iPhone App Store roulette: A tale of rejection

Apple's random rules for iPhone app approval are a recipe for trivial apps and alienated developers

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Lessons of the Internet
Back in 1995, Bill Gates took one look at the Internet and scrapped his dreams of dominating online life with MSN. Apple would do well to look over his memo because there are indications that the beautiful design and wonderful experience of the iPhone can't withstand the tidal wave of ingenuity out there. Creativity will find expression, and bored developers waiting for approval will check out other platforms. BlackBerry sales beat iPhone's earlier this year. Although RIM may try to emulate Apple's mistakes with its own walled garden, there are still other distribution mechanisms available to BlackBerry developers.

The Windows Mobile folks are also mindful of the need for open channels. When I interviewed Jay Roxe, group product manager of Windows Mobile, for another article about smartphone development, he outlined all of the different ways that a Windows Mobile developer could distribute a new program. Microsoft may run its own stores, but there are a number of other competitors and there's nothing to prevent you from giving a Windows Mobile app away from your own Web site, either.

[ Dive deep into mobile 2.0 technology with InfoWorld's "mobile 2.0" PDF special report. ]

Microsoft isn't alone with this openness. Symbian and Palm apps are freely available. Let's hope that Palm follows through with promises to make the Palm Pre backward compatible because there are more than 40,000 applications available for that platform -- apps that work perfectly well without currying the favor of some central bureaucracy.

Any enterprise shop would be insane to try to bet their company's livelihood on the iPhone. Oh sure, you've got to dabble in it now because the boss and the boss's boss have snorted all of the hype about the 1.5 billion downloads, but the random approval process is a real disaster for anyone trying to innovate in the simplest way. You've got to be willing to add an extra two or three months of salary for your team after development in order to get approval. Testing is a pain, and if you miss something, your users will be stuck with the old code until you can get a new version past the Iron Curtain.

I have no idea what Steve Jobs was thinking back in 1995, but I do remember what he was still thinking in 1984 when he hired Chiat/Day to create a wonderful commercial that defined the personal computer revolution. Who can forget the audience of reverent drones and the big screen on the stage? It used to be funny to note the similarity between the crowds in the old commercial and the audiences at Macworld Expo, sitting at the front of their seats in rapt attention and waiting for the big head on the screen to tell them what to think. The humor is slowly fading, though, and I can't help but feel that Apple's iPhone division has become everything the old company mocked in 1984.

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