Let their be no mistake. Apple single handedly built a multi-billion dollar business. They did it with blood, they did it with sweat, and I'm sure they did it with tears. It is theirs and they own it. They should and do guard it jealously, as any company would be wise to do. Right now, the existence of Apple is tied up in iOS. Without iOS, Apple is not what it is today. It's not just iOS itself, though. Look at the halo of companies and people that have grown up to play in the ecosystem that Apple has created.
There are the tools vendors, companies and individuals that build tools to support iOS. Analytics, crash reporting, build distribution, remote debugging and many, many more tools.
Then there are the ad networks. Multi-million dollar companies, on average, that level resources into making devs money and boosting app exposure. The list of these is long. It's estimated that this industry, already a multi-billion dollar industry now, will grow to be many multiple billions as time spent on devices catches an appropriate amount of advertiser spend.
There are peripheral manufacturers, the folks that make cases, pedometers, headphones and a million other doo-dads that you only know you need when you see them. I'm not sure how big this industry is, but it cannot be insignificant or else it would not be so crowded.
But, first and foremost, there are the app developers. Ranging from single individuals in basements all the way to other multi-billion dollar conglomerates, app development on iOS is in itself a multi-billion dollar business. What's more, it can be argued that this is where the real allure of iOS comes from. It's not the fact that my phone can surf the web that made iOS so attractive to so many millions of people, though that was of course revolutionary.
No, it's the fact that I can get a tide and surf report for the exact spot I'm standing on when I'm on vacation, or that I can follow along with my fantasy team while I'm at the park with my kids, getting instant updates as all the games progress, or that pregnant moms can wake up every morning to a new look at just what the child growing in them is like right now. And so many other uses.
The people that make these delightfully useful apps are the real treasure of iOS (or any modern mobile platform). And with that treasure comes a responsibility.
I have written about Greg's story, how an indie dev made it but had it snatched from him by unspoken rules. I've witnessed it many times: soulless, non-obvious rules in a document coming to life in new interpretations that strike fear into the hearts of people and industries.
This is serious business. People make their livings on this. Many, many people. You want to strike fear in the heart of a man or woman? Tell them that their way of life is being compromised.
Now, let's not forget that Apple is the sole arbiter here. They can most certainly do whatever they would like. It can also be argued that they're generally alright in how they govern this ecosystem. After all, there is at least some modicum of stability that has allowed this industry to bloom.
But, they could do it better.
I believe that by adding two things they could infuse a greater level of stability into the iOS ecosystem: transparency and due process.
First off, transparency. Apple is a notorious black box. Often, no one outside of Apple knows how or why a decision is made. This leads to fear and uncertainty and, in extreme cases, panic. Rumors of app rejections pervade these industries. One app gets rejected for something unusual and the entire industry stands up to see if this is some new, unspoken policy that Apple is pushing.
If Apple were to publish new policies, either in conjunction with the new rounds of rejections or in advance, it would help alleviate some of the risk and uncertainty in the industry. Others could change course and not lose valuable time and sleep guessing what things mean.
Secondly, Apple could institute some kind of due process when an app is rejected or taken down. I'm not sure what this looks like in practice, but with stories like Greg's he was just left in the cold, with little to no recourse, staring at dreams washing away.
Setting up a process wherein Greg could at the least gain understanding of what he violated (remember, in Greg's case, the rules were unspoken until his app launched) would go a long way. Allowing him to challenge that decision would be even better. This doesn't guarantee his app stays in the store, but it gives him a chance to defend and speak to why it should stay in the store. It allows him the opportunity to defend his way of life.
In the end, Apple is a dictator. And, truthfully, they should remain so. But becoming a bit more benevolent would do them well. Instituting new policies and procedures of transparency and due process would reassure the industry as a whole. It would also go a long way to protecting Apple's most valuable treasure: the people that build the apps.