Hey, Apple: Why Not Trust Your Most Trustworthy iPhone Developers?

By  |  Monday, November 23, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Apple has the opportunity to fast track submissions from its iPhone App store development partners. Partners that follow best practices should be given the benefit of the doubt to accelerate the screening process.

Earlier today, my colleague Harry McCracken wrote about a BusinessWeek interview with Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president for worldwide product marketing concerning its App Store vetting process.

The gist of it is that Apple views itself as a retailer stocking its shelves with quality goods. It still needs to work on its vendor relations.

Schiller said that there are now over 100,000 applications in the App Store, and Apple is receiving over 10,000 submissions a week. Roughly 90% of the submissions that it rejects are simply buggy; the remaining 10% are “inappropriate” — containing malware, objectionable content, or are intended to help users break the law.

Apple believes that developers are happy about its “safety net,” and that may be true, but there have been very vocal exceptions. Facebook developer Joe Hewitt famously protested against the control Apple is exerting over its hardware, and argued that Apple is setting a “horrible precedent.”

However, the end result is that people trust the applications that they purchase in the App Store. That is an important part of the iPhone user experience. But Apple should give trusted developers more leeway — they make the App Store what it is. Apple needs their products.

I am reminded of the old Saturday Night Live sketch with Dan Aykroyd touting dangerous children’s toys such as “Johnny Switchblade,” “Bag O’ Glass,” and the “Chainsaw Bear.” It was hyperbole to the max. By Apple’s own omission, the vast majority (>90%) of developers are good partners that wouldn’t make disreputable apps, and they shouldn’t be treated as such.

My family owns a manufacturing business, and sells products that have International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approvals. ISO sets manufacturing standards, and audits the plants to guarantee that those standards are being met. Apple could do the same by outlining the best practices and tests that its developers should follow when they make software.

More transparency and partnership would go a long way. It is a huge disincentive to invest in the development of an app only to see it be rejected. Apple can be a better partner, and still protect the sanctity of its “shelves.”


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. george Says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t get your point. Haven’t we some decades of software development, computing platforms and many things which went wrong? Now, Apple has a new platform and is doing things different. I see their point and find it interesting to see, how it will turn out. So far, the picture is very clear for me. Cheers!

  2. Stephen Says:

    The first thing you need to fix a problem is acknowledge there is a problem! Schiller proves that Apple “sees” no problem. The way they are going the best apps will end up on Android in the long run. All that has to happen is that Android gets a bit more popular and developers make a little money on the Google Platform. Then Apple will have a hard problem getting back the best developers.

  3. David Worthington Says:

    @George My point is that Apple could specify that its developers follow an ALM process with some requirements before code is checked in, use testing tools, or security tools. Apple could even provide some of those tools to its developers.

  4. Jeff Says:

    @Stephen – if you honestly believe that developers with a must-have app on Android will be so pigheaded that they won’t then port to iPhone, you don’t understand how money works.

    Its not going to hurt Apple one iota if a killer app appears on the Android because there are a bazillion developers out there capable of cloning anything. Sure it won’t be *first* on iPhone but seriously who cares? You can rest assured the iPhone equivalent will be better.

    Hell, its already reported that Android is leaking developers as well.

    As to the original post, how are Apple supposed to recognise which are their most trusted developers? And why do you think they don’t? Its just that their idea of who can be trusted and yours may well differ.

  5. AdamC Says:

    The whiners want only their way but Apple showed them the highway and these whiners are far and few in between.

    Apple is interested in promoting the iPhone platform and not in killing it, they will find a way to manage the approval process. My take on the approval process is there is no vetting once the app is approved by the individual accessor hence the discrepancy such as the baby shaker and I am rich apps, etc. In my opinion all the fart apps should be rejected but tech bloggers whined about it until Apple have to relent and allowed them but now they are the butts of jokes against the AppStore.

    Yes I too there should be more transparency to make some whiners happy – ultimately if something like a rogue app appear in the AppStore whose business will be impacted and which user will suffer certainly not the tech bloggers or whining developers call for openness. Btw words are cheap and it is easy to write a few emotional words to influence the readers but how will the tech bloggers feel if their business model is on the line, will they behave like Apple or be the trusting naive person who thinks that there is only goodness and wholesomeness in all mankind and the Nigerian scam is concocted by aliens.

  6. Louis Wheeler Says:

    Apple is in business to pleasing the customers, not the developers. Apple needs developers, but it seems to have plenty already. Not every developer will want to play by Apple’s rules. But if they don’t then, there are other platforms that they can develop for.

    Why do you put this all on Apple?

  7. Sean Says:

    Apple is receiving 10,000 apps a week, yet one developer whining about the process makes it a problem?

    How is it a problem if 10,000 apps are coming in a week? Can you imagine that on the Android platform? Who will monitor that mess of broken apps, virus’, malware, spyware and crapware? Is that the Nirvana Joe Hewitt envisions?

    No thanks. I’ll have no part of that mess.

    By the way, if you do the math Apple has approved 200 Apps a day, for seven days a week, since the App Store opened. THAT’S 200 A DAY PEOPLE!!!!!!

    Can we get real here for one minute?

  8. Mike in Austin Says:

    @sean. I 100% concur. “Fast tracking” for certain “approved” large developers may make sense to them, as it gives them a competitive edge to market. I see why they would want it. But why should Apple do it?

    The way that ISO is mentioned in this article is very misleading. ISO9000 or ISO9001 doesn’t “set manufacturing standards” for anyone. It provides a way for a company to create and define a quality management program and ISO provides recommendations for documentation.

    Many who have worked on ISO certification know that you can have BAD processes, but as long as you follow them consistently, you can be ISO certified. ISO doesn’t guarantee anything, other than consistency and a documented process.

    While it is arguably in the best interest of the manufacturers to USE the process for feedback and monitor their performance for improvement, there is no guarantee and that is outside of the scope of the quality process.

    People who are ISO “audited” are done to retain their ISO status. ISO does NOT audit the manufacturing process, but audits the QUALITY process. Are you doing what you said you would do to measure quality. Periodically, companies prepare to pass the ISO Audit. Adding to confusion, ISO status can be “certified” “registered” “Compliant” and “accredited” I’m not against ISO, but don’t try to say that a quality process ensures good product.

    Why so much on the ISO comparison? Because without spot checking by the developing company, a processes is nothing more than a process. Like ISO. It’s no guarantee. So Apple spends limited resources on spot checking. Good for Apple. That is a good way to audit is by measurement. Not by subscribed process.

    Apple should internally (for their own efficiency) decide the rigor on which it tests applications from a vendor. But they shouldn’t have to be forced to publish or “certify” a vendor that they will always make bugless code. Nor should they be forced to make it THEIR process to “give a pass” to certain vendors. By the threat of every app being audited and checked, every developer will strive to make bugless code. Not point to a certificate on a wall.

    By allowing Mike in Austin to write a cool app, and have the same playing field as a big software company (such as Intuit) to be approved, then you incentive ALL developers. For example, the application MINT on the iPhone is feature rich. Mint is/was a small organization. Intuit (developers of Quicken, and a huge software company) didn’t get it, and didn’t develop an iPhone app until late in the game. The market space was taken by Mint.

    So much so that Intuit purchased Mint to jump start it’s development efforts. I say let Apple do whatever they want internally in how they test, and not force any “fast track” processes onto them. Apple’s choice. Personally, I like my chances with developing a new App.

  9. Rosie Khan Says:

    Dan is a classic comedian. I love his role on the Blues Brothers.,;*