Apple’s dumping of 5,000 applications is really annoying developers

I’ve been taking the temperature of the mobile developers around the world on the news that Apple has — as TechCrunch reports — decided to remove any application that includes ‘overtly sexual content’.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy (again, TechCrunch is on the money), this is a serious, serious problem for mobile developers.

It’s all very well having to jump around the ridiculous and occasionally bizarre acceptance rulings that we’ve all heard about — but very quickly, those became standard. Sort of standard. Developers did the British thing: Grin and bear it. At least you knew where you were. Sort of. As long as you followed the semi-mythical ‘my-friend-said’ approach and submitted your app, all things being equal, you’d get approved and bish-bash-bosh, you were live in the app store.

Indeed I know of many developers who are very careful not to count their chickens — that is, they warn their investors (or their partners) that their app might not get accepted. They take every possible action to avoid any hold-ups at the acceptance stage, then, once they get the confirmation from Apple, they can dance the night away. Millions of dollars will arrive forthwith.

At least, that’s what most developers are hoping for. Developing for the iPhone is more or less a lottery. A real lottery. Some people make it big, most don’t — but, like buying a lottery ticket, at least you were in with a chance.

Now, however, the game has changed slightly.

The risk factor is significantly higher.

We’d all hoped that this was behind us, that — after the last debacle, when Phil Shiller was wheeled out — Apple had got the message: Stop arsing around.

There’s an issue now. A massive problem. How sure can you be that your application won’t be removed for some weird and wonderful reason? What happens if Apple decides to move into the baby market by creating a series of products and services for mothers-with-babies? Does that mean that Apple would switch off the thousands of baby applications currently in the store?

Potentially.

Or maybe not.

The problem is, we don’t know.

So now your investment profile is going to have to change. Because the platform is so easy to develop for, I think the short term impact of this increased uncertainty will be low. Very low. But it means when the rest of the marketplace catches up — when the likes of Nokia’s Qt running on Symbian and MeeGo begins to arrive in terms of an addressable population of hundreds of millions, there’s going to be an opportunity to win over a lot of developers by offering certain and predictable terms.

Likewise, Android and BlackBerry should be stepping up to the plate to make it clear that — in the light of this news from Apple — they won’t change the game overnight on their developers, that they’re committed to protecting their developer interests.

If you were sitting pretty earning a recurring $10k a month each from your 5 ‘babe’ apps on the App Store, you’re hardly likely to be that well disposed to Apple this week.

RIM? Nokia? Symbian? Android? Let’s be hearing from you please!

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  • http://www.phonething.com/ Alex Kerr

    You don't need to wait for Qt on Symbian. You can already develop in multiple languages and development environments on the platform – Python, BASIC, C++, Open C, Flashlite, J2ME, Web Run Time (widgets) and so and so on. iPhone is not at all easy to develop for compared to some of the options I've just listed.

    And you don't have any stupid, unpredictable restrictions like Apple pose. And you can release on a rapidly growing global app store with over a million downloads a day, and a userbase of over 200 million or more.

    It's amazing how some developers get attracted to iPhone/Android like moths to a flame, even though it'll do them no good. I took the decision sometime ago to stay developing on the real mass market platforms (mobile web, J2ME, Symbian) and am so relieved that I did when I read stuff like this.

  • garethjames

    Right. I do not have an iPhone, nor do I know anyone around here with one. So my question is this. If you can no longer download the applications that have been banned, if you already have them installed does this mean they no longer work? Or will Apple “break” them during an update? If either of these two things are answered in the positive, do I assume Apple will refund your iTunes account accordingly?

  • http://twitter.com/disability disability

    I think the extremely arbitrary nature with which Apple is going about this is making them look really bad and is the kind of thing that will drive people away from using the iPhone in the future and will lead to both consumers and developers moving to the increasingly popular android platform

  • http://www.joshuapr.com PatrickatJPR

    So Ewan, has your favourite Fitness Babes App been purged with all the others?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I'm not sure if I can bear to look…

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