Will Apple’s obstinacy become self-defeating?

Apple’s attitude towards app approval for iTunes has been strange, to say the least. Stories abound of ?seemingly innocent applications being rejected for obscure reasons or, indeed, no real reason at all.

The latest example of their arbitrariness is the rejection of Time’s subscription-based magazine app for Sports Illustrated, “where consumers would download the magazines via Apple’s iTunes, but would pay Time Inc. directly”. As All Things Digital says, this could turn out to be a big problem for publishers, who not only want the predictability of subscribers, but also want the data.

Just a few days ago, the US Copyright Office ruled that jailbreaking your iPhone or iPad “?will no longer violate federal copyright law”. It may still void your Apple warranty, but it’s not going to land you in any more trouble than that.

In April, Apple released iPhone OS4 and with it came the news that developers would not be allowed to programme apps in anything other than C, C++, or Objective-C.

Let’s put three and three together, shall we? Apple is rejecting apps without much logic or clarity to their decisions. The publishing industry have been drooling over the iPad as a possible industry saver (which is likely bullshit, but let’s just run with it for a second) and have poured a fair amount of effort and money into their iPad strategy. Developers are getting frustrated that they can’t develop whatever they want for the iPad, using whichever language they want.

How long is it going to be before we see an app store for jailbroken devices which will bypass iTunes altogether? The publishers have an interest in such a move. So do developers. And as an end user, would you like to be able to decide what you install on your phone and what you don’t?

Personally, I’d like to have a better browser than Safari, which hardly plugs in to any other services (Twitter, Instapaper, Delicious, etc.) at all, but I can’t because Apple doesn’t allow apps that reproduce functionality provided by their own software. I’d also like to have any magazine subscriptions I take out be a relationship between me and the publisher, without Apple holding on to my data like an information-obsessed middleman. (As a bonus, I’d also like a more sensible music management application: iTunes is the worst music organiser and player I’ve ever had the misfortune to be forced to use.)

Me, I give it a year before we see a jailbroken app store and a whole new ecosystem growing up.

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  1. Steve Benjamins
    Steve Benjamins at |

    A couple notes:

    a) “Personally, I’d like to have a better browser than Safari but I can’t because Apple doesn’t allow apps that reproduce functionality provided by their own software” … That’s not the case. Apple allows other browsers on your iPhone. For example, Opera is a downloadable app from iTunes.

    b) “Apple’s attitude towards app approval for iTunes has been strange, to say the least” … it’s really quite consistent. Apple’s chief concern is creating a great user experience– not in appeasing magazines. How do you create a great user experience? By controlling environments like the App store. If Time breaks the rules, Apple see’s that as compromising the control Apple has over user experience. That’s why Apple is different to any other company, but that’s also why Apple is loved by so many users.

    c) “How long is it going to be before we see an app store for jailbroken devices which will bypass iTunes altogether?” … consumers who think they can dictate Apple’s corporate values (how they run an App store)– are fighting against gravity. Instead of hating on Apple and dreaming of rewriting the entire backend to their iOS, just go to a different company. It’d be a lot easier.

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