A few weeks ago, we wrote about Steven Frank, a well-known Mac developer who was giving up his iPhone over his disgust with the ways Apple is managing the App Store. (This was right before Mike also gave up his iPhone). Well, Frank is already considering coming back. Why? Because once again Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller has extended an olive branch to try and calm the waters.
This follows Schiller emailing Daring Fireball’s John Gruber last week, also about issues with the App Store. But unlike Schiller’s email to Gruber, which was about a specific instance, his email to Frank seems as if it was a more general one. It’s hard to know for sure because Frank didn’t ask Schiller for permission to republish it (which Gruber did), but he did summarize parts of it.
Basically, it sounds like Schiller and others at Apple read this post by Frank, laying out what would have to change in the App Store in order for him to go back to using an iPhone. Frank says that Schiller took exception to the rumor that Apple had begun widely banning e-books, saying there was only one specific example where that was the case over a copyright issue. But Schiller did apparently acknowledge many of the other problems that Frank had with the store. As Frank summarized it, Schiller said, “we’re listening to your feedback.”
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, but it’s hard to take these two emails by Schiller as anything but a good sign. It’s still perplexing to me that one of Apple’s Senior VPs, basically the second or third best known guy at the company (it’s the same Phil Schiller than has run the past few keynotes in Jobs’ absence), is the one reaching out here after months of basically no communication from anyone else at Apple. Certainly, they have a PR team, I’m just not sure why Apple was forcing them to be silent, only to have an executive speak on the matter.
It’s great that Schiller is saying these things, so that he’ll be held accountable for them, but it’s kind of crazy that it has come to that. Clearly, Apple knows there are some very real problems with the App Store process. But the issue is now: How do they fix them?
Communication is the first step, but it will still be difficult to drastically overhaul the system that is already so massive and gaining size everyday. But I have to believe they’ll be able to do it. Too much money is on the line now with the iPhone for them not to.
To summarize what I wrote this weekend (so you don’t have to read all 3,500+ words — though, feel free to!), I think it’s foolish to think that Apple will just let these problems go on forever without fixing them. Some use the argument that they believe Apple has malicious intentions in trying to control the App Store. I have always believed that its screw-ups were simply a result of two things: 1) Its desire above all else to make a great product, which has lead to what many (including myself in a number of situations) consider to be perverse levels of controls. And 2) The fact that it had no idea the App Store would explode in popularity the way that it has. It wasn’t ready for it, and it has shown.
It’s time for Apple to step up and fix the App Store. And Schiller’s recent efforts seem to suggest that they’re ready to do just that. It’s when they’re not saying anything, that you really have to worry. Which they weren’t — for months.