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Apple shouldn't censor the App Store

When Apple announced that the review process would be part of getting on the iPhone application store on iTunes, many people welcomed this process. The word of "gatekeeper" was bandied about. When the first applications started showing up on the store, and along with the great and the average, there were some that were, politely said, trivial, people started calling for the gatekeeper, and demanded that Apple take these applications out.

The legal situation here is clear: Apple has created and is running a store, and they can choose what products to include. They have been doing the very same with their brick-and-mortar stores. And they are well within their right to do so. After all, if you were running a shop,would you want to be forced to include software that you think is bad quality, gaudy, or simply not the kind of software you'd want to sell?

The problem here is that everyone has a different idea of what it means when a piece of software is "bad quality", or "gaudy", because all of these terms have fuzzy edges. That would not be a problem, if this was just one of many stores, but the iTunes app store is the only way to get stuff on the iPhone.

Now consider you just created an app of your own, and Apple suddenly decided they didn't want you. You'd have invested all that work in developing a product that could never be used. Worse, the time (and thus money) invested in that app would be lost.

So, I'm happy about every stupid flash-light app that just brings up a white window, every I am Rich app I see on the iTunes app store. It means Apple are leaving the decision whether an app is good to the buyer, to the market. Getting on the app store costs $99 for one year of iPhone developer membership. If nobody buys your app, you'll quickly reconsider whether it's worth paying to lose money.

On the other hand, while I might not be interested in wasting $1000, I've seen people pay that amount for a single comic book, which cost $2.50 on the newsstand (some even only $0.65). If you wanted the story, you did like me and just bought the reprint. I own a facsimile edition of X-Men #1 that I bought fresh from the presses for less than 3 bucks. It even contains the original advertisements. A quick google shows that I'd be paying $19 000 for the original.

It isn't worth it for me, and I can only shake my head at why someone would buy it, but if it's being sold at that price, it must be worth that to someone, be it as an investment or sentimental value. It's the same with the iPhone: I've seen a documentary about the new rich in Russia and how they gold-plate nearly everything, I know there are factories that take $20 Nokias and put them in gold and gems that cost the price of my dad's dream car. If someone thinks that is desirable, that's OK for me.

Heck, there are moments where I have similar opinions: I once was on the train to a good friend's birthday party, and my iPod fell out of my pocket while I was changing trains. It fell somewhere where I couldn't see it. I had the choice between stopping here and searching for an expensive device I didn't have the money to replace at that time and miss my train (having to wait a couple hours for the next one), or getting on that train and not missing a good friend's birthday party.

I went for the train.

Sometimes, it's just about the priorities. I value my friends more than money. Someone who earns $500 per hour, may spend $500 more on a Mac if that means he won't have to work an hour to set it up. I wouldn't want anyone, not Apple, not Microsoft, not my government decide for me where my priorities should lie.

What about you?

PS - Yeah, some kind soul whose name I was never told found my iPod in Ismaning and brought it to the Lost and Found. It' safe and sound and still in working order. Thank you, mysterious stranger!

Update: Of course, Chuqi put it much more eloquently than I could, and he even has a joke.

Update 2: Also, Nadyne offers a nice view about it.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
Jonathan Wight writes:
We're not talking a work of art. We're not talking a rare comic book. We're not talking $1000 of labour towards setting up a new Mac. There is no concept of limited supply forcing the price of this App high. Instead the developer arbitrarily picked the price point. This isn't even a $1000 equivalent of a pet rock. At best this is a publicity stunt for the developer. At worst this is the developer trying to scam AppStore users out of $1000.
Uli Kusterer replies:
Jonathan, the author actually claimed on his web site that this was a piece of art. And it *is* a painting of a gem that's displayed, and it's not un-pretty. I wouldn't pay $1000 for it myself, but then, there are photo prints (also easily replicated) at similar price points sold by photographers. And I don't see why this would be a scam either. He's very up-front about what the app does, or rather doesn't, do. And if you think the $999 price point was engineered to look like $9.99, then Apple would have a simple fix: Put up a warning dialog before letting users buy apps whose price point exceeds a certain limit.
Jonathan Wight writes:
Maybe you're more optimistic than I am about human nature. I know the question of what is art is subjective, one person's art is another person's junk, but this reeks of scam to me. And I think the author is laughing at all the folks defending this application. Let's say I release an AppStore app for $1000 that has a "Cure Cancer" button. Let's say I'm up front about it too and don't actually claim any guarantee that it'll cure your cancer. Would I be scamming the AppStore users or not?
Uli Kusterer replies:
Jonathan, if he's up front and says it didn't cure cancer, I'd see it as a joke. Like the app with the 'DWIM' button. Both are things that are quite obviously not possible. Humour is subjective, so particularly in that class of application, I'd expect Apple to step back and just let people have their fun. The transition from humour to gaming the system is fluid. Apple could always put up 'potential scam' warnings, but taking apps out of the store is, IMHO, a bad choice. There'll soon be enough apps on the store that it'll be easy for Apple to just 'bury' an app by not including it on any of the featured pages. They can de-value dubious apps in their search engine. They could require apps they don't like to provide their own hosting and do a checksum verification that the file hasn't been modified. But considering the huge potential for false positives, I'd rather they leave all of these in than take them out.
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Created: 2008-08-07 @728 Last change: 2023-12-06 @805 | Home | Admin | Edit
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