As a worldwide chorus of mobile developers howls over Apple's unwillingness to discuss the ins and outs of the iPhone App Store, Steve Jobs and his minions are providing at least one app seller with its very own support rep.
According to Mike Simon - CEO of LogMeIn, the newly-public remote control outfit whose $30 iPhone app has raked in at least a million dollars since its debut in late December - an Apple rep phoned the company sometime over the past few months to offer ongoing assistance with any App Store issues that might arise.
"We now have a number we can call to ask questions," Simon told The Reg. But he declined to elaborate. Simon knows of one other app vendor who has this sort of personal App Store rep. He declined to name the company, but both it and LogMeIn have received conspicuous placement in Apple's TV and print ads for the App Store.
In the case of LogMeIn, Apple unilaterally chose the company's app for inclusion in the ads. The iPhone's SDK agreement gives Apple the right to do so. "When we opened up the Wall Street Journal and saw the ad, we were as surprised as anyone else to see our name there," Simon told us. When the ads first appeared, LogMeIn's interaction with Apple was almost non-existent - outside of Apple approving the sale of the company's App Store app, LogMeIn Ignition, which lets iPhone users access their PC and Mac desktops via the net.
Apple has not responded to our request for comment. Typically, when the company rejects an App Store submission, it gives the developer an email address where he can ask why the app was bounced. But many complain that Apple provides precious little information via email and that its gatekeeping policies are inconsistent at best. In recent weeks, even Google said it didn't know why its Google Voice telephony app was rejected by Apple's gatekeepers, and apparently, it took the FCC to get a (semi-)answer out of Apple.
LogMeIn is one of the few tech outfits to go public amid the sagging worldwide economy. The company's lead banker was originally Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose bankruptcy sparked last September's Wall Street crash, but in July, LogMeIn became only the fourth venture-backed IPO of 2009, raising $107m with its public debut.
In April 2008, before the opening of the iPhone App Store, LogMeIn told The Reg that its original application to the iPhone developer program was rejected - as was the case with so many developers just after the program was introduced.
At the time, LogMeIn was intent on providing an iPhone incarnation of its LogMeIn Rescue tool, which would allow IT outfits to provide technical support for Jobsian handhelds. Whereas LogMeIn Ignition affords remote PC control via an iPhone, a Rescue app would provide remote iPhone control via a PC. But since Apple won't allow third-party background apps on the iPhone, this isn't feasible. You can't initiate a remote control connection unless there's a background app waiting for your call.
Without a background option, the company pulled together LogMeIn Ignition instead. Simon says the app made more in its first week in the App Store than the company expected it to make in a year. And according to Apple, it's now the 18th highest grossing app in the App Store. LogMeIn bills it as a business app, a tool that "lets you carry your PC desktop on your iPhone."
Quickoffice - whose Word and Excel file-editing office suite is ranked among the top 40 grossers in the App store - says it has not been granted the sort of support phone number that LogMeIn has. The company, by the way, has been featured in Apple's Japanese TV ads.
Yelp, Loopt, EA, and other high-profile iPhone app vendors that we attempted to contact have not responded to our requests for comment. But Loopt and EA are likely to have tighter relationships with Apple's App Store staff than most developers. Both took the stage at public Apple events trumpeting the App Store.
But separate from existing poster children like Loopt and EA, Apple seems to be softening its code of App Store silence. In recent weeks, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing personally emailed both a blogger and a developer who had criticized Apple's App Store policies/whims. ®
Rik Myslewski contributed research for this article.
Update: This story has been updated to remove suggestions that Loopt has been able to run an iPhone background app.