Even as Android lights up developers’ eyes with the sparkling promise of total openness, Apple’s grip continues to tighten around iPhone app development. After being blocked from App Store for “duplicating” iTunes functionality—a dubious argument, for many reasons—Podcaster’s developers turned to a loophole in Apple’s ad hoc app distribution program (mainly for education and testing) to unofficially distribute the app. For $US10, they’d register your iPhone or iPod touch and you’d get Podcaster, totally legit, no jailbreaking or anything. Apple has just blocked the developer, Alex Sokirynsky, from making new ad hoc licenses, effectively killing any further distribution.
Anyone who has already paid and had their phone or iPod registered will still be able to install and use it, though. Apple has apparently given no explanation with its latest stomping on the app, though it’s not like the rationale is obscured by a dense fog of WTF. Unlike its past rejections, however, the straightforward argument that “more open is more betterer,” while applicable generally, in this situation is slightly gimped by the complexities of the specifics in this instance.
The initial blockage of Podcaster was ludicrous, absolutely no question there. But, here, Apple has been exceedingly clear that the App Store is the sole (legitimate) way to get and distribute apps. Is it within their rights then to aggressively shut down unofficial distribution channels, especially when it actually makes use of their own system?
The counter-argument, part of the larger one that they should be more open and less outrightly draconian (it’s scary when someone controls the hardware and the software, no?), is that this is a justified act of civil disobedience, moral codes over legal ones, that kind of thing. (Or hell, not even “open,” just less opaquely capricious and more transparent. Supposedly, now you can’t even talk about why Apple killed your app.) After all, that’s largely the spirit of the iPhone app black market, which amazingly seems to only look more critical as this wears on since from all outward appearances, Apple has no intent of relenting.