August 3, 2009
Apple's mysterious and oft-discussed approval process just received another big talking point. Khalid Shaikh, founder of Perfect Acumen, was just banned from the App Store, according to MobileCrunch. Apparently, he and his staff launched 943 apps over the past nine months using a method of distribution practiced by bulk publishers who basically just package crap and offer it in the App Store while hoping their search terms succeed at drawing in unlucky buyers. As MobileCrunch describes it, Khalid is pretty clear that all he wants is money and doesn't care about product value. In other words, he charges $4.99 for hundreds of apps that do next to nothing. So that's the news, but what does it mean? Gagan Biyani, author of the post at MobileCrunch, is looking at this as "more evidence of dozens of problems with the App Store review process and developing for the App Store. Clearly, Apple doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. It inconsistently applies its rules and regulations..." In essence, Biyani is angry because Apple hasn't stopped the other developers who are churning out pieces of crap just like Khalid. I'm totally down for a good crap on Apple party, but I have a hard time getting angry at Apple about something like this. It's like criticizing the police when they arrested someone for stealing because you know there are hundreds of other thieves out there who never get caught. When it comes to other big news from last week - that Apple rejected Google Voice (and told Google to release Latitutde as a Web app), the real culprit there is silence. We just don't know what Apple's plans are in all this. Rejecting Google Voice absolutely does not serve Apple's best interests. Unfortunately, Apple's hands are tied by the telecom companies in the United States and every other country with an iPhone. Apple is in an incredibly tough spot. In order to bring us the iPhone, the iTunes Music Store and, yes, the App Store, Apple has been forced to foster incredibly complex agreements with companies which are all out to suck you dry of your money. AT&T wants one thing - a fatty monthly fee for you to use their minutes, text messages and data. But AT&T knows what it means when people start using another service to make calls on their system. AT&T will be relegated to position of "dumb pipe" just like the internet service provider bringing Internet access to your home. Thanks to the iPhone and its unlimited data plan I think the writing is on the wall. The cell companies are eventually going to become "dumb pipes" who's sole source of income is to deliver Internet access. Keep your eye on what the FCC says in upcoming weeks and months for more on that. So when it comes to Google Voice and questionable app rejections, the issue is whether Apple's secrecy on the matter is a result of their own insane policy of careful public image management or because of a non-disclosure agreement. If history is any indication, Apple is damn good about delivering what the masses want and need. They just take a while to do it and bloggers and Apple fanboys who tend to have a love/hate relationship with Apple want everything yesterday. Just look at the music store. We wanted digital rights management dead for years. Apple did too. Now DRM is dead. Now we want the iPhone to be a more open platform so that we can do what we want on it. I bet Apple wants the iPhone to be used just like a computer with AT&T just being a dumb pipe. It will be, eventually. Though I don't doubt the rumblings are now loud enough that it's finally time for Apple to address it. The issue here is and always has been Apple's silence on matters. They have broad rules for rejection which can be applied in many ways to all sorts of apps. If I had to guess, we'll see a letter sometime from Steve Jobs himself along the lines of what we saw when he talked about DRM. Steve, it's time to hear from you.