The elusive angry iPhone developer.

Angry? Not really.

Frasier Speirs does a nice take-down of some world-class jackassery as practiced by InformationWeek's Alexander Wolfe in his whimsically titled piece iPhone Developers Angry At Apple's Tight Control.

This one's so good (or bad) that it deserves a good piling on.

Let's go!

For example, on Sunday Phonemag reported that the SDK contains a tidbit noting that the iPhone won't run more than one app at a time, so when users switch applications, whatever is running in the background will get killed.

From Apple's standpoint, this is done to maintain decent performance. However, developers are likely to see it as just another screwing. Me, I want to know what's supposed to happen if you're in the middle of something important and your iPhone rings. Does your app blow up?

Say, you're new around here, aren'tcha! Have you ever actually seen an iPhone?

Speirs gets this one:

Yes, the only possible explanation for what happens when another app is launched is that the iPhone deliberately crashes the one you're working in. For "blow up", let's substitute "get suspended, saving its data for later resumption" and then we can answer yes.

Now, did Wolfe really think the application would "blow up"? Probably not. He's just being a jerk.

There's lots of complaining about the fact that all iPhone apps have to be approved by Apple, will be sold by Apple, and Apple will get a 30% cut of all sales.

Lots of complaining, but no links for some reason. As it turns out, 30% for what Apple's providing is pretty good. Microsoft's Mobile2Market program for Windows Mobile suggests using Handango as a service to provide the hosting and branding Apple provides and Handango takes 40%.

Turns out, though, that developers are limited in what iPhone functions that can tap for the apps they're building, according to Adam Houghton's post on his eponymous blog. Houghton characterizes as a "glaring" omission his discovery that developers can't access calendar appointments, music, and videos from the phone's iPod app, nor phone and SMS functionality.

Indeed he does. But is Adam really angry about Apple's control? Is he storming around his house throwing things and kicking the cat? Positively apoplectic? Red-faced, his fists clenched in fury as he slams them down repeatedly on his iPhone, screaming "Die! Die! Die!"

Eh, not so much.

Overall, I think Apple did a great job with the SDK, and released a powerful, comprehensive environment for developers.

You don't say! Well, what are your plans now, Adam?

Now, back to happily writing code with the iPhone SDK...

Well! It's hard to describe him as angry at anything but having his words misinterpreted.

OK. OK. Well, let's keep looking for these angry developers who seem to be harder to find than a Macalope at WinHEC. Speirs then quotes one Jonathan Dodds thusly:

"If you as a developer get an application or two approved for the App Store and it later turns that you're breaking Apple's rules, it seems safe to presume that one of Apple's possible recourses is to revoke your certificate and all your (as in signed with your cert) iPhone OS applications will stop working."

OK. Dodds doesn't seem to be angry here, he just seems to be clarifying a point. Indeed, reading Dodd's posts, it's really pretty hard to come away with the feeling he's "angry" at all. About anything. Ever. It's possible he sent Wolfe a really angry email about the whole thing, detailing how it kept him up all night and he baked a pie and when he ate it all it tasted like was bitter resentment, but that hardly seems likely. [ADDENDUM: In comments, Dodds confirms he's not angry, but actually rather excited.]

So what else ya got, Alex?

How is Apple's rule that only apps it has signed can run on the iPhone going to play when it comes to corporate applications? One commenter on Slashdot summed it up nicely:

As Speirs says "...and that's the point at which you have to laugh and close the tab." Quite. But even this point is a red herring.

Suppose I want to distribute my app, which implements an interface to my service? It is not a publicly available service and I don't particularly care to distribute my app to anyone under the sun.

It's hard to describe a Slashdot comment as "much" ado, so let's just say it's little ado about nothing.

Apple was asked this question in the Q&A following the keynote and there will be an AppStore for internal corporate deployment. Jacqui Cheng's piece was published three days before Wolfe's, the day of the SDK announcement. And kudos to Jacqui for asking a great question, unlike some other Blockheads [sic].

So, again, the number of developers Wolfe quoted who had actual anger that was based on fact, not fiction?

Zero.

That's not to say there aren't people complaining. Rogue Amoeba, for example, is taking the position that everything developers don't like about the deal should be logged as a bug (disclosure: Rogue Amoeba has been an advertiser on the Macalope's web sites). [ADDENDUM: This shouldn't really be a novel concept. Rogue Amoeba's Paul Kafasis notes that Apple explicitly solicits this kind of feedback.] In another post, they've also raised some serious concerns about code signing, a technology that provides security benefits but give Apple a lot of control as the arbiter of all things that run on the platform.

Rogue Amoeba CEO/Lackey Paul Kafasis doesn't seem angry so much as he does disappointed, largely because iPhone development of some of the applications his company makes is likely impossible given the SDK's current restrictions. Via email, Paul says:

Overall, the SDK is obviously still a good thing. Certainly after reflection, we're less than enthusiastic about some of the restrictions. iPhone development overall will be big, but I don't know just how much we'll be doing with it. We still have plans for working on the iPhone, but we're taking things slower than we'd like, and waiting to see how things shake out.

He's hopeful that Apple will relax some of these restrictions if there's enough pressure.

As it stands, the iPhone is a very locked-down platform almost reminiscent of game consoles. For us, that's a far less interesting platform for which to develop. We hope Apple will open things up further, but whether they do or not, the iPhone is still going to continue selling. This is really a question of the device reaching its full potential - we're certainly not saying "The iPhone will flop unless...", but "The iPhone can be even more powerful if..."

Like John Gruber, the Macalope's not sure he personally bites into Rogue Amoeba's entire enchilada, but they do raise some good points. And, contrary to popular belief, Apple does respond to criticism.

Well, sometimes.

OK, once.

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About the author

    Born of the earth, forged in fire, the Macalope was branded "nonstandard" and "proprietary" by the IT world and considered a freak of nature. Part man, part Mac, and part antelope, the Macalope set forth on a quest to save his beloved platform. Long-eclipsed by his more prodigious cousin, the jackalope (they breed like rabbits, you know), the Macalope's time has come. Apple news and rumormonger extraordinaire, the Macalope provides a uniquely polymorphic approach. Disclosure.

     

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