There has been some posturing about the approval process for iPhone applications by some developers who think that Apple needs to pre-approve their application ideas before they waste all their time and effort on creating their product.  Some have gone on to cite capitalist economy theories and opportunity cost of the time they spend creating the application when they could be focusing their energy on other products.  These arguments hold quite a bit of truth–from a developer standpoint.  After all, who wants to spend all of their time writing an application that will never come to fruition.  I certainly wouldn’t, nor would you.  Could you imagine slaving for months over a project that you truly believe in, only to have your dreams thwarted by Apple’s vague responses that have ranged from “don’t copy our software” to “not enough people will use this.”  Who the hell died and made them the innovation police?  Seriously, for a company that “thinks different,” we’re sure seeing a lot of the same corporate crap that other companies have been feeding us for years.  Developers were told that they could “trust” Apple, and that the only thing that would be turned away was that pornesque application.  Now it’s fart jokes, tethering, movie ratings, and podcasting tools at the end of Apple’s vague responses.  Hardly capitalist, and totally monopolistic if you ask me.  In a year of huge failures (read mobile me, iphone 2.0), the Appstore is quickly turning into more of the same.  It’s sad, but it’s starting to look like the Appstore was more of a concept that centered around the user experience, and was completely unprepared for the needs of developers.  If you don’t have applications being written, how are you going to get customers to buy them? The logical step would have been to create a paradigm for applications first, and then figure out how you were going to sell them. I know it’s a little backwards for Apple to work this way, but in this case it has to be done.

Now, while I completely agree that Apple needs to articulate what is acceptable and what is inappropraite, I do not agree that Apple needs to coddle the developers during the application creation process.  Does any other company do that?  Can you name me one tech company that holds the hands of developers through their creation process?  I can’t think of any.  So, lets take a step back here and compare Apple’s AppStore to another store.  Walmart.  Does Walmart preapprove all the products they’re going to sell?  Does Walmart care about all the time spent on those T-shirts with the Nazi Logo?  No way.  There is one main difference here between the Walmart and Apple comparision that highlights the real problem with the AppStore.  If a company wants to sell something at Walmart and Walmart says “no” the producers can still get their products to consumers through other “legitimate” means.  Maybe it’s at a Target, maybe it’s at the specialty T-shirt store across the street.  At the end of the day the T-Shirt is still being sold to consumers and the producers are still getting paid for their efforts.

The AppStore is a whole different scenario.  If Apple tells you no, there is no way for you to sell your product commercially without breaking the SDK rules.  That’s the real problem here.  Your options are to sell it through Apple, distribute it in Ad Hoc mode, or go the jailbroken route.  Plan B and plan C are not exactly the best options if you’re hoping to turn a mediocre profit.

Apple shouldn’t have to “preapprove” applications before they hit the production line, but they certainly should not be pigeon holing developers into one avenue for selling their applications.  Could you imagine if this is the future for OS X.  That wouldn’t fly, so why should it fly for the iPhone?  This leads us to a pretty big fork in the road.  Developers are going to either take their ball home entirely, or they’re going to be finding a new group of friends to play with. “Limited utility” meet “supply and demand.”  It’s 2008 and users are smarter then ever.  They know that their iPhones are capable of being a modem.  They know that all they need to do it is add a simple application.  They know where they can find it.  Do I want to unlock my iphone so I can get the application I want, that I was willing to fork money over for?  Nope.  Will I?  Yup.  I’m willing to bet that most of these innovative applications that are being turned away because of corporate concerns, both past and future, will find their way onto the iPhones of users who want them.  I’m willing to pay 20.00 for a tethering application instead of being gouged by AT&T for another $10.00-$15.00 per month.  I’ll see you all in line for installer.app where applications are free to be what the developer wanted, and consumer interests are put ahead of corporate stupidity.  Heck I’m even willing to pay for these applications–go figure.