As has been widely reported at this point, we are very sorry to announce that Apple removed our VoiceCentral app from the App Store. This happened suddenly, swiftly and with virtually no advance notice from Apple.
Repeated emails yesterday to Apple have still been ignored at this point. We did receive a voicemail at our main office from the same Richard who called our competitor. Unfortunately it wasn’t until today that we were able to connect for our “conversation”. The word conversation really doesn’t cover it because what transpired was not informative by design and felt like theater of the absurd. It went roughly like this:
Richard: “I’m calling to let you know that VoiceCentral has been removed from the App Store because it duplicates features of the iPhone.”
Me: “I don’t understand that reasoning. By that logic wouldn’t apps like Textfree, Skype, fring, or iCall be considered duplicates?”
Richard: “I can’t discuss other apps with you.”
Me: “It’s not the apps themselves I want to discuss just the lack of consistency in rule enforcement.”
Richard: “I can only say that yours duplicates features of the iPhone and was causing confusion in the user community. It’s against our policy.”
Me: “So what has changed that it is now against policy? It has been in the store for the last 4 months with no problem. There wasn’t a problem for the 1.5 months prior to that when you were ‘reviewing’ it. And this didn’t come up with any of the updates we submitted after it was already in the store.”
Richard: “I can’t say – only that yours is not complying with our policy.”
Me: “Can you tell me what portions of the app were duplicate features?”
Richard: “I can’t go into granular detail.”
Me: “Is there something we can change or alter in order to regain compliance and get back in the Store?”
Richard: “I can’t say.”
Me: “Well if we can’t figure out the issue then how will we know whether to resubmit the app. And how will we know whether to invest in any other development efforts? Future apps could be impacted.”
Richard: “I can’t help you with that”
Me: “So how do we know whether it is still viable for us to consider Apple a partner if this is how the scenario plays out. If you were in my shoes would you continue to invest blood, sweat, tears and money in something that can be killed off at any moment without your say so?”
Richard: “I understand your point but I can’t help you with that.”
Me: “Surely someone there at Apple asked you to make this phone call. Can I speak with that person about this?”
Richard: “I am the only one you can speak with on this subject.”
Me: “There has to be someone there I can actually have a back and forth with so that we can make some strategic decisions on whether this partnership makes any sense.”
Richard: “You can only talk to me”
Me: “Nothing personal since I know you have just been tasked to make this call but we aren’t really talking here. There’s no back and forth and you aren’t allowed to answer any questions. Can I implore you to ask your managers if there is anyone who would be willing to speak with me and have a real conversation? I don’t care if it needs to be off the record or we need to sign another top-secret NDA but we really have nothing to go on at this point. We will need to make business decisions on whether it makes any sense to continue developing.”
Richard: “I will relay that to my managers.”
Now please understand some things lost in the writing of the above dialogue:
- First and foremost, the above is quoted just for grammatical presentation and none of it should be considered actual quotations. The conversation followed that basic path but included several other pleasantries and elements that I eliminated so it didn’t get any longer than it already was.
- Second, while I knew early on that our little chat wasn’t going to go anywhere I felt it my personal mission to make him understand the difficulty of the position it puts us in. As in: We are just a small business trying to make it in these tough times and yet we will have to answer to our shared customers so give us something we can tell them.
- Finally, Richard was extremely professional and very nice in every way. He was however absolutely impenetrable when it came to getting useful information. But in the end he was the messenger and we will not shoot him. We simply hope that he does in fact relay my heartfelt request for a real conversation to his management. Hopefully one of them will be empowered enough to take us up on that.
Where do we go from here?
I’d like to know that answer too. I have my opinion on it but that’s not all that important. What is far more important is the way it was handled. Once again the developer is treated terrible, given no data, and left to go back empty-handed, palms up to the collective user community.
We won’t make any rash decisions until the smoke clears a little over the next few days. We are going to do some more digging and weigh some more options before we announce our plans. But we will say this: someone at Apple owes us a better explanation if not an apology. (My preference would be to speak with Steve Jobs but so far we have not had a response to our email.)
What can you do?
Complain to Apple: http://www.apple.com/feedback/iphone.html
Complain to AT&T: 1-800-331-0500
Stay tuned for more info and announcements here and via Twitter. If you have the app already please know that it will continue to function “as is” for the moment, it will just be impossible for us to provide fixes and improvements obviously. Also spread this blog post so that maybe Apple will get the message even if Richard didn’t come through!
Apple left us with no choice so we have created our own way around the app store woes. Check out VoiceCentral Black Swan Edition here: http://voicecentral.riverturn.com
Tags: Things We Don't Like