A rant about people's irrational hatred for Apple's iTunes store

I have been trawling around the web reading news on iPad, games and the iTunes store. I've hit upon a particular article on Kotaku that I think it's worth mentioning: 
 
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/04/why-did-apple-break-a-broken-system/ 
 
Before I get on with my rant, I want to first say that I don't approve of everything that Apple does. Furthermore, I think Brian Crecente, the author of the article is on the money with his concern. What I do have a problem with however, are some of the comments. "It's Apple! What do you expect?" To that I say, "educate yourself, fool."
 
People seem to be dissatisfied with Apple's control over Apps. Either that there's not enough control over the store; to the sentiments of, "Apple need to weed out shovelware crap", or Apple need to stop enforcing so much rules on the App approval process. It seems Apple is in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
 
This is where I think commenters need to educate themselves before yelling out absurdities.

Apple enforces strict rules for stability (bug), objectionability (content) and iniquity (malware) but does not enforce the worthiness of a software. 

Consider the following hypothetical sentiments from Apple:

1. "Your application will be removed if it continues to have bad reviews."
2. "Your application will be removed because only 50 people bought your application."
3. "Your application is rejected because it is not fun."
4. "Your application is rejected because we think it's 'shovelware'."

Consider applying the same sentiments to the internet. Imagine if Google would apply this to their search engine. I shudder to think of the consequences if Google decides to rank sites based on their own subjective view of what's worthy.

Apple simply lets the market decide. Apple does provide mechanisms to encourage better quality apps to 'bubble' up, much like search rankings; criteria being "best in genre", "top 25" (most popular, highest rated, etc.) What Brian has pointed out in his article is that while he sees the reason behind Apple's decision to change how Apple showcases apps, the issue is that Apple has taken too much control (making it overtly simple) which sacrifices the ability to perform advanced/precision searches to find content. This is a legitimate concern an I hope Apple figures out a way to satisfy the need for a "at a glance" view of app showcases, yet provide the advance mechanisms for precision searching.

It's easy to criticise Apple for how they've handled the iTunes store so far, but we also need to consider that there is little precedence to what Apple is doing in terms of sheer magnitude. Game companies are still trying to figure out how to turn the iTunes app store into a profitable business. It certainly is possible right now, as there are a few runaway indie game success case studies (in to the millions); over time, the market will stabilise. The iTunes gold rush will settle and we should start seeing a par in app quality with a standardised pricing structure dictated by market forces. Until then, I would give a bit of slack (but still remain critical) to Apple and applaud them for ensuring my iPhone/iPad/Pod Touch is not filled with unstable, objectionable and malicious software.    

21 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Chaoticpattern

I have been trawling around the web reading news on iPad, games and the iTunes store. I've hit upon a particular article on Kotaku that I think it's worth mentioning: 
 
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/04/why-did-apple-break-a-broken-system/ 
 
Before I get on with my rant, I want to first say that I don't approve of everything that Apple does. Furthermore, I think Brian Crecente, the author of the article is on the money with his concern. What I do have a problem with however, are some of the comments. "It's Apple! What do you expect?" To that I say, "educate yourself, fool."
 
People seem to be dissatisfied with Apple's control over Apps. Either that there's not enough control over the store; to the sentiments of, "Apple need to weed out shovelware crap", or Apple need to stop enforcing so much rules on the App approval process. It seems Apple is in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
 
This is where I think commenters need to educate themselves before yelling out absurdities.

Apple enforces strict rules for stability (bug), objectionability (content) and iniquity (malware) but does not enforce the worthiness of a software. 

Consider the following hypothetical sentiments from Apple:

1. "Your application will be removed if it continues to have bad reviews."
2. "Your application will be removed because only 50 people bought your application."
3. "Your application is rejected because it is not fun."
4. "Your application is rejected because we think it's 'shovelware'."

Consider applying the same sentiments to the internet. Imagine if Google would apply this to their search engine. I shudder to think of the consequences if Google decides to rank sites based on their own subjective view of what's worthy.

Apple simply lets the market decide. Apple does provide mechanisms to encourage better quality apps to 'bubble' up, much like search rankings; criteria being "best in genre", "top 25" (most popular, highest rated, etc.) What Brian has pointed out in his article is that while he sees the reason behind Apple's decision to change how Apple showcases apps, the issue is that Apple has taken too much control (making it overtly simple) which sacrifices the ability to perform advanced/precision searches to find content. This is a legitimate concern an I hope Apple figures out a way to satisfy the need for a "at a glance" view of app showcases, yet provide the advance mechanisms for precision searching.

It's easy to criticise Apple for how they've handled the iTunes store so far, but we also need to consider that there is little precedence to what Apple is doing in terms of sheer magnitude. Game companies are still trying to figure out how to turn the iTunes app store into a profitable business. It certainly is possible right now, as there are a few runaway indie game success case studies (in to the millions); over time, the market will stabilise. The iTunes gold rush will settle and we should start seeing a par in app quality with a standardised pricing structure dictated by market forces. Until then, I would give a bit of slack (but still remain critical) to Apple and applaud them for ensuring my iPhone/iPad/Pod Touch is not filled with unstable, objectionable and malicious software.    

Posted by Feser

I'm sorry I didn't read that. I am a Microsoft fanboy and your points are invalid.
Edited by Chaoticpattern

Thank you for your comment. I especially love it as it proves my point.

Posted by nanikore

Winged CP? I could work with that...

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

 The problem with your little rant is that there are loads of instances where Apple has removed a program because it disagrees with it, not because it fits into any of the criteria you mentioned. If Google did that with Android, I'd throw a fit. I don't use Apple products, so I'm glad they have such a poor service.
 
Apple removes an app because the developer insults the app store;
 http://kotaku.com/5497459/apple-bans-game-days-after-developer-publicly-trashes-app-store
 
Apple bans "explicit" apps, but allows the Sports Illustrated app to stay because it's hugely popular;
 http://kotaku.com/5479836/itunes-application-explicit-option-comes-then-goes
 
Apple removes Widgets (for no reason, likely to sell their own):
 http://www.9to5mac.com/dashboard-apps-removed-apple-app-store-350396
 
Apple removes WiFi apps (again, for no reason:
 http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10464021-37.html
 
Apple removes Google Voice based apps from the store (God forbid they actually try to compete with Android):
 http://blogs.zdnet.com/Apple/?p=4551
 
Official Google Voice app blocked as well:
 http://techcrunch.com/2009/07/27/apple-is-growing-rotten-to-the-core-and-its-likely-atts-fault/
 
These are just a handful of instances where apps were blocked because Apple disagreed with the makers, or put the interests of their carriers above that of their customers. So yes, anyone who knows tech replies to the constant Apple bullshit as "It's Apple.. What do you expect?". They're charging $900 for a $200 tablet.

Posted by oldschool

I am a heavy Apple user, but I am suspicious of any first post that strongly supports or denigrates a product.

Edited by Chaoticpattern
@Rolyatkcinmai: Good points raised, some of these controversies have escaped my mind as I wrote my rant. Specifically relating to the Google voice controversy. 
 
I have mentioned in my post, we should certainly remain critical of what Apple does. 
 
Google and Apple take different approaches to content regulation, the former, the lack of regulation and the latter is the issue of too much. I don't think that either method is inherently flawed, it's just a different approach.  
 
Google take the free-market approach while Apple believes the control of content protects user experience--in the form of screening over malicious software or objectionable content. 
 
There is no contention that the iTunes store is subject to a much larger influx of content; and since Apple screens every app, there are bound to be inconsistencies. 
 
Here are a few of my responses to the links you shared: 
 
"Apple removes an app because the developer insults the app store;" I remember this one vividly as Giantbomb and Kotaku covered this quite thoroughly over the GDC. I want to point out however that the reason the app was removed was because of the actions taken by the developer to increase prices over the app as an experiment. Every time someone bought the app, he would raise the price. He found that the more expensive the app became, the more sales he made. Apple removed the app due to this practise. 
 
"Apple bans 'explicit' apps, but allows the Sports Illustrated app to stay because it's hugely popular;"  I don't have much to say about this as I haven't followed this one. To my knowledge, Apple maintains a strict "no porn" policy; something Steve Jobs himself have made a remarked on: http://phandroid.com/2010/04/08/steve-jobs-theres-a-porn-store-for-android/ 
  
Personally, I find Steve's statement objectionable; but I maintain that eventually even sports illustrated would have to be removed to keep to Steve's own words. 
 
"Apple removes Widgets (for no reason, likely to sell their own)." I don't think that is true. Apple is famous/infamous on user experience (the recent debacle on Apple's 3.1.1 policy enforces this point). I think the removal is in violation of the Mobile OS' user interface guidelines. Another evidence to this would be Apple's OS 4's Game Centre, to try and roll all the disparate social game systems into one central and officially supported environment. 
 
"Apple removes WiFi apps (again, for no reason: "  I'm not too sure on this one myself, but my speculation is that this is more a political move as this would be a legacy hang-over from the origin of the iPhone; since Apple needed to bring the iPhone to the mass market, they would have signed certain agreements to ensure a large mobile phone supplier would agree to the arrangement. Bear in mind that before the iPhone, Apple haven't yet proved that they were capable of delivering the success they have today. I think that eventually, the iPhone will outgrow AT&T and Apple would be able to make decisions without having to cater to bureaucratic sensitivity.  

"Apple removes Google Voice based apps from the store (God forbid they actually try to compete with Android): " I don't have much to say about this and your last item as I also find this objectionable; except that Skype has been approved, so I don't see why this won't eventually happen. 
 
I stil maintain that the sentiment, "It's Apple.. What do you expect?" to be unduly biased. I can name a few things Google have done that is objectionable: Google's decision to censor content in China, Google's privacy policy; etc. I equally don't think highly of similar sentiments like, "It's Google.. What do you expect?"
Posted by VoodooTerror

apple suck

Edited by Chaoticpattern
@oldschool: I need to clarify that I don't strongly support iTunes. I have my issues with it. My rant is about ignorant comments. 
 
People argue that there's a lot of crap on iTunes; yet they also complain Apple take control over the store too much. You can't reasonably expect Apple to subjectively remove "shovelware" apps and at the same time cry foul that Apple has decided to take your favourite app away because you think the app is great but they think it's shovelware. To those, I say pick a side and stick with it. 
 
My other point is to clarify that Apple's mission statement on iTunes app submission policy comes from trying to offer a positive user experience. As to whether or not they've achieved that is a secondary point. If your argument is that Apple has done a terrible job with screening apps (the really long review process for the GiantBomb app comes to mind) then that's a valid and informed opinion; but lets stick to better remarks than, "Apple suck".  
 
(love it when comments serendipitously appear and enforces my point.)
Posted by oldschool
@VoodooTerror said:
" apple suck "
No, I suck apples.  The juice is sweet. 
 
@Chaoticpattern said:
" @oldschool: I need to clarify that I don't strongly support a iTunes. I have my issues with it. My rant is about ignorant comments.  People argue that there's a lot of crap on iTunes; yet they also complain Apple take control over the store too much. You can't reasonably expect Apple to subjectively remove "shovelware" apps and at the same time cry foul that Apple has decided to take your favourite app away because you think the app is great but they think it's shovelware. To those, I say pick a side and stick with it.  My other point is to clarify that Apple's mission statement on iTunes app submission policy comes from trying to offer a positive user experience. As to whether or not they've achieved that is a secondary point. If your argument is that Apple has done a terrible job with screening apps (the really long review process for the GiantBomb app comes to mind) then that's a valid and informed opinion; but lets stick to better remarks than, "Apple suck".   (love it when comments serendipitously appear and enforces my point.) "
It isn't that I disagree in any meaningful way with your point.  I don't use the App store at all, nor iTunes, so I don't really have a view on it.  I am just always a little suspicious of first posts that are strong on a product, for or against.  It stems from a blog I did on viral forum posting by companies through agencies (I have first hand experience of it).  Not saying you are.
Posted by FlamingHobo

I find Apple overly-expensive as well as too controlling over their products. There are many features, on the iPhone for instance, which are present in many other phones which will probably be never present in the iPhone. 

Edited by Chaoticpattern
@oldschool: Fair enough.  
 
Not that clarification is needed, I am not affiliated with Apple in any way, shape or form. That being said, if they want to pay me to say nice things about them -- let's just say, talk to my agent. My price is reasonable ;)

Kidding aside, I'm an open source software developer, so in principal, Google's android platform falls more in line with my philosophies. I just want people to be more informed about the topics before they make a comment. I know that's like asking Vinny to change his opinion on Flower; it just ain't gonna happen. But that's why I'm ranting and not trying to spearhead an anti-stupid movement.
Posted by Chaoticpattern
@FlamingHobo said:
" I find Apple overly-expensive as well as too controlling over their products. There are many features, on the iPhone for instance, which are present in many other phones which will probably be never present in the iPhone.  "

From a feature-to-feature perspective, I would agree with you. However, at least for me, that's not why I chose the iPhone. Of the phones I've used, I find the iPhone to be most enjoyable to use. Apple's detail over UI+UX (interface/interaction/experience) is what drew me to it.
  
Apple's single-mindedness over content control (you can't sync your phone on two computers without hack) is irritating and the price of the "privilege" to own an Apple product may be contentious to some; no arguments there.
Posted by Feser
@Chaoticpattern:
I was trying to help. Your welcome.
Posted by fastkilr

The size of the App Store as well as the wide variety of content make for some pretty divisive reactions. 
 
@Rolyatkcinmai said:

"  The problem with your little rant is that there are loads of instances where Apple has removed a program because it disagrees with it, not because it fits into any of the criteria you mentioned. If Google did that with Android, I'd throw a fit. I don't use Apple products, so I'm glad they have such a poor service.  "
If you don't use Apple products maybe you're not the right person to be making qualitative judgments about their service? 
  
People either seem to worship Apple or hate all of their products. I don't think there's any reasonable way for Apple to fix many of the concerns people have with the App Store. It's too big for there to be any reasonable organization. I've spent hours looking through the contents of the App Store and while that may say something about how difficult it can be to find relevant content, I'm mostly satisfied with what I've found. There have been a few times where I wish Apple would remove more content than they already have, as the majority of the Paid Apps are awful.
Posted by neoepoch

My beef with the iTunes store is unrelated to the apps section. My beef is with music. I payed for a song right? Why do I have to pay again to redownload it? Why can't I just have a list of all the songs that I bought, and if I need to redownload it just do it? Maybe I've been spoiled by Steam, but I don't intend on paying for the same thing multiple times over.

Posted by Chaoticpattern
@neoepoch: If you make a request to Apple customer support, they'll sometimes let you re-download the music. Once the re-download is activated, they'll flag those purchased items as reimbursed. Not that it's comparable but iTunes music are now DRM-free (since early last year, if I recall correctly) while games on Steam aren't.
Posted by Leptok

Any walled garden is crap.  
 
I'd rather put up with Androids problems and get something more open.
 
And as for music, fuck that. I'll take my freely transferable mp3s from Amazon, kthx.

Posted by Chaoticpattern
@Leptok said:
And as for music, fuck that. I'll take my freely transferable mp3s from Amazon, kthx. "
iTunes music are DRM free, so it's also freely transferable; unless you mean you don't like the AAC format. In which case, feel free to transcode it to OGG or MP3--no one is stopping you.
Posted by Organicalistic_

i hate apple anyway, i carry a zune and my main platform is ps3

Posted by neoepoch
@Chaoticpattern said:
" @neoepoch: If you make a request to Apple customer support, they'll sometimes let you re-download the music. Once the re-download is activated, they'll flag those purchased items as reimbursed. Not that it's comparable but iTunes music are now DRM-free (since early last year, if I recall correctly) while games on Steam aren't. "
I know that, but that doesn't mean that I can re-download the game whenever I want. Having to call customer support is very inconvenient and sometimes they won't let you re-download anyway. And most games on Steam don't have DRM except for the Steam Client, which is great, and the games that do have 3rd party DRM are clearly pointed out by Steam.