Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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Banned iPhone Apps: The Podcaster Situation

200809161255
Daniel Eran Dilger
Following up on the ‘SDK 3.3.3: the iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth,’ here’s why Apple refused to list Podcaster. If you’ve read the previous article, this version will be largely identical.

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
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 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 09 200809141406

SDK 3.3.3: The iPhone Podcaster Surprise Myth

Features Through a Distribution Mechanism other than iTunes.

I cited section 3.3.3 of the iPhone SDK as the most basic reason why Apple denied the Podcaster app from App Store distribution. Others disagreed, saying, “This section of the agreement is clearly not about content distribution. It’s about application distribution. It’s a way of saying that you can’t distribute your app through the App Store as a free demo and then charge to unlock the full version using a non-iTunes service such as PayPal or Kagi. Podcast downloads are neither ‘additional features’ nor ‘functionality’.”

The great thing about the Constitution is that you can take it to mean nearly whatever you want. The same applies to the legalese of the iPhone SDK. And certainly, 3.3.3 does address the scenario some describe. Apple doesn’t want any apps that require users to go to a website and pay money in order to unlock or enhance them. Apple wants all revenues flowing through the App Store, where it can get its cut.

However, while some dismiss Podcaster’s content distribution as neither features nor functionality, he seems to be unaware that the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.

Keeping the Pod in Podcasts.

Apple wants to be the central repository for podcasts. It doesn’t make any money on podcasts, but spends time and money building the infrastructure in iTunes to accommodate the RSS feeds, the upload tools for podcasters, and the iTunes podcast management tools for users. The reason Apple provides podcast tools is to establish iTunes as that “farmer’s market” of content that draws people to iTunes and subsequently, Apple hardware sales.

What happens if podcast distribution is run around iTunes? At some point, podcasters would stop listing their feeds in iTunes, or perhaps migrate toward proprietary codecs or metadata that was incompatible with iTunes and iPods and Macs. Apple is extremely defensive of what it has built in iTunes, and is not about to risk disassembling things when it has the power to keep podcast users satisfied within iTunes.

Remember that actual podcast content is served up by its source, not iTunes. Podcaster’s downloads are bypassing Apple, preventing the company from being able to track popularity and trends such as interest in audio or video or certain subjects. Refusing to allow Podcaster to bypass iTunes is pretty straightforwardly an obvious defense of the relevance and prominence of iTunes among podcasters.

If Podcaster were primarily a way to browse Apple’s iTunes podcast listings and subscribe to them directly, this would be less of a direct threat to Apple. But it’s not, it’s an alternative to iTunes podcasts that provides a download feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.

iPhone Apps Store Growing Twice as Fast as iTunes Music
How Apple Is Changing the PC Software World… Back

False Comparisons.

Some have said that if content were a feature, then Pandora and AOL Radio would be in trouble. For starters, we don’t know if AOL or Pandora got “prior written consent” to do their apps, so this is entirely irrelevant to contravening 3.3.3. We know Apple knew about AOL Radio well in advance because it was demonstrated and awarded at WWDC before the App Store had even opened.

Had Podcaster sought written consent prior to building a “download feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” Apple may have worked out some sort of deal with the developer. But delivering an app that is expressly designed to erode Apple’s podcasting infrastructure and then being surprised to find a lack of support from the company for it is beyond naive.

On top of that however, radio and podcasts are entirely different. iTunes provides the ability to listen to radio feeds almost as an afterthought, but these aren’t tracked in the iTunes Store; they’re not promoted in the manner of podcasts; and Apple doesn’t provide any way to move radio feeds from iTunes to the iPhone in the way that it allows users to manage podcasts on their mobile players. There’s nothing really in common here.

Some also mention FileMagnet and Air Sharing, which allow users to put files on their iPhone and then view them on the device. Again, neither of these provide any attack upon Apple’s iTunes business model, nor do they amount to a “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” because iTunes doesn’t distribute document files (or radio feeds) to mobile devices.

Any developer wanting to set up some sort of app that might act as a “distribution mechanism other than iTunes,” for example an alternative to MobileMe for data sync or a way to share or sell media files, would definitely want to pursue prior written consent. Apple has approved of a number of things that do compete with its business, from its own Exchange Server support to YouTube and Flicker and other integrations in its products.

Things That Podcaster’s Rejection From the App Store Is Not About

Bandwidth.

While also mostly irrelevant, some also dismisses concerns about the restriction against whatever Apple might judge to be apps that “excessively use or unduly burden network capacity or bandwidth,” and cites YouTube, MLB At Bat, and AOL Radio as examples that stream audio or video non-stop when in use.

The problem is that those apps are all only using the network when the user is actively using them. Podcaster is designed to queue up huge podcast data files and truck them over the network nonstop in the background. With YouTube, you’re only pulling data over the network when you’re actually watching a clip.

Sure you can watch whatever clips you like, but nobody sits on their phone for hours watching YouTube nonstop. Similarly, while AOL radio pulls audio feeds over the network for potentially long periods of time, that level of traffic is nothing compared to a queued up tool that exists to download podcasts as a “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes,” using the full bandwidth available.

You can also already watch audio and video podcast streams live from the podcaster by hitting their RSS feed in Safari. But Podcaster is designed to download huge files in the range of gigabytes (video podcasts can be gigantic) back to back for later viewing.

Having a hundred users on a network segment who kick of a storm of automated downloading would be disastrously unmanageable to any carrier. It’s the difference between somebody using their Internet account to watch HD video on occasion, and a user who has their PC working 24/7 to pull down torrents.

Some recommend that the app could be made WiFi only, but it was not. This is all really immaterial however, because first and foremost, Podcaster was declined because it provides a downloads as “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

User Confusion.

Apart from bandwidth, another reason supporting why Apple wouldn’t want Podcaster offering downloads as “feature through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes” is user confusion. As reader LuniticSX noted in the comments earlier:

Now, one of the major problems with [the jailbreak app] 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.

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??’“

Whaa.

Some concede that ”the point isn’t about what Apple can do but what they should do,“ but only after suggesting that Apple’s SDK limitations amount to a religious authority with the phrase, ”thou shalt not hurt Apple’s music revenue stream.“

Seriously, no shit sherlock.

Can anyone read the iPhone SDK and not get the sense that Apple wrote it, not to fill out a bunch of wordy pointless nonsense, but as a legal agreement with developers in order to protect its own interests? Sure, a lot of the restrictions also protect users, Apple’s partners, and really even developers, but Apple is a corporation in business to make money.

It has to protect its ”revenue stream,“ not because it is an oppressive authority voicing its demands in King James’ English, but because it has a financial responsibility to its shareholders to earn an honest return and to prevent itself from being sued over copyright issues or being exploited by its non-altruistic partners, including third party developers who similarly only act in their own best interests.

Shared Self Interest vs Shared Wealth.

I shouldn’t have to remind users that the last major platforms Steve Jobs has released have been destroyed or damaged by developers acting in their own interests. The original Macintosh shipped without a Lisa Office suite of productivity apps because third party developers demanded that Apple provide them with a competition-free market to make money in.

Apple’s primary developer, Microsoft, then grabbed its Mac Office apps, created Windows on the PC and ported them over using Apple’s own intellectual property efforts, and then abandoned Apple. Other partners, such as Adobe, also eagerly abandoned Apple for Windows.

Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly

Microsoft refused to support NeXTSTEP because it wasn’t in its own best interests, and NeXT desperately tried and failed to find much support among other major developers. Nobody supported WebObjects just because, or even just becuse it was technically superior at the time, particularly not Dell after Apple bought NeXT.

Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC

Microsoft worked pointedly to destroy Apple’s QuickTime after lifting Apple’s code to create its own rival product on Windows. Third party developers didn’t make any altruistic efforts to support QuickTime out of friendship with Apple.

Microsoft’s Plot to Kill QuickTime

With Mac OS X, Microsoft, Adobe, Quark and others certainly didn’t go out of their way to support Apple’s interests. It wasn’t until the market demanded them to that they even provided nominal support for Apple’s new OS. Along the way, the Yellow Box and Rhapsody platforms died and Apple had to do a bunch of extra work to develop Carbon.

Cocoa and the Death of Yellow Box and Rhapsody

In the last few years however, Apple’s renaissance has attracted lots of new interest from developers to its platforms, from IBM’s Lotus Notes to video game companies to independent mobile developers. That’s not because they are friends of Apple, but because all those companies like to make money.

iPhone 2.0 SDK: Video Games to Rival Nintendo DS, Sony PSP

Some and the Trappings of Apple’s Moral Obligations.

Well guess what? Apple similarly doesn’t have a moral obligation to make developers rich or to cede them its business whenever they invent ways to potentially screw the company over. Apple is a business, just like very other hardware and software company, and just like every third party developer. All companies do what is in their own best interest.

In Apple’s case, its own best interests are often aligned with those of the consumer, because smart products, elegant design, and competitive innovation are things that benefit both. Developers benefit by catching the wave of Apple’s surging popularity.

For decades, Mac writers have been blaming Apple with ”moral transgressions“ for not providing third party developers a welfare handout for being smaller. This is inappropriate when addressing any rational, intelligent adult audience. Talking about what Apple ”should do“ is just more of the same.

Some say the original article was ”such bullshit it hurts my head.“ If they wasn’t so wrong on this issue, their simplistic morality play tirade would be easier to laugh at.

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31 comments

1 roz { 09.16.08 at 5:02 pm }

Setting aside for a moment the rest of the discussion. I still think you are incorrect in this point:

” …the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

You are incorrect here. The feature is the ability to download podcasts. That feature is part of the app Podcaster. iTunes is the intended mechanism to distribute the app and therefore the feature would be distributed by iTunes, not by any other means. The podcasts are not a feature, they are content. I don’t think 3.3.3 is a reasonable basis to disallow the app. Not that Apple needs to use that clause, I just think you are wrong to say it was itself a warning to the developer not to proceed. 3.3.3 provides no such warning.

[I think what you don't get is that this isn't a community trial where we're all judges. Your and my opinions don't matter here.

I'm just reporting why things happened the way they did, and the motivations for Apple making its decision. As I stated earlier, I am obviously not pushing for the lack of direct podcast downloads, so I'm not making some impassioned plea based on my own desires. I'm reporting what is happening to counter the nonsense being spewed by the more fervent and less rational pundits.]

Now for the rest. As someone who has ran several developer programs I think you are wrong on a lot of points above. If developers are unhappy that is not good for the platform. When developers are unhappy on a widespread basis it is usually a sign that there is something wrong and it should be addressed. The issue is not what power does Apple have – the issue is what conditions should developers expect. You want developers to have clear expectations about what they can and cannot do so that before they invest time and resources they can know what is a reasonable app. True, developers can seek permission but that is not an idea circumstance for developers. First, its humiliating for developers that they would not have the freedom to develop and release freely, they might just choose another platform. Second, given that Apple is in a competitive posture with developers it is not in the developer’s interested to have to reveal to Apple product ideas long before the app has completed development.

[Do you think the Podcaster developer and others in that position would "happier" or better served by Apple allowing them to start a project that Apple has plans to take over? Apple is saying "get advanced written consent" before doing an end run around iTunes, I think in part because it would rather have developers be successful with non-controversial apps than to allow them to set themselves up for being steamrolled by Apple in the future by competing with obvious iTunes features.

You say "it is not in the developer’s interest to have to reveal to Apple product ideas long before the app has completed development," but if Apple is going to compete with some small developer, Apple is obviously going to win. So the real thing to consider is that if Apple is planning an iTunes or iMovie or iPhoto, you probably don't want to be working hard on an MP3 player or movie editor or photo app. Or do you think that Apple has an obligation to give third party developers the opportunity to spend lots of resources trying to compete against it?

The real situation is that it is rarely in Apple's interests to reveal its own product ideas in advance, but that it is taking some effort not to allow iPhone developers to set up shop in the middle of its plans for a future road. ]

No one can argue at this point that this is an open platform, clearly Apple has an unusual amount of control over the whole iPhone ecosystem. There is also no question that even given the closed nature of the platform there are advantages to it for developers. The question is how will Apple use the power that comes with owning this closed environment and the key question here is how Apple deals with competitive apps. Certainly, as long as Apple makes apps for the device, they will frustrate developers unavoidably in this area. Apple will either block apps they want to compete with as they seem to have done in this case or at a later date, when the new version of iTunes is ready, one that has a competitive feature, Apple will frustrate developers by releasing a core app that renders a developer’s app redundant. In both cases developer will be unhappy and feel shorted by Apple. I would rather though see Apple take the approach where they accept competition. Allow developers to break new ground and then if Apple is determined to roll a feature set into an existing or new Apple app, either do it cleanly and openly or, better, offer to buy out the developer when its clear that the developer’s app has contributed to the feature area significantly.

[Buying shareware was Apple's mid-90s strategy for enhancing System 7. That didn't work out so well. Also, think of Konfabulator, which Apple replaced with more sensible technology. Was Apple required to pay Konfabulator for the concept (based in part upon Expose) or obligated to use Konfabulator's less sensible implementation? Or is it really a free market where competition means the best implementation wins? Adobe's Lightroom is currently beating Apple's Aperture. Most small developer probably couldn't pull out their own app that could compete with something Apple releases. So do they just get a free head start and a welfare check for wanting to play? ]

I don’t think it is a question of morals, its more a question of etiquette. What kind of host is Apple? If you bring a cute date to the party does Apple let you both in? Just her and not you? I think Apple should let you both in, but ok if she is really hot she will probably get chatted up at the bar, that is a party for you. Its that sort of issue and given the position that Apple is in – they own the device, the OS, the tools, the store, really all access to the platform and most importantly the best development and creative team in the industry, why wouldn’t they be magnanimous and let a few companies compete? Nothing stops Apple from making its own Podcast app in the future if it wishes.

And if there is a real practical basis for denial such as network usage, just clearly, publicly stated the requirements for downloading so that all developers know what to expect.

[Etiquette is morals: put upon ideas of right and wrong. In your date analogy, it would really be more like Apple inviting over a woman to his party as his date, and seeing that she brings over a man with her. So Apple tells her to go home. Boo hoo, maybe she should have done things differently if she wanted to stay at the party.]

2 roz { 09.16.08 at 5:04 pm }

“The problem is that those apps are all only using the network when the user is actively using them. Podcaster is designed to queue up huge podcast data files and truck them over the network nonstop in the background. With YouTube, you’re only pulling data over the network when you’re actually watching a clip.”

This might be valid if the iPhone allowed background apps. Given that it doesn’t, this is not a real issue. The user would have to keep the Podcast app at the forefront all the time to do downloads – and of course as others have said a simple remedy would be to restrict the app to wifi.

[So if I buy Podcaster today and set it to download feeds all night when I go to bed so I'll have something to watch on my commute, there won't be any bandwidth problems? That's the most obvious use for it.

Making Podcaster WiFi only would solve the mobile bandwidth problem, but would not solve the user confusion problem, or the iTunes podcast derailment problem. See, the reason why I outline multiple problems in detail is to show why there is no simple magic bullet. The primary problem is that Podcaster stands directly in the way of Apple's obvious plans to enhance podcasting in the future.

I agree that this is a short term problem for users and some developers who would like to make money in the interim, but consider where the Mac platform would be if we didn't have Mail, Safari, Address Book, and iCal, and instead got to choose between a trailing version of Outlook Express and some third party email programs; iCab, Camino and Firefox; a variety of incompatible PIM tools, and so on. Sometimes competition on a small scale just prevents anything from happening.

People are buying Macs and iPhones because they work, not because they want to choose between a bunch of partially finished projects (Linux) or overpriced junkware choices (Windows) to get stuff done. There's certainly room for additional opinions, but I suggest people who want to wade through Podcaster-like freedom get a Windows Mobile phone, where you can do all kinds of stuff, but nothing very well. I'm advocating the complete, well engineered products Apple has been churning out, not because of an emotional attachment to Apple, but because I think the approach makes more sense. The market agrees with me, by the way.]

3 David Lightstab { 09.16.08 at 6:02 pm }

I gotta say, Dan, you are still missing the big point. Apple’s rejection process is arbitrary and ill-defined, which is going to panic a lot of developers away from the iPhone platform. The fact that they rejected Podcaster is only a small part of the discussion. Apple’s big problem with developers is their love of secrecy. Secrecy works well when you’re competing against other companies, but it doesn’t work so well when you’re dealing with developers.

Instead of leaving the SDK guidelines up to the interpretation of developers, Apple needs to have some kind of clearing house for apps, so that developers can get an okay BEFORE they start writing code. Even a cheesy 800 number would better than what they have now. That’s the main issue with this Podcaster controversy. Some guy spent days and perhaps weeks writing code and as far as he could tell, the app complied with the guidelines set forth by the SDK, but because of a financial incentive, Apple decided to reject his app. Legally, Apple has the right to do that, but morally there will be hell to pay in the future and that’s what Gruber was trying to point out.

Of course, it’s nice to see that two Apple enthusiasts can disagree on a issue for once. Of course, you seem to be doing a bit too bunch parsing and double speak in this current article, and no matter how many words you use to prop up this argument, it doesn’t hold up. I know you don’t like McCain or any Republicans for that matter, but your latest diatribe reminded me of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson. Lots of words, no substance. I still love this site though, but on this issue, I think you are wrong.

[I do agree that Apple should communicate better with developers, but it would be hard to reach the point of ideal when working with thousands of developers with several ideas, all within two months. It's easy to demand action, but how do you scale to serve all these people in ways where nobody can get upset?

And as for the Palin interview, that made me laugh cause I always think of the mashup online: http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1829935 ]

4 Jon T { 09.16.08 at 6:05 pm }

Long and the short of it seems to me to be that some developers want the ‘ownership’ of the platform to be 85% developer and 15% Apple.

Apple wants it to be 85% Apple and 15% developer…

5 GwMac { 09.16.08 at 6:37 pm }

I enjoy reading this blog and I find it amazing that one guy can be such a prolific writer. But if I have one complaint it is that, it seems to me at least, in your eyes Apple can do no wrong. I would much prefer to see you take them to task when they deserve it. I have been an Apple user since 1984 and have owned God only knows how many Apple computers, but they do a lot to piss me off. They do some really dumb things most notably their obsessive secrecy and reluctance to apologize or keep us informed.

[I try to write original ideas, so I don't copy the complaint of the day being passed around. In fact, I typically like to play devil's advocate in explaining why all the complainers are wrong. In doing that, I am usually right, because the complainers are nearly always upset about a situation where they haven't looked at the overall picture, which is commonly the case with complainers. ]

Not only with this one particular iphone application that they in their wisdom decided not to approve, but the whole way they seem to be pissing off developers trying to make some really cool and innovative apps. Apple just seems to want to much control. Take OS X for example, you can hardly change anything in regards to the theme or look of the GUI at all. I miss the old days of OS 9 when I had Grouch in my trashcan, a sound control panel that let me set all kinds of bizarre sounds for any task, kaleidoscope, and all kinds of ways to express my individuality and make my Mac unique. OS X is modern but boring. That is one area I am jealous of Windows users is their ability to change so many settings.

[How much are you willing to pay for themes? No value, no interest to Apple. Themes destroy value by making watering down Apple's branding. They also make it harder to develop apps that are resilient to all those variables. Do I want Apple working to develop Themes like it did in the mid-90s fail days, or working to deliver value that matters? Answer: #2]

Other things that really piss me off is that Apple are still so slow to upgrade their line. Look at the Mac Mini, it was overpriced and underpowered over 400 days when it was released, now it is just pathetic. I also hate the way they neuter the Macbook with no express card slot, no real video card, and other things that come standard on $500 PC laptops now. I don’t mind paying an Apple tax, but it is much easier to swallow when the specs are at least as good as PCs costing half as much. And yeah I think they need some new products like an affordable desktop and laptop but what’s the point of hoping anymore. After all his Jobness has decided the current line is good enough.

[The mini is not a massive seller nor highly profitable. Should Apple work on that or laptops which are? Answer: #2]

I also don’t understand why they are so slow to add HDMI, eSata, multimedia card readers in their line. All the improvements to the iPhone 3G should have been in the first phone. And why didn’t they include a better camera, copy/paste, video recording, picture messaging? Because that will be added in iPhone #3 of course. The Iphone is a nice phone, but all these restrictions made me decide to stay with Sprint and I just ordered an HTC Diamond. I get pretty much the exact same plan as the iPhone except I get unlimited text, and free calls starting at 7PM instead of 9 and only pay $30 a month on SERO.

I guess I am just sick and tired of them stressing form over functionality and I want the pendulum to swing the other way for a change. I don’t care how much thinner or lighter your new Mini is, I just want one with a real desktop class CPU and 750GB 3.5″ drive and a real graphics card. I know my post is all over the place, but if there was one point I had hoped to make is I would like to see Dan hold the mothership a bit more accountable when they get out of line, which seems to be more and more.

[I tend to take everyone to task, but only in areas where I think it matters. I was the only person on record who actually put games and .Mac to Steve Jobs on the public record at the shareholder meeting, for example, and the crybaby tech media didn't even cover the answers. Instead, they attacked me asking how I could sneak in and get mic access without owning shares of Apple. So from my perspective, I'm doing my job to report on Apple, and the tech media is just crying in their navel about silly details that won't really matter in two months.]

6 samgreen { 09.16.08 at 7:28 pm }

“[I think what you don't get is that this isn't a community trial where we're all judges. Your and my opinions don't matter here.

I'm just reporting why things happened the way they did, and the motivations for Apple making its decision. As I stated earlier, I am obviously not pushing for the lack of direct podcast downloads, so I'm not making some impassioned plea based on my own desires. I'm reporting what is happening to counter the nonsense being spewed by the more fervent and less rational pundits.]”

I don’t know if Apple is right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical in all of this. And it doesn’t bother me that much either way. You make some good points, and so do DF and pretty well all the rest of the pundits on the other side.

But on the question of the meaning of 3.3.3, I think your interpretation is flat out wrong, and if Apple shares it, they’re wrong too. It’s a matter of reading English; opinion doesn’t come in to it. My guess would be that Apple doesn’t share your interpretation, or they would have cited the clause, but they didn’t.

If you’re just “reporting why things happened”, then you have mole at Apple. Otherwise, you’re speculating.

7 samgreen { 09.16.08 at 7:34 pm }

And, in my opinion, you are at least as fervent as the other pundits (which is typical), but on the question of 3.3.3, you are the least rational (which is very unusual).

[providing an argument as to why you think this would be more enlightening]

8 danieleran { 09.16.08 at 7:39 pm }

comments would be better made on the original article

9 samgreen { 09.16.08 at 7:46 pm }

[providing an argument as to why you think this would be more enlightening]

The argument’s been provided ad nauseam by others, most recently by roz in the first comment on this article. I didn’t see it as necessary to point out yet again the distinction between features and content. I don’t think you have a leg to stand on here.

10 samgreen { 09.16.08 at 7:49 pm }

“comments would be better made on the original article”

It’s your blog, of course, but if you get to respond to the comments, it’s only fair to let us do the same.

[this article is a dupe of the original referencing Gruber. So I'm suggesting you comment on the original article so that everyone else commenting is aware of your comment.]

11 nat { 09.16.08 at 7:51 pm }

said:

“Not only with this one particular iphone application that they in their wisdom decided not to approve, but the whole way they seem to be pissing off developers trying to make some really cool and innovative apps. Apple just seems to want to much control. ”

Just to note, Apple is not and never has impeded iPhone SDK developers’ freedom to create cool and unique apps. You can create a porno-serving, podcast-downloading, P2P-file-sharing, farting iPhone app and there will be no hell to pay (unless you count your concerned friends and family). You can even sign up for an Enterprise license to distribute your monstrosity to 100 people (or just give people the authentication file with your app). Don’t forget about the JB community either.

It’s at the point of making that app available to all the thousands of iPhone and iPod touch users through the iTunes Store that Apple steps in.

12 nat { 09.16.08 at 7:52 pm }

oops, I’ll repost this in the original article…

13 roz { 09.16.08 at 8:02 pm }

“[I think what you don’t get is that this isn’t a community trial where we’re all judges. Your and my opinions don’t matter here…”

The question of the reading of that clause is only relevant in that you pointed to it as an explanation about why developers should have been on warning that this area was off limits.

Your words:

“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.”

You then go on to say that downloading podcasts is similar if not the same as to downloading apps or new functionality to the iPhone, therefore 3.3.3 is relevant. I just find that argument to be flawed. I think many have pointed this out yet you keep raising it, with emphasis, so you should expect objections on this point.

In terms of a developer duplicating the functionality of the the App store 3.3.3 would clearly rule that out. In term of other iTunes functionality, 3.3.3 has no relevance that I can see.

If you say, look Apple just wants to rule over iTunes, then I have to agree that does seem to be what is happening. If you say developers should known that would be the case before last week, in terms of podcasts specifically, it has not been documented why that is the case.

Clearly, this is not a court to decide what should happen and in the end Apple can do what it wants. The question was whether developers have reasonable or unreasonable expectations or warning. I just with you would stop claiming that 3.3.3 was warning. It has nothing to do with it.

14 David Lightstab { 09.16.08 at 8:03 pm }

Thanks for the clip, Dan. I saw this on YouTube the other day and it’s very embarrassing for me to hear because I was actually born in South Carolina, but so were a lot of really smart people including John Edwards, Jesse Jackson and Steven Colbert. I hope people realize that not all people from South Carolina are stupid like that. Of course, I’m already cautious about telling people in California that I’m from South Carolina. They definitely have a bias against Southerners here.

And to answer your question about scaling to thousands of developers, I have to say, that’s the situation that Apple put themselves and they’re just going to have to deal with it. They don’t seem to have a problem scaling their customer service support to millions of Mac users, so there is no reason why they can’t do it with developers. E-mail, 800 numbers, faxes, forums, mail. They got to communicate somehow.

And it’s not like we’re talking about something complicated like tech support. I’m talking about a forum where people describe their app privately and Apple developer representatives go “yes” or “no” and maybe suggest some changes. The problem isn’t with the big developers, because Apple already has ongoing relationships with big companies like Google, Yahoo, Sega, and AOL. The problems are with small developers without the clout to really challenge Apple on any large scale. These guys shouldn’t be penalized as heavily for competing with Apple’s services or native apps.

15 roz { 09.16.08 at 8:18 pm }

“Do you think the Podcaster developer and others in that position would “happier” or better served by Apple allowing them to start a project that Apple has plans to take over? ”
Well, yes. That is going to happen all the time. In a platform with third party developers there will always be tension between what features are part of the platform, including apps shipped with the platform and 3rd party stuff. So sure developers and consumers are better off when developers are able to develop and ship their apps first, independent of what Apple has planned for the future. Apple might not have podcast support on the roadmap till mid 2009 for all we know. So if a developer can develop and ship an app sooner consumers get their solution and there is pressure on Apple to get their version out there. Apple also benefits because it can see the reaction to the 3rd party app and learn from it, copy it and then ultimately compete with it it so wishes. Or if the 3rd party app does the trick, and Apple is happy with it, just leave it in place.
“Apple is saying “get advanced written consent” before doing an end run around iTunes”
Again, I don’t think Apple is saying this. In 3.3.3 at least they are saying you need written consent to go around the App store. Not all of iTunes. They may have meant iTunes but thats not clear to me at least at this point.

16 roz { 09.16.08 at 8:28 pm }

“Was Apple required to pay Konfabulator for the concept (based in part upon Expose) or obligated to use Konfabulator’s less sensible implementation?”

Of course not. I never said they were obligated, that is the point. All I meant was that when they see a good solution that they like they can buy it. Developers are never offended by that but of course there are tons of cases where an Apple solution kills a developer product, that is unavoidable, it sucks for developers but its part of life on any platform. I think if Apple allowed the Podcast app and then in Feb 09 Apple ships an extension to the iTunes wifi store that deals with podcasts, that would be fine. Developers might complain but all developers understand that risk exists, especially when you are competing with a strong suit of the platform provider. This is uglier 1) because the developer is not allowed to compete 2) because this functionality is not available on the iPhone currently from Apple or anyone else, so we all are forced to wait. I’d rather let the competition go forward, even if it will be undermined in the future.

And keep in mind, this little Podcast app we are arguing about might in fact suck. It might not be worth the trouble of banning it. We don’t know. Apple’s stuff might be a lot better, we won’t know – that is part of the cost of having an unnecessarily closed environment.

17 roz { 09.16.08 at 8:40 pm }

“[Etiquette is morals: put upon ideas of right and wrong. In your date analogy, it would really be more like Apple inviting over a woman to his party as his date, and seeing that she brings over a man with her. So Apple tells her to go home. Boo hoo, maybe she should have done things differently if she wanted to stay at the party.]”

Etiquette is not morals, its consideration of others formalized. There is a difference. Morals deals with right and wrong. Consideration means that I might do something unkind now and then but I am going to be as nice as possible about it so that I am not adding insult to injury unnecessarily.

And if I invited a woman I was interested in to a party I was hosting I would not necessarily expect her to come on her own. And that guy she brought might not be a threat. He might be her brother, her gay best friend or someone else whose opinion of me is all that matters to her. Its just a point about false threats, incomplete information and unintended consequences.

18 roz { 09.16.08 at 9:05 pm }

“Making Podcaster WiFi only would solve the mobile bandwidth problem, but would not solve the user confusion problem, or the iTunes podcast derailment problem.”

I think the only real argument is that Apple wants it this way. Wifi-only addresses the overnight scenario. User confusion is another way of saying competition. They want to own iTunes. I am not faulting them for that, I just think that is the real answer.

“but consider where the Mac platform would be if we didn’t have Mail, Safari, Address Book, and iCal”

I agree 100% that at this point these apps are huge assets to the Mac platform. Than again I sense that you undervalue the contribution of the 3rd party solutions made defining what a Mail, browser or PIM app was before Apple got into the space. As much as I like the Apple apps, they are derivative, they copy and steal happily from the work of developers, nothing wrong with that but the Mac platform would be dead if we did not have email until Mail shipped from Apple. Thankfully we did not have to wait for that since developers did not need anyone’s permission to ship those apps. :)

“I’m advocating the complete, well engineered products Apple has been churning out, not because of an emotional attachment to Apple, but because I think the approach makes more sense. The market agrees with me, by the way.”

When people buy Macs today they get a very robust machine, especially in term of the bundled apps and iLife. These add a lot of value to the Mac, I would not want it otherwise. But if the Mac didn’t have Office, iWork as much as I like it would not be a substitute for many buyers. The Pro Apps and iLife are no replacement for CS3. So you want to strike a balance between software Apple bundles and sells and a thriving, energized developer community. Both are critical. Macs originally shipped with MacWrite and MacPaint. We are certainly better off with Office and CS3 on the platform even with the complications a 3rd party control introduce.

So far I think Apple has done a great job with developers and maintaining their good will, mindshare and investment. Hopefully the developer community will be a strategic asset as the iPhone faces competition from things like Android.

19 cendrillon { 09.17.08 at 12:46 am }

Thanks for educating all the morons out there. Somebody has to do it, and I’m glad you’ve got the patience!

20 JulianT { 09.17.08 at 4:01 am }

Well maybe putting it this way will help.

If you use only itunes to load files onto your iphone and something goes wrong with it….. virus, trojan, bugs, who do you call? Apple of course!!!

But if you use 10 other apps to download unverified files onto your iphone and you get a virus. Who are you gonna call then? Gostbusters???

21 LunaticSX { 09.17.08 at 4:11 am }

@roz

“User confusion is another way of saying competition.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m very much in favor of competition, and as much or moreso opposed to user confusion.

If they’re simply two ways of saying the same thing, that logical conundrum would be enough to keep me up all night. Thankfully, I always manage to sleep quite well, and I don’t anticipate having any problems getting to sleep tonight, either.

22 LunaticSX { 09.17.08 at 4:19 am }

Daniel, as long as you were re-posting the majority of this article, it’s too bad you neglected to edit out “in the background” from “Podcaster is designed to queue up huge podcast data files and truck them over the network nonstop in the background.”

Also, you could perhaps address why it is that Apple didn’t explicitly state that violation of section 3.3.3 of the SDK agreement was the reason Podcaster wasn’t approved in their e-mail to the developer, instead of (or in addition to) the reason of “Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.”

23 Danthemason { 09.17.08 at 5:27 am }

So this big carpenter contractor is building himself a house. He subcontracts as a part of his business and he has these subs working on the house largely unsupervised but there are plans. When one sub has “a better idea” and ignores the plans to implement his vision, the new structure may not keep out the rain. It seems to me most of the whiny developers need a course in blueprint reading.

24 jerome_from_munich { 09.17.08 at 9:02 am }

A more accurate description would be:
Big carpentor contractor is building a house for me. If I want to subcontract part of the job, say because I want air conditioning installed, big contractor can say at any time that I am not allowed to have that installed in my house because it strains the power network or whatever suits them.
It’s not Apple’s phone, it’s yours. Yet Apple decides what you do with it and where you buy the parts.

25 masternav { 09.17.08 at 10:30 am }

jerome, that is one of the more silly comparisons I’ve read. A general contractor is there to manage all aspects of the construction, to ensure that subcontractors do the job right, and don’t compromise the design or infrastructure. A smart builder works with the general contractor to ensure that any changes are acceptable with the parameters agreed to, or to re-design the structure to accept the changes. It is your house, but it is the general contractor’s mandate to ensure that the house you paid for is the house that was designed and is functional as a house, without huge gaping holes where stairs should be, or fires sarting in walls where sub-standard wiring is. That my friend is the role and responsibility of the general contractor. Apple’s mandate is to provide a framework in which developers can reasonably write apps that will run on the iPhone, and reflect Apple’s intended use of it. It would be nice if Apple provided the dev with a detailed analysis of why exactly the app is unacceptable, but a real dev would understand the “lay of the land” and realize that, without being hand-held throught the explanation.

26 kaspesla { 09.17.08 at 12:46 pm }

Funny thing about the iPhone SDK agreement: Disclosing the terms of the agreement is also prohibited by the agreement. ;) Honestly. Oh no! By saying that I’ve also violated the agreement! Oh no! By saying that I’ve also violated the agreement. Oh no! By saying that I’ve also violated the agreement. …

27 roz { 09.17.08 at 12:53 pm }

@LunaticSX:

“@roz“User confusion is another way of saying competition.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m very much in favor of competition, and as much or moreso opposed to user confusion.”

Yeah probably not the best way for me to put it. I only meant that some user confusion, call it choice, is inherent in competition. If a podcast app were allowed and then Apple would release a podcast feature later this would mean there are two ways to do something. One can call that confusing, or its just how competition works – users get to decide what app to use for a given task – the same way they do with a lot of apps in the App store.

Certainly I can see the Apple app winning in the end. Daniel might say, then why do we need the 3rd party app? My answer is that, first, the 3rd party app puts pressure on Apple to deliver. Second, we learn a lot from all these apps along the way, the UI, the functions, the cool features and the end result, the winning app, is usually better from all the experimentation that goes on. I know when I have done development I look at all the competition and try to craft a best of breed solution, trying to learn, even from apps I don’t like. That is why IMHO you want to give developer the freedom to make attempts at app spaces that Apple may rule in the end. If they are willing to try, and they get some warning of where Apple is headed, let them try.

28 LunaticSX { 09.17.08 at 6:19 pm }

@roz

Ok, I currently use the jailbreak app MobileCast to download my podcasts. As a result, the podcasts I download through MobileCast and the ones I download through iTunes are not in synch. Until I completely turned off synching of podcasts through iTunes, I also wound up with duplicate podcast data files on my iPhone, taking up valuable storage space. Luckily, I’m a technical person, so I was not confused by these problems, and I could figure out how to deal with them (viz. stop synching podcasts through iTunes).

I would not wish this amount of user confusion onto the general public, who are on average much less technical than I–ESPECIALLY for an Apple device that should “just work.”

Podcaster has these same intrinsic problems as MobileCast.

29 Bush League - The Apple Touch { 09.18.08 at 11:21 am }

[...] Roughly Drafted tries to milk page views. [...]

30 roz { 09.20.08 at 5:23 pm }

@LunaticSX

Only using one app for podcasts does not seem to me to be an onerously technical solution. I have not used MobileCast or Podcast so I really can’t speak to the quality or user experience there. Is it potentially confusing? Yes. Is some wireless support for downloading podcasts better than nothing? Also, yes.

Really the issue to me seems like if you have a podcast app you really want it to be a background app so that when you get to a wifi network the app could check for new podcasts and download them in the background. Of course, currently only an Apple is a allowed to do background tasks so between integration with iTunes and background processing, the Apple solution will have a big advantage of course.

Maybe Apple did not want Podcaster to be released because it would have infuriated developers even more to see Apple allowing its app to work in the background while the 3rd party app does not get that right. That would indeed make developers angry and might spur litigation.

31 onlydarksets { 09.22.08 at 10:22 am }

I think your comments on WHY Apple is doing this are pretty insightful and accurate. Your analysis of how they are JUSTIFIEID by the TOS are pretty weak. Specifically, the house of cards is built on this quote of yours:

“However, while some dismiss Podcaster’s content distribution as neither features nor functionality, he seems to be unaware that the entire point of Podcaster is to download podcasts rather than stream them in realtime. That is a feature provided through a distribution mechanism that is other than iTunes.”

That’s not what the TOS says, though. The TOS says you can’t ADD NEW FEATURES using a distribution method outside of iTunes. That’s very different than an EXISTING FEATURE going outside of iTunes to access content.

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