Dear Mr. Jobs,

In all of these months since the app store launched, I’ve been hesitant to be negative of Apple and the app store approval process. Developers have responded passionately and repeatedly with stories of rejected apps and even apps removed from the app store for various reasons. Sometimes they were right, the rejection didn’t make sense. But many times, they were wrong, the app should have been rejected due to obvious reasons.

apple1984But today, it seems as though Apple has gone from being just mysterious in it’s approval process to outright complacent. With the removal of apps that use the Google Voice APIs to allow you to access their services, Apple has crossed a line into scary overlord territory. It almost seems as though roles in the 1984 commercial have been reversed.

So yes, these apps may duplicate some of the functions of the iPhone. But as many argue, they don’t, as the features they supply aren’t available on the iPhone. They no more duplicate functions than any of hundreds of apps that provide weather information, calendar interfaces, embedded browsers, contact management, sms services, heck, even the dozens of voice recorders already released now duplicate a default application in OS 3.0.

My big question is, what made this happen now? Is AT&T behind this rejection? If so, this adds to a list of innovative apps they have neutered. For example, SlingPlayer, an application that AT&T even publicizes for Blackberry was restricted to only working over Wifi for the iPhone. Ridiculous… that basically strips 90% of it’s functionality. And if they are behind the rejection of Google Voice related apps, an application that’s already available on Blackberries as well, on their network even, I have to wonder what’s going on? What are they thinking? What are they afraid of?

I can’t believe it’s really their network. They have been adding new customers regularly. Not just this quarter, but for the past 2 years. They’ve had time to upgrade their network as needed for all these new iPhone customers.

Further, why would Apple be in such a stranglehold from AT&T? Why would Apple allow AT&T to stifle innovation in this platform and restrict such applications? It’s boggling why AT&T treats iPhones and their users with such a lack of respect even though we pay more for the same service than other customers.

So, to get to my point, what all this adds up to is that the iPhone is still the best mobile platform to develop for, by far. We all know that. But the platform that freed developers in so many ways is being increasingly perceived as a hostile environment. There are too many unknowns for some developers to put the time and expense into developing the next big, innovative app for the platform when they have no way of even verifying that they can ever release their app.

People are starting companies, risking their livelihoods and their futures on the iPhone and the iTunes App Store. It’s just bad developer (not to mention public) relations to operate such a veiled process like this knowing that so many people depend on it for their livelihood. Not to mention that it will eventually end up in court and could cost Apple a bundle.

So, Mr. Jobs, I ask this of you. You have the power to fix all of these problems. Please do so and we can all be a big happy family again.

First, take the developer agreement and re-write it. At its core, the problem is that Apple has only published rules to developers that basically say, we’ll approve what we want to, here are a few very non-specific guidelines to follow.

Get your product managers in there and tell them to re-write it so that it is written for the benefit of the developers not Apple’s legal department. No blanket statements, be specific with details about what is and is not allowed. Leave nothing out. Then, open it up for discussion with your devoted developers to get their feedback. And then, stick to it. No exceptions like you made for AT&T (going around the in-app purchasing with their GPS app), or Google (use of undocumented APIs for the proximity sensor). We’ll all be happier if we are all on a well explained and level playing field.

Second, slap AT&T, tell them that they have no control over the app store. Apple, you have created a revolution with this platform and it’s bigger than AT&T. But, if they are restricting innovation it can never come close to it’s full potential.

And Steve, can I call you Steve? That brings up a bigger topic related to AT&T. Can you please do something about the AT&T exclusivity in the USA? They treat the iPhone like it’s a cheap Nokia feature phone, not like the best phone ever seen by man. They treat it like a nuisance and it’s users like second-class citizens. We aren’t treated as we should be treated, as their only hope for a future and the only reason they are still in business. AT&T are acting like narrow-minded, slow to upgrade, innovation stifling knuckleheads. So, please, use your powers, the ones that you so deftly used a few years to get your way with AT&T, to either get them to clean up their act, or move on to Verizon like everyone thinks is going to happen.

Respectfully yours,
Jeff Scott
Publisher / Founder
148Apps

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