I don’t really understand why the rejection of an Android magazine in the Apple store caused such a stir in the media. It’s not the first time that Apple is trying to control the content they expose on their servers and it certainly won’t be the last.
Apple has pretty clear descriptions of the kind of content that they allow and disallow on their servers, although the list of banned content seems to be growing too long for even Apple to keep up with, if Louis Gray’s investigations are any indication.
Let me be clear, here: it’s Apple’s absolute right to reject any kind of content they do not approve of, but I’m surprised how much of the press is giving them a pass on the reason behind this decision. Whenever Steve Jobs makes an unpopular decision about the platform he controls, he usually argues that the only way to provide a fantastic user experience is to control that experience from top to bottom. While Android has shown that this was not the only way, this approach certainly seems to work great for Apple and there is therefore no reason to deviate from it.
However, it’s easy to see that the rejection of this Android magazine has nothing to do with user experience: the motivation is clearly dictated by an effort to expose their user to the competition as little as possible. Again, I see absolutely no problem with that but I wish that next time that Jobs justifies the dictatorial control he exerts on the iOS platform by the necessity of providing the best user experience, the press will call him on this bogus claim.
Having said this, quite a few aspects of this story have been ignored by the media, and I’d like to address them here.
First of all, why did the author of this magazine bother submitting the application at all? Surely they knew that they were going to be rejected? Which leads me to think that they had actually nothing to lose by doing so: either the magazine gets accepted and they win, or the application gets rejected and they can then blog about it, thereby drawing more attention and publicity to their application than it would ever have received otherwise.
Let’s turn our attention to Apple: maybe they would have been better off accepting the application. The magazine would have gone mostly unnoticed and the negative press could have been avoided. Apple doesn’t seem to have anticipated this and they have now put their advocates in the awkward position of having to defend what looks like an anti-competitive practice while fueling the growing number of critics who are more and more seeing Apple as a worse monopolist than Microsoft ever was.
More importantly, what does this say about Android and Apple’s perception of Google’s mobile platform?
Do you think that Apple would have equally rejected a magazine dedicated to the LiMo platform? I’m not so sure about that. If anything, Apple’s move is yet another admission that Android is looking every day more threatening to Apple, which is now taking every opportunity to contain its emergence.
Overall, I think Apple made a mistake by rejecting this application and that it needs to start learning fast that it can only go so far with the exclusive support of its fans. More than ever, Apple’s next challenge will be to win over skeptics and critics, something that Steve Jobs has never really felt much need for during his whole career.