plus, as other commenters have pointed out, this is by no means a “forum,” hence it’s no public property. Daniel has every right to write whatever he deems worth sharing. Sure, as readers we have the right to express our opinions, and if deadcow has something to tell Daniel to refute his political views, he/she should post a comment to the relevant post.

  • Jesse

    3.3.3 forbids distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes store. Podcaster was a distribution mechanism other than the iTunes store. Open and shut.

    Daniel, I was hoping you would weigh in on this. Thanks.

    I don’t like the political stuff either, y’alls, but I like it a lot more than your whining about it. If you want to keep the focus on technical analysis just shut your own darn pieholes; the only reason the comments section is full of this bickering tripe is because of you. You make things ten times worse, you hypocrites.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    I originally wrote the comment below to respond to Daniel’s “The Other iPhone Apps Store” article, but since this article is more specifically about “the Podcaster controversy” I’m going to post it here. I’m not directly addressing the SDK 3.3.3 section, though, I’m addressing Apple’s response to the developer of Podcaster: “Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

    (That last article wasn’t about Apple’s response, either, so this is as ill-fitting in either place, I suppose, apart from being specifically addressed to user’s comments rather than Daniel’s original articles.)

    One of my favorite unofficial/jailbreak iPhone/iPod Touch apps is MobileCast, for downloading podcasts. It’s not perfect (far from it), but it’s so useful that I simply won’t go without it, or an equivalent podcatcher app so I can download podcasts on-the-go.

    I’d actually heard of Podcaster (misleading name, IMHO, BTW–it should have been PodCATCHER) long before this controversy started about it being denied distribution in the App Store. I was very much looking forward to it and waiting for its release. Along with iPhone OS 2.1 I was going to use the occasion of Podcaster’s release to finally upgrade my iPhone from 1.1.4. At that point I figured I wouldn’t need to go through the hassle of jailbreaking my iPhone after upgrading to OS 2.x, since there’d finally be an official app replacement for MobileCast.

    Now, one of the major problems with MobileCast is that it doesn’t (can’t) access the podcasts stored on my iPhone that were uploaded via iTunes. As a result, the listened/not listened state and playback positions of my podcasts would get out of synch between the ones downloaded via MobileCast and the ones loaded via iTunes. The only solution I had for that was to stop downloading via iTunes at all, and only use MobileCast.

    Podcaster has this same problem.

    Looking at the screencast of Podcaster at http://www.nextdayoff.com/ and seeing how it operates I can actually see a bit of Apple’s perspective on denying it.

    Podcaster’s functionality *IS* really close to the functionality of iTunes. Yet, it can’t access the same data on the device, leading to the synchronization problems I mentioned above. I can see how this could prove to be VERY confusing to end users. “I just loaded this podcast in Podcaster, so why isn’t it showing up the the iPod area of my device?” “I just finished listening to this podcast in Podcatcher, yet when I synch my device with iTunes it didn’t mark it as read, AND it downloaded another copy! What gives??”

    Ironically, I think if Podcaster was LESS easy to use, like MobileCast where you have to manually type in the URLs of podcast RSS feeds, I think it may have stood a better chance of getting approved. The reason I think this is because in this way it would have “limited the bar for entry” for using it to people who were more technical, on average. They would as whole have had a better understanding of how it was functioning and why their podcasts weren’t synchronized between it and iTunes.

    So it’s in this way that I can see some of Apple’s perspective in declaring Podcaster something that duplicates the functionality of iTunes too much.

    In a similar way, Apple isn’t so interested in seeing other web browsers or iPod audio/video downloaders/players ported to the iPhone/iPod Touch, and probably isn’t so interested in seeing other e-mail applications. These, or other things that duplicate significant hallmark functionality of the iPhone/iPod Touch, as a consequence would also break the seamless integration between the device and your computer that is currently provided by iTunes, along with iPhoto, iCal, Mail.app, and Address Book.

    I do find it unfortunate that Apple hasn’t provided clearer guidelines to software vendors as to what will and won’t be approved. Again, I can understand some perspective there, though, because it’s awfully difficult to be both fully detailed AND comprehensive in your guidelines. There’s ALWAYS someone trying to find a loophole, so the looser you are in your descriptions the more easily you can cover everything. (This is one of the reasons the U.S. Constitution has proved to be such a strong document over time, BTW. Since it’s written in a vague and non-explicit manner, it can “bend” with the times and their interpretations of it, without breaking anything fundamental in the core document.)

    My fervent hope, now, it that Apple themselves are going to release some over-the-air podcast downloading functionality integrated into the iPod part of the iPhone/iPod Touch. At that point they will have little reason to not approve Podcaster. This would be because people who seek out Podcaster then will have to understand better that it’s running in parallel to the built-in downloader, and thus podcasts downloaded through it will not be kept in synch with the podcasts in the iPod app and iTunes.

    I have less hope that Apple may allow third party access to the music library in an iPhone/iPod Touch, because that would open up the possibility of music & video sharing apps as well as downloaders from other music services like Real’s Rhapsody and Amazon’s MP3 Store. While there are no doubt many people who would love to see these things, the former opens up a lot of liability issues with music labels and studios, and the latter simply isn’t in Apple’s financial interest (or in other words, the financial interest of their shareholders).

    Until then, I guess I’m just going to have to keep jailbreaking my iPhone and deal with the less-than-ideal functionality of MobileCast. I may even try to contribute to the project, since it’s open source.

  • mef

    Daniel — I also disagree with your reading of 3.3.3. It seems pretty clear that the clause in question is talking about creating an app that circumvents Apple’s role as app gatekeeper. Some examples that would violate this would include:

    – A free lite version via the App store, that could be upgraded on the author’s website to the full version. (Circumventing Apple’s revenue stream)

    – An app with plugins available for download from within the app. (circumventing Apple’s app vetting)

    By your logic, a Twitter client, Evernote, or a to-do list app that syncs to the web would be forbidden as providing additional functionality outside the app store.

    Sure, I can see a business case for Apple denying apps that compete with iTunes — but the agreement doesn’t cite that as a reason for denial. And perhaps bandwidth concerns underlie this decision — but then, why not allow it to operate over WiFi?

    Sorry — I like your analysis a lot of the time, but this piece doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  • Rich

    I’m with LunaticSX on this issue. I hope this gives Apple the impetuous to bring over-the-air podcast downloading to the iPhone. It’s one of the few must-haves that’s stopping me from switching from my iPod touch + N95 combo.

  • nat

    Rich said:

    “I’m with LunaticSX on this issue. I hope this gives Apple the impetuous to bring over-the-air podcast downloading to the iPhone. It’s one of the few must-haves that’s stopping me from switching from my iPod touch + N95 combo.”

    Or at the very least, they could expand the iTunes WiFi Store to include podcasts, which would allow for 1-click streaming. I’d prefer that to downloading a 50MB-70MB audio podcast.

  • ericdano

    Previous article was some lame political hit piece, then you post this, which is what you are good at. Either the drugs for you face thing are out of wack, or……I have no clue. Tech topics are your forte. Political things are just not for you. It is like a really bad Huffington Post……..

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    I’m with most of the other people leaving comments here – I don’t think this section of the agreement applies to Podcaster at all. I interpret that rule as saying that if your app provides a way to add or unlock additional features (i.e., a demo that offers an upgrade to a full version), that must be done through iTunes. It’s to prevent you from releasing an app on the App Store, then using an internal “update” mechanism within that app to install additional software from outside sources.

    This is not at all what Podcaster is doing, nor is it the rule that Apple cited when denying it entry to the store, otherwise they would have said so directly. Instead, what Apple said was that Podcaster “duplicates existing functionality.” This is an unusual stance to take for a number of reasons. One is that there are plenty of apps on the store that duplicate existing functionality, such as notepads, calculators, etc. Two is that Podcaster provides features that aren’t possible on the iPhone out of the box – namely, downloading podcasts over the air without syncing through iTunes. You (Dan) argued that this constitutes “using a distribution mechanism outside the iTunes Store,” but then how do you explain the presence of feed readers on the App Store? Those can update their content over the air without requiring a manual sync with iTunes, and yet that’s okay. And a “podcast” is really just an RSS feed anyway, only it delivers audio instead of text. What exactly is the difference?

    Imagine if you weren’t allowed to “duplicate existing functionality” on the Mac. There would be no alternative email clients, web browsers, text editors, etc. – if you didn’t like what Apple provided, you’d be out of luck. Why should a policy that would be so backwards on the Mac be defended when it comes to the iPhone?

  • Joel

    Playing Devils Advocate for a sec, but why would “no duplicates” be such a hard-ship…? You’d have a Mac that would have some truly innovative software. :)

    IMO, this decision is a slap-down for all the Todo applications in the Store. Do something, cool, interesting, or useful and your idea will be distributed. Is it no wonder it’s got all the pundits (and people who should know better) in a tizzy…?

  • andywar

    I agree with Daniel’s reading of 3.3.3, but even if you don’t, doesn’t clause 3.3.11 also go a good way to making this app (and this sort of app) against the T&Cs? Streaming would appear to be okay within that particular clause, but certainly not downloading. And even if you did take the obvious workaround, it’s certainly a logistical nightmare…

  • lysander

    “3.3.3 forbids distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes store. Podcaster was a distribution mechanism other than the iTunes store. Open and shut.”

    PodCaster is distributed thru the iTunes Appstore. How does it use a “distribution mechanism other than the appstore”???

    IF you mean downloading content off of the web is considered “distribution” here– a long shot I would say– then there are lots of apps that this applies to, from every twitter client to, essentially, anything that uses the web.

  • mortiferus

    It seems to me that 3.3.2 and .3 state unequivocally that you as a developer cannot A) create external plug-ins or extensions for your app, B) nor make an app that updates/installs any additional functionality post initial install if it is not done through the App Store without Apple prior written approval. In other words you cannot run a “Software update” type of scenario via any other means than the App Store unless Apple gives you a nice contact or agreement stating so.

  • mcloki

    The problem with Apple’s decision is not the fact that they made it. It’s the fact that too many people believe it to be an arbitrary decision. It’s the fear and uncertainty that they are crying about.
    Does Podcaster have a “Restriction of trade” argument that they can make? What other reason than “competition” does Apple have for not allowing other apps on the store? And if that is the case how long before the lawsuits show up?
    Apple is in a tight position. They can’t run the store and stop competition at the same time. They have to be “inclusive” in all of their dealings, lest the fair trade and government “overseers” try and steal some political spotlight.
    Thank God Spitzer has been disgraced since this has “grandstanding, politician moment” written all over it.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    This article has been Daring Fireballed.

    For a change: I’m on Gruber’s side on this one. I think his reading of the terms is the right one; and his backup argument about network use and podcastong being free content is pretty good too.

    Of course, he’s not recuperating from major surgery so I’ll cut Daniel some slack!

  • solipsism

    I think we can expect Danial to rebuttal to John Gruber of Daring Fireball’s post about this article.

  • solipsism

    Pipped by John Muir. I agree with Gruber that 3.3.3 isn’t really the issue, but I don’t agree with the rest of his post. I think 3.3.15, about the bandwidth is the issue, and a legitimate one.

    What would happen on October 14th when Apple releases their next video of the SDK via podcast? Mine range from 747MB to 1.21GB. That isn’t something that carriers can handle from potentially millions of iPhones getting the update at once.

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  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    If a developer created an application that allowed users to download, store, and play music from Real’s Rhapsody or Amazon’s MP3 store, would anyone here be surprised if Apple denied its release?

    No, of course not.

    The obvious reason would be because those apps were competing with music downloads from the iTunes Store.

    A less obvious, yet still valid reason would be because they are duplicating the functionality that iTunes has in loading and synchronizing music on the device, along with storing their music data in a location separate and different from the standard music library on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

    Even if they downloaded the music for FREE, there is still a strong reason why Apple would not approve of their release in the Apps Store. They don’t want apps to create duplicate stores of similar data to what is already loaded and synchronized via iTunes.

    In the same way, I’d expect applications that duplicated the GENERAL iTunes synchronization functionality of the address book and calendar to be denied if they’re going to be storing their data in a private location (which they would have to). On the other hand, if they were not so much general address book and calendar apps, but were instead something like specialized building contractor scheduling and contact organization apps, with unique functionality that only pertains to building contractors, I could see them being approved.

    Now, notepads, calculators, and the like are a different matter. Apple’s response to Podcaster was “Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

    There are NO notepad or calculator sections on iTunes! There are also no stocks or weather widgets, no Google maps, no alarm clock, etc. Third-party apps like that on the iPhone or iPod Touch are not duplicating data or synchronization functions of iTunes. There is no risk of customer confusion there, and no risk of unsynchronized data.

    Like many of the responses here, I don’t necessarily agree that section 3.3.3 of the SDK agreement prohibits Podcaster’s approval:

    “3.3.3 Without Apple’s prior written approval, an Application may not provide, unlock or enable additional features or functionality through distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes Store.”

    I believe that what that section was specifically referring to was “an Application may not provide, unlock or enable additional SOFTWARE features or functionality,” not additional DATA. (Note that there may be a later, updated version of the SDK agreement that clarifies this.)

    I think what Apple should do now to clarify this matter is to add an additional section to the SDK agreement, if it doesn’t already exist, stating something like this:

    “3.3.x An application may not have as its sole purpose the duplication of substantial functionality of the data storage and synchronization capabilities provided by iTunes. This includes, but is not limited to, audio data, Videos, Address Book contacts, iCal calendars, Mail accounts, and Safari bookmarks.”

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    Quick followup to my own response:

    Some people use the existence of apps for Pandora, Last.fm, and AOL Radio as examples when defending Podcaster.

    Those apps, though, only stream data. They don’t store it. If they were storing the music data on the device I’d fully expect them to be denied from the App Store as well.

    In a similar vein, if Podcaster ONLY streamed podcasts, and didn’t store them, I could see it being approved. That would eliminate any data storage and synchronization duplication with the Podcast section of iTunes.

    Now, I do also think that the wording from Apple explaining the reason for Podcaster’s denial was poor, by mentioning that it was because it “assists in the distribution of podcasts.”

    It was probably pretty hastily dashed off by a lower-level person at Apple, since it’s too easy to argue that any RSS reader, including the one built in to Safari, can “assist in the distribution of podcasts.”

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @LunaticSX – I see your point, and I understand the synchronization issues that would result by having a third-party app that downloaded podcasts separate from iTunes. However, this is kind of a catch-22, because Apple doesn’t let third parties hook directly into the phone’s iTunes library. In other words, *if* Podcaster were able to hook directly into iTunes, the two could share data, eliminating any synchronization issues.

    So in essence, Podcaster HAD to resort to keeping its own separate library of podcasts, and then because of that, Apple banned it. It’s like they’re getting punished for following the rules!

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  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX


    Indeed, that’s why I think Apple needs to clarify its SDK agreement with a section specifically laying out the guidelines for apps that might cause these kinds of problems. (As well as add podcasts to the iTunes Wi-Fi Store.)

    Up to this point, Apple probably didn’t think it would really be so necessary. Why would a developer spend so much effort to duplicate the built-in existing functionality of iTunes’ data storage and synchronization features?

    One of the biggest problems, here, is that podcasts are ostensibly “free,” so from the standpoint of not competing financially with iTunes by loading them separately developers could see themselves in the clear.

    That standpoint, though, neglects the other issues of storing the data separately from the iPod app and not synchronizing its played/unplayed state and position with iTunes.

  • countach

    Even if the agreement said nothing, intuition tells me that this program would be in danger because it is on Apple’s turf. The conditions document is not enormously clear in this case, but it ought to be clear enough to give any developer pause before investing much time in this idea.

    Having said that, I think Apple ought to open the platform to anything but the most obvious rubbish like spyware etcc

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  • deadcow

    daniel and readers, i came to your forum because a mac friend recommended this blog as a great place to have a deeper understanding of all things apple.

    indeed, the purpose for this blog in your own words is to write about “technology, Apple, motorcycles and the place I call home: San Francisco.”

    i am not censoring you, i have no right to do so. i am simply asking that you keep your blog focused on your own stated purpose.

    by injecting biased political opinions as articles, it detracts from the credibility and objectivity of your great technology articles. you subject readers who come to roughly drafted looking for great, factual, objective technology articles instead to biased, political hit pieces.

    thanks for your consideration.

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  • Jesse

    “…provide, unlock, or enable features or functionality through distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes Store.”

    Let me parse this. “…provide, unlock, or enable features or functionality” basically means “do stuff.”

    “…through distribution mechanisms other than the iTunes store” basically means “using things that distribute things, unless iTunes does the distributing.”

    So in (perhaps comically) plain English, apps can’t do stuff using things that distribute things, unless iTunes does the distributing.

    This is of course exactly what Podcaster does: it does stuff (downloads podcasts) using a thing that distributes things (i.e. whatever their server program is), and iTunes doesn’t get to do the distributing.

    So, hey, developers! Don’t do stuff using things that distribute things unless iTunes does the distributing! Got it?

    I trust I’ve cleared it all up for everyone.

  • http://www.mandelbrenner.info/ chr4004

    Maybe Apple is also thinking in future terms. Who knows if they going to offer wifi-downloads for podcasts any time soon?

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @Jesse: “So in (perhaps comically) plain English, apps can’t do stuff using things that distribute things, unless iTunes does the distributing.”

    Eh, not really. “Do stuff” is overly general. What it really means is you can’t alter the features (aka, the code) of an approved app through a distribution mechanism outside of iTunes (that being the App Store). It’s a way of preventing applications from modifying their own code without Apple’s approval.

    Without this rule in place, an approved app could update itself from an outside source (say, the developer’s own server), bypassing the App Store and resulting in unapproved code running on your phone.

    Podcaster is just downloading audio files. No additional features *of the application* are being provided, unlocked, or enabled. Someone else pointed out that there’s an app on the App Store JUST for watching Diggnation episodes. This is no different from what Podcaster does – it just happens to be limited to one podcast rather than any number you want. How come that app is allowed, but Podcaster isn’t?

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX


    The Diggnation On The Go app only streams the Diggnation podcast, it doesn’t download/synchronize it. iTunes doesn’t stream podcasts to your iPhone/iPod Touch, it downloads/synchronizes them. So Diggnation On The Go is not duplicating the functionality of iTunes, which is the reason Apple gave for not approving Podcaster.

    Similarly, the AOL Radio, Pandora, and Last.fm apps only stream music to your device. If they downloaded and stored music, would anyone be surprised if they weren’t approved?

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @LunaticSX – why exactly does it matter if the podcast is streamed or downloaded? If you can use the app to listen to a podcast, then you’re still bypassing iTunes’ built-in ability to do the same thing. So one app is allowed because it only streams, but the other is blocked because it downloads? I don’t get it.

    Also, there are plenty of apps in the store that supersede and extend the built-in abilities of the phone. I just found one called “HTML Email” that lets you compose and send emails in HTML. Just like Podcaster, it builds upon a built-in feature of the phone, and obviously bypasses the included Mail app completely. That’s allowed, but Podcaster isn’t? Doesn’t make any sense to me.

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  • solipsism

    @ daGUY,

    Daniel pointed out in his response to Gruber that Podcaster can affect iTS profits and cause consumer confusion. ‘HTML Email’ still uses your iPhone mail app to send mail after you finish composing.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX


    “why exactly does it matter if the podcast is streamed or downloaded?”

    It matters for the simple reason that podcasts downloaded to and stored separately on an iPhone or iPod Touch from a source other than iTunes will be out of synch with, and duplicate, the ones downloaded by iTunes.

    Part of the simplicity of the device is that you always know where your podcasts are: They’re in the iPod app. You also know that when you synchronize with iTunes, your podcasts will synchronize.

    Imagine someone at Apple fielding these tech support questions, due to the use of Podcaster:

    “I downloaded a podcast over Wi-Fi and it doesn’t show up when I tap the orange iPod icon and go to Podcasts. Where is it??”

    “Why does iTunes keep downloading the same podcasts that I’ve already listened to and deleted?? I frickin HATE iTunes! It suxxx!”

    “iTunes on my computer used to keep track of where I was when listening to a podcast on my iPhone. Now it doesn’t. It must be broken. When are you going to released a fixed version??”

    [Person using Podcaster who hasn’t turned off the iTunes podcast synchronization:] “My iPod Touch keeps losing storage space every time I synch it with iTunes. Is something wrong with iTunes? Is something wrong with my iPod, like bad memory chips? Can I bring it in for a replacement?”

    “I already downloaded these podcasts on my iPhone. Why is iTunes downloading them again? Why can’t it just copy them over from my iPhone?”

    The same problems would be faced by people if Apple allowed an app that downloaded music, even if the music was free.

    NONE of these problems are faced by people who are only streaming music.

    NONE of these problems are faced by people who buy music through the Wi-Fi iTunes Store.

    And of course, none of these problems would arise if Apple added podcast downloading to the Wi-Fi iTunes Store. (“Keep your calls and letters coming, kids!”)

    When streaming podcasts, people MIGHT wonder why the played/unplayed state of their podcasts in iTunes doesn’t change, but they’re more likely to quickly figure out “Oh, yeah, I streamed that one live, it’s not the same file as the one in iTunes.” It’d be like watching a rebroadcast of a TV show live and wondering why your DVR didn’t mark the copy it made of the previous broadcast as already viewed.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    @LunaticSX – so people will get confused if they listen to a podcast that was downloaded through Podcaster, but not if they stream it? How many people would even know if a particular file was downloaded or streamed?

    If you’ve subscribed to a podcast in both the iPod app and in Podcaster, the iPod app won’t mark an episode as “played” whether you download OR stream it through Podcaster. It’s the same difference in the end.

    Podcaster is third-party software. Presumably, if someone even found it on the store and wanted to install it in the first place, they would be able to understand that it was a separate app from iTunes/iPod and wouldn’t suddenly be confused by it. Apple shouldn’t be making these decisions for us. If you choose to download an extra app, then it should be your responsibility to understand how it works, and not Apple’s fault if you’re confused by what it does.

  • solipsism

    » daGUY wrote, “Apple shouldn’t be making these decisions for us. If you choose to download an extra app, then it should be your responsibility to understand how it works, and not Apple’s fault if you’re confused by what it does.”

    1) Don’t project your technical prowess with those of the average techtarded person. The iPhone is he smartphone that is making the smartphone a viable option for the average person. If double storage of podcasts that are being downloaded and synced through two different means isn’t a clusterf@#k situation I don’t know what is.

    2) Who should be making the decisions for Apple’s own App Store? When did the free market turn into a socialist market where Apple has no say in what items it stocks. Apple has every right to choose which items it wishes to sell in its App Store and developers have every right to go to a different mobile platform.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX


    It’s very easy for any user to tell the difference between streamed content and stored content on an iPhone or iPod Touch. A core feature of the devices is network connectivity, and as a result people very quickly learn what features work when they have a network connection, and what features don’t. Whether or not a network connection is available is in fact so important to the usability of the device that there are icons always displayed on the screen in the upper left to tell you your network status.

    It’s thus very easy for users to conceptually separate out the apps that require a network connection from those that don’t.

    Apple even reinforces this by having a separate Wi-Fi iTunes Store app from the iPod app. Similarly, the YouTube app is separate from the Videos section in the iPod app.

    Streaming data requires a network connection. It’s therefore easy to understand that data provided through a streaming app is separate from data stored in the device, and that one shouldn’t necessarily expect any synchronization between the two.