Apple's campaign to win the App Store publicity battle

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
For a company known to masterfully drum up free press and unparalleled buzz, Apple's recent struggles in the App Store public relations game have been uncharacteristic. But company executive Phil Schiller appears to have set out to change the tide.



A flurry of e-mails sent out by Schiller in recent weeks gathered a great deal of publicity in their own right, and helped to suggest to the public that Apple is listening to criticisms of its App Store. In an exclusive interview with AppleInsider, another developer tells of his own App Store struggles, as well as personal correspondence with the company executive.



Schiller's statement



One might think it would be normal for Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, to reach out to the community and portray his company in a positive light -- after all, he does work in marketing. But Apple is unlike any other corporation: The widely known veil of secrecy that shrouds the company permeates through all of its departments, including marketing and public relations. And why not? It's this ability to keep secrets that leads to rumors and speculation that excite the tech community and create free publicity.



But as Apple began rejecting applications from the iPhone App Store with little explanation or clarification as to what was required to meet the its litmus test, some developers and pundits began to criticize the company's tactics. That's when Schiller stepped in.



After Daring Fireball's John Gruber wrote a highly critical piece on the App Store, Schiller personally responded, an action basically unheard of from a company that almost never publicly acknowledges its critics. While the sending of the first e-mail was unprecedented, a week later it was commonplace, with reports of personal notes received by an iPhone developer and another Mac developer.



App Store troubles



How many more have been sent and weren't publicized? Likely many, but AppleInsider knows of at least one. Alex Patsay, product director with Russian development team Ripdev, had his own App Store struggles. After he wrote about it, Schiller -- as has become part of his job lately -- responded. Patsay spoke with AppleInsider about his experience.



Ripdev dabbles in the "dark side" of the iPhone, creating popular tools for jailbroken hardware like Icy and InstallerApp. But it also sells on the App Store, under the developer name Unsanity, i2Reader, a $9.99 e-book reader that supports multiple formats, including EPUB, PDF, RTF, HTML, FB2 and plain text. The application originally began its life on jailbroken phones in 2007, before the App Store existed.



Ripdev also creates Kali Anti-Piracy, copy protection software for iPhone apps. When i2Reader was first released, it used Kali Anti-Piracy, which was not compatible with the yet-to-be released iPhone OS 3.0. Because of this incompatibility, i2Reader was rejected from the App Store. That problem was fixed, only for another to arise: Apple required all software with the ability to make purchases through the application go through the App Store.



"We had an agreement with Russian online book store LitRes so users could buy books from them directly in the application via built-in Web view," Patsay explained. "So we were rejected for not using (the) official in-app purchase process. We had to cut the store from the application, since we didn't have time to re-implement everything."



Those were just the first of many rejections:



In one iteration, the application allowed users to transfer books to and from the iPhone via a separate desktop application. An Apple reviewer mistakenly thought the feature did something else, Patsay said. "We tried writing to Apple explaining the functionality, but haven't received any response, so we had to simplify the application."



i2Reader was also affected by an Apple App Store policy that has caught the ire of some developers: all browser-embedded software, regardless of its content, must be rated for mature audiences. Not knowing this policy before it was publicized, the application was submitted with a rating for ages 4 and up. Apple's formal rejection, Patsay said, didn't specifically state the age requirement. It only told the developer that the rating was inappropriate.



Without any clarification from Apple, the developer submitted the application again, this time with a rating for ages 12 and up. It was rejected once again. Patsay said at that point they realized it needed to have a 17+ age rating.



Finally, it was rejected again with a notice from Apple that said i2Reader 3.0.1 could not be made available for sale "because this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third party rights."



An issue finally resolved



Confused by the final rejection, Patsay wrote a blog post entitled "The most ridiculous App Store reject I've ever seen." After reading that Schiller had personally e-mailed a number of people regarding the App Store, Patsay decided he would try to contact the Apple executive to see if it would get him any answers. To his surprise, Schiller responded the same day.



"His letter was nice and helpful, though he claimed that our app was rejected most of the time because of the crashes, but it's not exactly right," Patsay said. "And most importantly, he gave us the contact at Apple that we could get in touch with to find out more."



Schiller requested that Patsay not republish his letter, but a copy of it was provided to AppleInsider, and the summary is as follows: Most of the rejections of i2Reader were because of crashes, but the last rejection (regarding copyright violations) was due to the fact that the program allowed users to share books with each other. The e-mail also included an apology for a perceived lack of clarity.



"Suddenly it all made sense," Patsay said. "Apple is very afraid of the copyright infringement, and the ability of the application to share books directly from the app with other users didn't feel right with them, even though LitRes, our online store companion, didn't (have a problem with) that functionality."



Schiller forwarded Patsay's issue to Phil Shoemaker, Apple's director of Application Technology. Shoemaker and Patsay spoke about the lengthy process i2Reader had gone through. The Apple director said though the developer had stripped features from the software to get it in the App Store, that wasn't the intent. His only goal was to have the application follow the terms and conditions of the store.



"He offered some advice (on) what we should do with both content providers and Apple in order to restore some features into the application," Patsay said of Shoemaker. "I was actually very moved by his letters, since they clearly demonstrated the interest in having great apps on the iPhone."



i2Reader was approved about a week later. While Patsay is happy that the product is finally available for download in the App Store, he said he wishes it didn't take so long to find out why Apple would not approve it.



"In general I am very satisfied with the resolution," he said, "though I'd prefer to have a system that doesn't require such interaction like writing a letter to a high-profile exec of the company -- I'm sure he has many other important things to do. But the fact (that) Apple responded at all shows that they are reading and listening, and maybe they are going to do something about the App Store situation."



Listening to developers



While Patsay's situation was resolved, others continue to grab headlines. Arguably the biggest scandal in the short history of the App Store so far has been Apple's rejection of the Google Voice application. While Google kept a straight face and began work on a browser-based version, pundits and developers alike were once again critical. Apple still hasn't officially explained why the software was rejected, though the situation has led to a Federal Communications Commission investigation.



The Google Voice development came just as some became even more vocal in their criticism of the App Store. While not the catalyst, the situation certainly did add fuel to the fire, and only served to further press coverage that showed Apple in a negative light.



Whether or not Schiller's e-mails will change the tide of public perception remains to be seen. However, they have helped to portray Apple in a better light -- one that, in the eyes of Patsay, is at least somewhat receptive to developers' concerns.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    mac voyermac voyer Posts: 1,283member
    I don't believe there is a need for Apple to do much by way of PR because the masses do not have a problem with the app store. This is about appeasing a few vocal tech journalists who care more about getting page views than selling iPhones.



    As for restrictions, it appears that Palm will be just as restrictive, if not more, with its app acceptance process than Apple. It is easy to find fault when you don't have a business to run. Those who get in the game are actually discovering that Apple's model isn't so bad after all.
  • Reply 2 of 55
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    There is no publicity issue. It's confined to small corners of the net, drummed up by tech writers, and is not reflected in the market at large.



    The bulk of Apple's market has no problems with the App Store and couldn't give a sweet damn whether one ebook reader or slang dictionary out of thousands of other apps was rejected. Most of them don't know what Google Voice is and probably won't care if they did know.



    It's an issue between Apple and a handful of developers, some of them who are making life incredibly hard for themselves and Apple.



    Tech journalists don't have much reach beyond their respective corners of the internet.



    What "tide of public perception"?? The public perception of tech forum members?



    We need to stop the generalizing. It's getting way out of hand.
  • Reply 3 of 55
    jimzipjimzip Posts: 444member
    IN any case, it is kinda cool. An interesting twist on the usual onion-skin barriers that aim to separate and deter the 'plebs' from contacting the high-levels. It's nice to know that when you need it, someone is there.



    I remember a couple of years ago when some people wrote to Steve over computer problems and got personal responses from him. That impressed me.



    Wonder if Schiller reads AI?



    Jimzip
  • Reply 4 of 55
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mac Voyer View Post


    I don't believe there is a need for Apple to do much by way of PR because the masses do not have a problem with the app store. This is about appeasing a few vocal tech journalists who care more about getting page views than selling iPhones.



    As for restrictions, it appears that Palm will be just as restrictive, if not more, with its app acceptance process than Apple. It is easy to find fault when you don't have a business to run. Those who get in the game are actually discovering that Apple's model isn't so bad after all.



    Agreed.



    Stripped of the spin by all parties, this is yet *another* story about a high-profile app store rejection that turns out to be almost entirely the fault of the developer, and who's popularity comes down to the fact that said developers are publishing one-sided grievances, *before* knowing the facts, and that those grievances are being promulgated around the web by other tech-friendly web sites.



    Certainly Apple's poor "people skills" are at fault also, but pretty much every single rejection I've ever heard about eventually has a very rational and reasonable explanation at the end that simply doesn't justify the outrageous remarks of the developers in their original criticisms. Unfortunately, the resolution to these stories is only reported on a fraction of the time whereas the initial complaint is trumpeted from the rooftops.
  • Reply 5 of 55
    irelandireland Posts: 17,572member
    If anything it proves two things, one we already knew. 1. It proves they are hearing us (which we knew). 2. More importantly it proves the power we have over Apple. As they continue to grow in this evolving world, where more people can connect easier and spread news far more efficiently Apple is finding it more difficult to ignore its critics. If something stinks in suburbia now we know Apple has to break out the air freshener. Which is great news for Mac and iPhone users. As along as we get treated with the respect we deserve for giving Apple our hard earned dough then all the better.
  • Reply 6 of 55
    dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    There is no publicity issue. It's confined to small corners of the net, drummed up by tech writers, and is not reflected in the market at large.



    I'm no tech writer, but I'm pretty pissed off with the Google Voice thing. I speak as a Google Voice user who purchased GV Mobile from the App Store, and now will not be getting any of the promised upgrades to the software because Apple pulled it.



    I guess in your world Apple shouldn't care about tech savvy users like me, and only care about the majority of non-moaners. Still I personally have been responsible to turning a lot of people into Mac users, both in my personal interactions, and converting my work to almost 100% Mac in the last 5 years.



    The whole Google Voice thing has taken the shine off the iPhone for me. Defending Apple with arguments like "the majority don't care" is fanboyism of the highest order.
  • Reply 7 of 55
    jon tjon t Posts: 131member
    I am inclined to think this developer has done little but cause grief for Apple from the start. Jailbroken phone software? Hardly makes you a friendly developer.



    And why does Apple need to spell out to these guys what 'mature' means. 12 years of age is not mature or adult.



    The whole story seems cooked up by people who have agenda's of their own, and are not really working to the benefit of users, or Apple.
  • Reply 8 of 55
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post


    I'm no tech writer, but I'm pretty pissed off with the Google Voice thing. I speak as a Google Voice user who purchased GV Mobile from the App Store, and now will not be getting any of the promised upgrades to the software because Apple pulled it.



    I guess in your world Apple shouldn't care about tech savvy users like me, and only care about the majority of non-moaners. Still I personally have been responsible to turning a lot of people into Mac users, both in my personal interactions, and converting my work to almost 100% Mac in the last 5 years.



    The whole Google Voice thing has taken the shine off the iPhone for me. Defending Apple with arguments like "the majority don't care" is fanboyism of the highest order.



    I also find it sad and inexplicable that your sdatisfaction with the iPhone at large seems to rest on a single App that in the big picture of Apple and the iPhone (and what the iPhone brings to the table) doesn't mean a whole lot.



    So switch to a BlacckBerry or whatever other phone supports Google Voice. Dollars-to-donuts you'll quickly see why it would hardly be worth it.



    Yes, I'm an Apple fanboy. Apple makes it damn easy to be one.
  • Reply 9 of 55
    The realy problem that will surface sooner or later is too many aps.



    The App store is just that a retailer. All retailers must choose what to stock. Even a huge store like Wal-Mart must decide what and what not to stock. If it stocked everything the place would go under. People want a retailer to screen products for quality, as well as othet atributes like price brand image etc.



    now a online type store does have ways to sell both high priced and low prived things (which say a departent store can not) but in the end allowing anything on the App store will only undermine its usefullness.



    The problem is how to screen when you have so many developers. I think Apple might take a cue from Walmart and slow the process down. It takes a long time o get a product in a wall mart. Perhaps Apple could limit the complaints if developers had an expectation that it may take as long as a year to get a product on the App store.
  • Reply 10 of 55
    irelandireland Posts: 17,572member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jon T View Post


    I am inclined to think this developer has done little but cause grief for Apple from the start. Jailbroken phone software? Hardly makes you a friendly developer.



    And why does Apple need to spell out to these guys what 'mature' means. 12 years of age is not mature or adult.



    The whole story seems cooked up by people who have agenda's of their own, and are not really working to the benefit of users, or Apple.



    Not really. Apple's whole handling of this app store approval process from the start has been less than stellar. It came to a head. Some genuine developers got a royal shafting from the fruit company. It was only a matter of time before this came to a head. Besides, I'm sure Apple can defend themselves without your help. I don't mean that in any insulting way. It's just that Apple are big boys, and at the end of the day just another company. Sometimes giving them a hard time gets us, both devs and consumers, more respect. Which we should want for ourselves. Apple won't give a shit unless we hold them accountable for their actions.
  • Reply 11 of 55
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Sometimes giving them a hard time gets us, both devs and consumers, more respect. Which we should want for ourselves. Apple won't give a shit unless we hold them accountable for their actions.



    I can agree with this. I'll concede that that App Store does indeed require some improvement, and making much out of the situation (within reason) might be more useful than patting them on the head all the time.
  • Reply 12 of 55
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,744member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jon T View Post


    I am inclined to think this developer has done little but cause grief for Apple from the start. Jailbroken phone software? Hardly makes you a friendly developer.



    Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of apps available for jb phones that provide a lot of useful functionality. Just because Apple has not seen fit to allow these apps does not mean these devs are not Apple friendly. being Apple friendly or even a fan of Apple does not mean you turn your brain off and assume their every decision is a good one.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jon T View Post


    And why does Apple need to spell out to these guys what 'mature' means. 12 years of age is not mature or adult.



    Because they didn't say it required a mature rating. They simply said the submitted rating was inappropriate. So, I guess the developer should have put on his ESP hat and said "oh, right, it has a browser built in, so it must need a Mature rating", prior to Apple saying all browser apps need to be rated Mature...even though safari is available to everyone regardless of age.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jon T View Post


    The whole story seems cooked up by people who have agenda's of their own, and are not really working to the benefit of users, or Apple.



    And what is wrong with that? Developers or anyone else that produces goods for sale has an 'agenda'. Usually that 'agenda' is to make some sales. Do you honestly believe that Apple's 'agenda' is not to make money?





    If this was all cooked up, or blown out of proportion by a few vocal tech journalists looking for page views and bloggers in obscure corners of the internet, do you think that would cause a senior VP from Apple to start personally responding, investigating and assisting in these cases? No, it would not. Even Apple has recognized that there are problems with their App Store approval process. Yet some fanbioes are so deluded in their obsession, they moan that these stories are just a bunch of whiners. They are so consumed with Apple having to be right, that if you point out problems, they say "well, buy a BB if you hate Apple so much". That is just dumb. The iPhone and the App Store are great, but that doesn't mean they don't have problems. It doesn't mean some complaints aren't legitimate. It doesn't mean discussing these problems is whining.
  • Reply 13 of 55
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,529member
    To me it looks like apps are being rejected for valid reasons, it appears that people at apple are actually looking at the apps and using them to determine if they meet the requirements.



    One of the great things with the iphone apps is anyone can development something from any part in the world. This is also a down side since this includes people who have not clue about the laws that exist in other countries, and they obviously did not read the T&C for the app store and what kind of apps that can be sold and distributed world wide.



    Apple has to contact these people because they know that a person with an ax to grind on the interest can get lots of un-wanted and un-intend attention even when the facts are not accurate. In the corporate world these types of conversation happen all the time but never become public.
  • Reply 14 of 55
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,744member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by salmonstk View Post


    The realy problem that will surface sooner or later is too many aps.



    The App store is just that a retailer. All retailers must choose what to stock. Even a huge store like Wal-Mart must decide what and what not to stock. If it stocked everything the place would go under. People want a retailer to screen products for quality, as well as othet atributes like price brand image etc.



    now a online type store does have ways to sell both high priced and low prived things (which say a departent store can not) but in the end allowing anything on the App store will only undermine its usefullness.



    The problem is how to screen when you have so many developers. I think Apple might take a cue from Walmart and slow the process down. It takes a long time o get a product in a wall mart. Perhaps Apple could limit the complaints if developers had an expectation that it may take as long as a year to get a product on the App store.



    This is all likely true. There are too many apps, but this is not the core of the problem. Developers would accept that it will take some time for apps to be approved, if they knew what the criteria for approval was ahead of time. The real problem is that the approval process appears to be at time arbitrary, inconsistent, nonsensical and often biased to give Apple or AT&T an unfair advantage in some area.



    The difference with Walmart and the AppStore is that Apple controls both the platform and the marketplace. If Walmart bought the copyrights and patents to the CD and DVD formats and announced you could only buy CD and DVDs at Walmart and that they would decided what titles would ever be available, people would complain. Hell, a step further, if they bought Apple (ick) and now Walmart was applying their arbitrary approval to what apps people could run but everything else stayed exactly the same, people, even these fanboies, would complain.
  • Reply 15 of 55
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,569member
    I have an honest question. How many of you who think that this is a "non-issue" drummed up by tech reporters are responding based on the value you hold as a shareholder or based on a regular consumer that is tired of erratic behavior when it comes to Apple's decision to block apps, approve apps, then reject them at the drop of a hat, etc?



    I think that the Google Voice rejection was a big deal to a lot of people.



    I simply ask because I see a lot of people here preface or end their comments with "as long as it creates value for me as a shareholder" and the like whereas most product-related sites/forums care more about the product and not so much about how much their stock goes up or down.
  • Reply 16 of 55
    hiimamachiimamac Posts: 584member
    I hope Phil does read AI. Why? Welll with apple not haven a GPS turn by turn then tom Tom expensive app, for over a year I have been using the iPhone.



    I jail broke it the other day. I was worried but the apps that do it are flawless. I now have turn by turn plus Tom Tom to try, video recording, mms, MLB tv, flash, free tethering which is actually faster than my wires moms connection plus you can do so many things.



    And there are a lot of developers who got rejected that offer free program or sell them. I am very impressed with what you can do now.



    I remeberance visiting some apple employees and wondered wgstvthe pinapple was when the booted up. Now I know. Lol



    peace all.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post


    I'm no tech writer, but I'm pretty pissed off with the Google Voice thing. I speak as a Google Voice user who purchased GV Mobile from the App Store, and now will not be getting any of the promised upgrades to the software because Apple pulled it.



    I guess in your world Apple shouldn't care about tech savvy users like me, and only care about the majority of non-moaners. Still I personally have been responsible to turning a lot of people into Mac users, both in my personal interactions, and converting my work to almost 100% Mac in the last 5 years.



    The whole Google Voice thing has taken the shine off the iPhone for me. Defending Apple with arguments like "the majority don't care" is fanboyism of the highest order.



  • Reply 17 of 55
    tofinotofino Posts: 697member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    snip



    A flurry of e-mails sent out by Schiller in recent weeks...



    snip



    How many emails in a 'flurry'? two? three? five? a dozen?



    gruber, that guy from panic, who else?

    i guess it's relative...
  • Reply 18 of 55
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Apple can reject out of hand what ever app it wants too.

    Apple owns and runs a closed lucrative universe where some dudes were allowed in and made 300,000. on a frog app /

    After that the race to bottom started and greed reared its ugly head.

    Its really up to apple who get in and stays in . This russian thief got lucky .If i knew you jail broke my iphones i would ban you for life.
  • Reply 19 of 55
    BECAUSE I'm a fanboy, I complain. If I didn't care I wouldn't say anything. I'm fairly tech savvy, but not an IT guy. That said, it's disheartening to hear all the problems that many app developers (it's not a few) are having with unclear expectations from Apple. To be honest, I think Apple was caught off guard on a lot of these things. But I find it worse that they are concerned about other people's content, since the iPhone (and equally iPod Touch) are really handheld computers. As such, we (all of us) would like to run any app that is legal, not just what Apple wants. That's why jailbreaking is so popular. There are tons of apps that I see on jailbroken phones that I'd love to PAY to use. I don't believe I'm alone in this. If the e-reader was buying content from somewhere else, why should that be a concern of Apple's. Then they complain about sharing. Sharing isn't illegal, nor is it immoral. Don't you teach your kids to share. Have you ever lent a friend a book. Welcome to the digital age, eh? I understand porn not being allowed, but that's as far as I feel they should go. This should be a computer on a handheld, since, in essence, that's what it is. I'm no open source guy, but I'm an open discussions and any legal content guy, and that's where I feel Apple is failing and taking advantage of us. It's too bad when someone becomes such a fan that they can no longer be critical - it's okay to be both.



    Why don't I go to Palm, or Blackberry, or WinCE, or symbian or whatever? Because they're not worth complaining about.



    scosee
  • Reply 20 of 55
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post


    I have an honest question. How many of you who think that this is a "non-issue" drummed up by tech reporters are responding based on the value you hold as a shareholder or based on a regular consumer that is tired of erratic behavior when it comes to Apple's decision to block apps, approve apps, then reject them at the drop of a hat, etc?



    I think that the Google Voice rejection was a big deal to a lot of people.



    I simply ask because I see a lot of people here preface or end their comments with "as long as it creates value for me as a shareholder" and the like whereas most product-related sites/forums care more about the product and not so much about how much their stock goes up or down.



    I think it's a real issue because people, including non-techs are being informed about all the apps that they're not allowed to use because of being tied. the tethering was a big deal for a lot of business people that aren't necessarily techies. Google voice for even more people. I don't, and won't, have stock because I am too biased toward the company. But in my house, we have three iPhones, an iPod Touch, and about 8 ipods of various sorts.



    scosee
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