In silico veritas.

Apple’s infrastructure problem, ctd.

Posted: October 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Tech | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Well, that didn’t take long. Apple has released its app review guidelines for the Mac App Store, and sure enough, they’ve imported most of the iOS App Store guidelines over wholesale. (You needn’t go far to find out why I think this is a bad move.) Engadget’s Nilay Patel points out some of the more egregious offenders:

  • 2.1 Apps that crash will be rejected.
  • 2.2 Apps that exhibit bugs will be rejected.
  • 2.6 Apps that are “beta”, “demo”, “trial”, or “test” versions will be rejected.
  • 2.14 Apps must be packaged and submitted using Apple’s packaging technologies included in Xcode – no third party installers allowed.
  • 2.19 Apps that require license keys or implement their own copy protection will be rejected.
  • 2.20 Apps that present a license screen at launch will be rejected.
  • 2.21 Apps may not use update mechanisms outside of the App Store.
  • 2.24 Apps that use deprecated or optionally installed technologies (e.g., Java, Rosetta) will be rejected.
  • 6.2 Apps that look similar to Apple Products or apps bundled on the Mac, including the Finder, iChat, iTunes, and Dashboard, will be rejected.
  • 6.3 Apps that do not use system provided items, such as buttons and icons, correctly and as described in the Apple Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines will be rejected.
  • 7.4 Apps containing “rental” content or services that expire after a limited time will be rejected.
  • 7.6 In general, the more expensive your app, the more thoroughly we will review it.
  • 9.2 Apps that rapidly drain a products battery or generate excessive heat will be rejected.
  • 11.1 Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected.
  • 11.3 “Enemies” within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.
  • 11.5 Apps that include games of Russian roulette will be rejected.

I’ve left out Nilay’s commentary on each of these points — you can click through at the second link above to read his thoughts in the original post. But I’ll add a couple of thoughts of my own.

One of the most glaring points that I saw in the selection above was the juxtaposition of items 6.2 and 6.3. Apple has set forth very specific and exacting guidelines as to how all software on its OS is supposed to look and perform as the UI is concerned…and yet also says it will reject third-party apps that closely resemble first-party apps? This is simply preposterous. Apple’s UI guidelines all but demand that Mac OS apps resemble native first-party apps precisely because Steve Jobs has always wanted a unified user experience across the OS. As Nilay rightly points out, there isn’t a single Mac app that doesn’t in some way resemble one of the major system components, especially the ones 6.2 specifically mentions.

Without rehashing yesterday’s argument too much, I have to say this move by Apple is baffling me more and more. I get the argument for a closed and curated mobile platform — you can argue that your smartphone is responsible for so many important aspects of your life, communication and otherwise, that you want it to be as stable as possible, especially while you’re out and about. Given that your phone is far less user-serviceable (in terms of hardware and software) than your personal computer, it makes sense to maximize stability at the cost of removing some degree of user freedom.

Computers are, of course, different beasts altogether. Naturally, stability is a virtue here as well — Apple’s dedication to in-house hardware and software work certainly evinces that — but the methods by which we interface with our computers are far more robust than those on our smartphones. With the latter, you are essentially limited to the touchscreen (and possibly a physical keyboard on some models) and a single I/O port, be it Apple’s 30-pin dock connector or a micro-USB port. Compare this to your computer, which has both a mouse (and/or trackpad) and keyboard, as well as numerous I/O ports of varying types. The greater flexibility afforded to the user on the larger device affords him or her far more control over the device far more easily; everything from changing Dock orientations and desktop wallpapers to Terminal hacks that alter fundamental parts of the OS X UI is possible on your computer. This is obviously not the case on your phone: users have no access to command-line functions (without jailbreaking), and so they have little to no recourse if one bad phone app seriously damages the integrity of their device.

So why bother with a similarly-curated app store on a more flexible, more powerful, and more user-accessible platform? Given the fact that Mac users will be able to “sideload” apps onto their computer from all sorts of other venues, the Mac App Store will hardly diminish the “threat” posed by poorly-designed apps. Users have greater recourse in dealing with such problems on their Macs; they don’t need Steve Jobs holding their hands all along the way. Since the Mac App Store’s use obviously won’t be mandatory, it’s not as big a potential subject for debate as the iOS App Store. But the Mac App Store still seems thoroughly unnecessary to me. Apple could be focusing its efforts on more productive ventures than simply slapping mobile features onto the desktop.

One Comment on “Apple’s infrastructure problem, ctd.”

  1. 1 David Dreshfield » Blog Archive » Apple’s infrastructure problem, revisited said at 2:37 AM on February 2nd, 2012:

    […] time since I wrote about my concerns about the increasing iOSification of OS X in 10.7 Lion and the Mac App Store. Since then, we’ve seen new reports of tweaks and enhancements that will help further improve an […]

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