Jens Alfke goes deep on the question of whether Apple’s recent and recurring stupidities with regard to iPhone App Store rejections amount to evil or not.
It’s in Apple’s genetic code to be about as transparent as a lead brick […] but in the context of the App Store, Apple’s inscrutability and arbitrariness has become actively malign.
The latest flub concerns an iPhone book reader called Eucalyptus, which was allegedly rejected from the App Store because users could potentially use it to access books with questionable content. You know, similarly to the way you can use a web browser to access web pages with questionable content. Smooth move, Apple. Everybody is pissed about the incident. While rejections of fart apps or soft porn in the past found their share of supporters, most people seem to agree that these actions, nostalgic of book burning and censorship, are indefensible.
As an Apple cheerleader, it’s tempting to take the stance that Apple’s botched handling of App Store approvals is mere incompetence. There are tens of thousands of apps, and it stands to reason that a few erroneous decisions will be made in the course of evaluating those submissions. In spite of a variety of truly frustrating policies, the App Store is steaming ahead at a breakneck speed. This is just a squeaky wheel attached to an otherwise well-oiled machine.
But with each ridiculous, pathetic incident, it becomes harder to exculpate the company for actions that cause injury not only to the specific developers whose works are wrongly rejected, but to the developer community as a whole, whose support of the platform will ultimately make or break the iPhone platform and Apple’s reputation along with it.
Apple is cocky and Apple is arrogant. They always have been, for better and for worse. Alongside the stubbornly perfected refinement of its products, marketing, and public image, the company has always worn blemishes such as these. Obliviously, and with an oafish lack of concern. Apple is the beautiful Hollywood actress at the party, who laughs giddily into the night as a long piece of toilet paper trails her elegant gown. She ignores the polite whispers, and then the pointed throat clearing. Finally, as the whole room shakes its head and laughs, she condescends: “everybody here has a terrible sense of humor.”
I don’t believe Apple is evil, but they are powerful. And the careless handling of such power produces results that are hard to distinguish from evil. I expect things will get worse, and then things will get better. It’s happened over the years in other areas where Apple has stumbled. They will become less oblivious and more receptive to criticism about the App Store approval process. At some point it might even feel fair, transparent, and equitable.
But eventually they will move on to something else, applying their cockiness to a new and exciting arena. As much as I don’t look forward to suffering the specific damages of that future bloom of faux pas, I’m excited as hell to find out what it is.