Rogue Amoeba quits iPhone development

Stories about App Store submission woes have become standard fare in the tech media of late, which has understandably led to some readers groaning “not another App Store sob story” whenever they come across one. But, as Dan Moren so ably put it, iPhone developers are entitled “to a little respect,” and constantly being on Apple’s case with regard to the App Store approval process is the only way to get them to do something substantial about it.

Adding its name to a rapidly growing list of disgruntled iPhone developers is Rogue Amoeba, makers of fine audio utilities for the Mac, such as Airfoil, Audio Hijack Pro, and Fission. The company has also entered the iPhone app market with Radioshift Touch and Airfoil Speakers Touch. Having shipped version 1.0.0 of Airfoil for the iPhone earlier this year, the folks at Rogue Amoeba quickly went to work on a 1.0.1 update to fix some bugs relating to audio sync when outputting to multiple sources.

Having submitted the updated version in July, they’d expected the app to be available on the store within a week or two, given that it was almost identical to the version already in the store, with merely minor bug fixes. If you’ve read this far, you already know what’s coming next: after being rejected three times, Airfoil Speakers Touch 1.0.1 was made available on the App Store on Friday, after floating in App Store submission limbo for three-and-a-half months.

I recommend checking out this post on the Rogue Amoeba Website by CEO Paul Kafasis to read about the events in detail, but here’s the gist: Apple rejected the update on grounds of trademark infringement because the application displayed a picture of the Mac streaming the audio and an icon of the application whose audio is being streamed.

This, despite the fact that the first version of Airfoil for the iPhone, which was approved by Apple, had the exact same feature and that the feature uses Mac OS X code provided by Apple expressly for this purpose. As Kafasis notes in his missive, it’s no worse than Apple displaying third-party app icons in the Dock and Finder.

After having unsuccessfully re-submitted an unchanged binary to Apple for reconsideration, they took the only available recourse and removed the feature from the app, in accordance with Apple’s demands. Instead, there’s a graphic that you can tap on to visit a Web page about why the icons are missing. That page also suggests that you consider donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization that lobbies for Internet freedom.

Perhaps the most important part of Kafasis’s post comes at the end, where he states that Rogue Amoeba will be scrapping any plans to develop new iPhone applications for the foreseeable future and that updates to existing applications will also be few and far between. And, just like that, yet another passionate Mac developer walks out of the App Store, frustrated by its inane and inconsistent policies and their heavy-handed implementation.

It’s been more than a year since the App Store opened its doors; there are currently more than 100,000 applications that have cumulatively been downloaded more than two billion times. The argument that Apple is still new to this just doesn’t fly anymore.

Apple’s attempts to fix the App Store in the past year have been lukewarm at best. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the Mac, Mac OS X, the iPod, iPhone, Apple Online Store, and the iTunes Store is incapable of making the App Store work the way it should.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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