Again lifting its famous veil of silence, Apple has responded to a prominent blogger angry about its arbitrary iPhone App Store approval procedures.
But Apple's new found, uh, openness is not being expressed in official company pronouncements or press releases, but rather through personal emails sent by the company's SVP for worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller.
Last week, Schiller responded - albeit in a somewhat convoluted and ill-informed fashion - to a posting on a John Gruber's Daring Fireball blog post that took Apple to task for what appeared at first blush to be an act of censorship of an iPhone dictionary app, Ninjawords.
Now comes word that Schiller sent another personal email to a developer "furious with Apple and AT&T" about Apple's rejection of the Google Voice app and other third-party apps based on that service.
The latest developer to receive a Schillerian emollient was Steven Frank of long-time Mac software house Panic, developers of the Transmit 3 FTP utility, Coda web-development software, CandyBar 3 icon customizer, and more.
On his personal blog, Frank last week lambasted Apple over the Google Voice decision and vowed that - even though he had been a devoted Apple fan for many years - he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. Frank swore off "any future iPhone OS based devices" until Apple got its App Store act together.
"I’ve reached a point where I can no longer just sit back and watch this," Frank wrote in that post. "The iPhone ecosystem is toxic, and I can’t participate any more until it is fixed. As people have told me so many times: It’s Apple’s ballgame, and Apple gets to make the rules, and if I don’t like it, I can leave. So, I don’t like it, and I’m leaving."
After receiving a personal email from Schiller, however, Frank is now reconsidering.
Unlike Gruber, Frank declined to release the contents of Schiller's email. He did, however, summarize Schiller's missive as saying "We’re listening to your feedback."
As a developer whose livelihood is based on a cordial relationship with Apple, Frank was understandably concerned when he saw first saw that he had received a message from Schiller. "Concerned," however, might be understated. "I had a minor freakout" is how Frank explained his initial reaction.
But his concern melted after he read what he referred to as "such a courteous, polite, and reassuring email."
But Frank isn't enough of a newbie naïf to be completely mollified by Schiller's noblesse oblige. "Technically, nothing specific has actually visibly changed in the last few days," he wrote. Referring to his self-imposed boycott, he reminded his readers that "I said I wouldn’t go back until I could see actual demonstrable progress being made."
And so for Frank, Gruber, and all the developers and iPhone owners who have been buffeted by the App Store's heavy-handed policies, the ball remains in Apple's court.
"Let’s push that communication down from executives-to-bloggers to app-store-to-developers,' Frank wrote, "and I think we’ve really got a breakthrough." ®