updated 05:55 pm EDT, Thu June 3, 2010
Editorial questions Apple's short-term app goals
(Editorial) Recently, Apple quietly removed an application from its App Store called MyFrame, which allows users to view photos, manage their Twitter feeds, and control music over images a user chooses to display on their iPad. The application's owners e-mailed Steve Jobs asking why the application was removed. According to reports, Jobs said that his company is "not allowing apps that create their own desktops." He followed it up with a quick, "sorry."
Removing applications with little or not reason given is nothing new for Apple. The company has been removing (or not allowing) applications for all kinds of reasons since the App Store launched.
For its part, Apple seems to be controlling its image through its App Store. It doesn't want to be the company that allows children to download pornography on their iPhones. It also doesn't want to look like the company that will allow any application into its store, regardless of the impact it could have on its bottom line. To some, that might be commendable. After all, Apple has an image it wants to uphold, and it considers that with every decision it makes.
But to others, Apple's decision to use developers as a pawn in its own game of self-image is troublesome. Removing applications or types of applications is one thing. But informing developers on why, and helping them understand what they need to do to gain entry into the Store is something entirely different.
Apple has had a spotty track record when it comes to treating developers kindly. For a while, that didn't matter, since its App Store was the only one worth creating applications for. But all that has changed. Android is now a wildly popular platform that, according to a recent NPD report, outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of 2010. That means developers could have something to gain if they bring their applications to Google's Android Market. It also means Apple might want to think about being nicer to developers.
So far, it hasn't. Apple believes that the iPhone's strong sales and stature in the market will trump all. But that might not last forever. Mac OS X is arguably a better operating system than Windows. But Microsoft's operating system has a far greater selection of applications. And for some consumers, and especially companies, that means more than the value of an operating system.
Apple can't get caught up in the success of the iPhone and forget that its App Store is the key to its success going forward. That, in turn, means that it needs developers more than it lets on. As Apple continues to treat developers poorly and remove their applications with little explanation, developers will shift their attention to Android. If it works, they might be less likely to go back to Apple. And as more and more consumers look for applications on their smartphones, they might find more to like in the Android Market.
As understandable as it is for Apple to use its App Store for its own good, the company must also think about the future. Developers need to be treated well -- or at least, well enough. And they need to feel like they are part of something, rather than a pawn in Apple's game. If Apple can't accept that, it better hope that its iPhone and iPad sales will be enough to keep developers around. If not, all kinds of trouble could be awaiting the company.
By Don Reisinger