updated 06:33 pm EST, Mon February 4, 2013
Encouraged users to jailbreak, download its own browser
In a move that affects Chinese iOS users worldwide, Apple has removed all iOS apps -- over 20 in total -- made by Chinese search engine and software maker Qihoo over systematic abuse of the iOS eco-system. The apps were removed last week and haven't been restored, suggesting that the company is being punished for new violations. The most likely cause is the company's habit of offering direct file downloads of apps alongside App Store links, providing a path to the apps for jailbroken devices.
Qihoo has been accused of other abuses as well, including using unofficial APIs, providing apps that are of little value (such as its' "Battery Guard" program), and attempting to rig the app rankings, the latter of which it was caught doing last year, reports TechInAsia. A rival company's news portal claims that Qihoo's CFO has gone to Apple's headquarters in California to try and resolve ongoing issues with the company.
Direct ".ipa" file links are common for companies in China and elsewhere that make Android apps, and in China many iOS app providers also provide direct links, but this is a violation of App Store guidelines since the practice can introduce malware (as commonly seen in Android apps). Though many of the reports are from news sources owned by rival search-engine companies that could stand to gain from Qihoo's removal, it does appear that Apple is now actively clamping down on iOS developers in China who make the direct downloads of apps available. Conceivably, Qihoo could return if it agrees to discontinue the practice and remove apps that serve little purpose.
Qihoo has not commented on the matter, but its disappearance from the App Store right at the time iPhone sales in China are expanding rapidly increases the likelihood of rivals such as UC and the QQ browser being chosen instead. The company is also under a state investigation in China over its Windows desktop applications, having been officially warned over unfair competition tactics.