Many of this week’s readings express concern about the degree of control Apple possesses over the development and distribution of apps for iOS platforms. Some articles, like Business Insider’s “Apple’s 10 Dumbest iPhone App Rejections” are characterized by a sense of humorous frustration at what seem like arbitrary or misguided reasons for disapproving apps. At times, these rejections are more than just a simple oversight. As a 2009 investigation by the Federal Communications Commission hints at, Apple perhaps had ulterior economic motives for rejecting Google Voice as an app.
But in this post I would like to turn to some more recent tensions between Google and Apple. Firstly, there is the case in which the Youtube app dropped off the homescreen of the iPhone and had to be resubmitted. In some sense, this wasn’t such a tragedy. The modified Youtube app was able to expand its selected offerings by tens of thousands of videos once it freed itself from the restrictive advertising policy Apple had hitherto subjected it to. (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/losing-its-place-on-the-iphone-youtube-introduces-a-new-iphone-app/) But nevertheless, it demonstrates a growing realization on the part of Apple that it can control the way applications are distributed on its platforms.
The second development I would like to bring up concerns the ongoing competition between Google Maps and Apple’s own map application. As most of you know, Apple has long ago switched over from Google Maps on the iPhone to its own markedly inferior app, and even today Google periodically voices complaints on the subject. In an article appearing this past November in the Guardian, Google has expressed concerns that when they complete their Google Maps app for the iPhone it will be rejected by Apple. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/nov/05/google-maps-doubt-iphone) Sometimes, it is hard to know how seriously to take these comments. But while this smacks of sensationalism, Google points out that Apple does not currently include any mapping App that uses the Google Maps’ APIs, even when it comes to well known apps like Maps+. Even in this week’s readings, it was shown that Google Latitude has similarly encountered rejection by Apple. So the situation already seems to be rather problematic.
Still, in most cases Apple has the right to exclude or the control apps it sells even though it might seem unfair. Apple is making it increasingly less convenient to use non-Apple software, but even then, one must remember that app users and developers still have the option of turning to other channels of obtaining and distributing apps. Although I sympathize with some of the concerns discussed in this week’s readings, for the time being, Google will just have to be content with complaining.
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Update: Google Maps now on iOS App Store…….