Apple, help me... help YOU.

Summary:Is it just me or do all of us feel like we're in the midst of a dysfunctional relationship as Apple customers, developers and content suppliers?

Special Report: Apple iPad

Is it just me or do all of us feel like we're in the midst of a dysfunctional relationship  as Apple customers, developers and content suppliers?

Apple, I'm sorry to say that it has come to this. But you're making it very, very difficult for me to love you.

Let me begin this entire missive with the admission that I haven't been particularly nice to you or your fans the last few years, but this is because I have been closely observing your behavior and what I have seen disturbs me greatly.

Indeed, I am not a Mac guy. Over the years I've explained why. I don't need one. I have no practical use for one nor do I wish to pay the premium for ownership of one given how quickly I outgrow my hardware. Instead I use Windows and Linux in combination with commodity systems. It's nothing personal. It's just me.

I also don't own an iPhone or an iPod, and I've also explained in the past why that's the case. For the longest time I was a corporate email user on BlackBerry and I also don't collect a ton of music, preferring my content to be streamed and spoon-fed to me on the radio or on SIRIUS XM. Indeed, when the time came for me to leave BlackBerry-land and AT&T, I ventured towards the fresh, open fields of Android and Verizon.

I had come very close to writing you off entirely. However, you did something that made me take notice of you, and I couldn't ignore it -- you announced the iPad.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Unrequited iPad Love

I was so enchanted with the potential of what it could do that I whipped out my American Express card and bought one on pre-order the second you opened your store. In good faith, and based on demos alone. Because even though I have long-standing issues with you, I knew that it would be a quality engineered product, and you would deliver me exactly what I wanted.
My iPad hasn't even gotten here yet. It won't arrive until next Saturday, April 3. As a member of the press I haven't had any hands-on with one whatsoever. Not even the emulator in the SDK. But I know it will be fantastic. Apple, with the iPad, you had me at hello.

That being said, I have... concerns.

My family has asked me why I am getting into a relationship with you again, after more than a 25 year hiatus.

My colleagues say I am drunk with gadget lust. I counter this accusation with the user experience the iPad is going to offer, and that as a technology writer I want and need to be fluent in leading technology trends, so it's easy for me to cost justify what seems by others to be a frivolous purchase.

Apple, my readers are asking me why I'm supporting you when I've been so critical of you, and many of them want to know if they too should take the plunge.

I have to say that even after becoming a customer myself, I cannot yet with good conscience say "go do it, buy an iPad, it's a no-brainer."

You need to make it easy on me. You need to help me... help YOU.

Help me help you... as a Consumer and as a Content Provider.

Apple, you're acting in such a wacky unpredictable fashion that I'm not sure where to begin. You create this fantastic device that has all of this incredible potential, but then you do things to it that make me feel like my personal freedoms are being compromised. I mean, I'm paying YOU over $700.00 for the device plus accessories, shouldn't I be able to do what I want with it?

Let's start with content consumption. I genuinely applaud the fact that you are permitting alternative content providers to iBooks, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Zinio to submit their apps to the store.

However, then you go and set regional content review policies which restrict what these content providers can actually display on my iPad even if I've paid for their content and can view it on other devices already.

Look Apple, I'm an adult and I should be able to consume my adult content if I've paid for it and the content provider is perfectly willing to sell it to me.

I completely understand that you don't want kids to be able to see erotic material or pornography. Fine. I get it. Really, I do.

Instead of potentially blacklisting 13,000 titles on Amazon, or stopping Zinio from letting me read my Playboy or Maxim or my wife's French VOGUE subscriptions, can't you just give these content providers an API that allows a parent or legal guardian to lock this content out from in-app purchases or inadvertent display using the same Parental Content Controls you have for iTunes?

Wouldn't that solve the problem just as easily? One of your top iTunes explicit podcasters, Violet Blue also feels this would be a sensible solution. The kids won't get to see what their parents think they shouldn't be seeing, and the responsible adults can then consume their explicit content responsibly.

[UPDATE: It appears the content controls WILL be in the iPad. However, this doesn't adequately explain the Regional Content Review policies and why certain content from 3rd parties, such as Zinio's adult magazines, will still be blocked. It still might not have API control over the 3rd-party content, and doesn't detail what the raw boundaries for "explicit" actually mean yet.]

My colleague, David Gewirtz at ZDNet Government also feels that your control of the App Store and placing restrictions on content providers may also potentially create conditions where ANY material you may find "undesirable" may end up getting censored, be it adult material, erotica, or even political or social views that you don't agree with.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that you really aren't that nefariously inclined until I see evidence to the contrary.

Also Read: Why 2010 might be like 1984

Also Read: Five Lessons Apple can learn from Amazon

Let's get past the porn, the erotica and the potential peril of Thought Policing. This whole Flash imbroglio with Adobe is absolutely maddening. Some of the most entertaining interactive sites on the web, such CBS's TV.com and Hulu.com use Flash-based content and you're forcing these sites to create specialized Objective-C apps for viewing it rather than just letting stuff work.

Sure, Flash isn't the most efficient executable environment in the world. HTML5 is nice and all, but can't you just give us the OPTION of installing it in the App Store if we want to use it in Safari rather than locking it out entirely?

Fine, I can see not wanting to put Adobe Air apps on the iPad and restricting the programmatic environment for new apps to Objective-C. But purposely crippling the browser functionality for the most important plug-in in existence? That's just plain nutty.

Lastly, what's with the no expansion and sealed shut shtick? If I suddenly run out of room on my 32GB, I'm hosed and I can't easily offload it if I'm not near a PC or a Mac.

I can somewhat, although reluctantly understand why there's no removable battery and no SD card slot on an iPhone or an iTouch. But on a multipurpose portable COMPUTER? I mean, the iPad isn't a handheld or a handset where pocket-ability is of prime importance. What does an SD card slot and a USB chipset actually cost, a whole 5 bucks, if that?

Because of this stupid fixed design, I can't directly pop in my camera cards to view my photos or store extra data, or hook up a USB drive or replace the battery in my iPad when it goes bad.

Instead, I have to buy some dumb proprietary cable or adapter from YOU, and I have to send my iPad back to YOU to replace the battery. What computer manufacturer in their right mind in this day in age goes ahead and does something this stupid or arrogant? Even SONY doesn't pull that kind of crap anymore.

Help me help you... as a Developer.

There's so much insanity in this area that I'm starting to think that whoever is in charge of this within the company is completely off their meds.

Everyone, and I mean everyone wants to develop iPhone and iPad applications. You've proved that the App Store ecosystem is the Promised Land. People are making a lot of money with it. This is a Good Thing. However, your approval processes and criterion (or lack thereof) are so bat guano loony that scores of people who would love to develop even more apps now have extreme pause about jumping into the water.

Let's start with the developer environment itself. It only runs on a Mac. WHY? If Google can release Mac, Windows and Linux versions of their Android Developer Kit, why the heck can't you make an emulator and compiler stack with XCode and Interface Builder that runs on PCs?

It's bad enough that they have to learn Objective-C, which is a completely unique programming language to your products. But then you have to go and force them to buy a Mac just to develop for your devices? Don't tell me you can't make these tools run on Windows, because I know darn well all of this stuff once did, with NeXT's OpenStep for Windows NT. I used to run it, before you took over Gil Amelio's insane asylum.

So now some of these developers have gone ahead and invested in a Mac to write iPhone and iPad apps, which were accepted through your process. Then months later, you then yank 5000 applications off the App Store because they are "Overtly Sexual".

[UPDATE: It appears the content controls for permission of "Explicit" applications in the App Store may allow for the restoration of the 5000 removed applications.]

What the deuce?

A lot of people spent time and energy and resources into writing these apps, "Overtly Sexual" or not. And then you go ahead and rip out all the wireless discovery apps that use undocumented APIs, or those that have "Minimal Functionality". Can we have some sort of codified Halakha for this? Like the Talmud of iTablets? So we can stop wasting everybody's time?

You want apps that have more than Minimal Functionality? Fine. How about Opera's web browser? So far, we haven't heard jack squat that this excellent alternative browser to Safari is going to be approved. But if you have any consistency at all -- which nobody really thinks you do -- then we expect that you'll deny the app because it replicates "core functionality" of the device. You've done that with several high-profile apps and now we expect you'll do it again.

Building applications of any level of quality requires significant effort and developer investment. A good application, one that people would be willing to pay real money for, takes at least a year to develop.

Since there are limited guidelines in place for application approval or what would constitute a rejection, and you reserve the right to rip apps out of the App Store at any time, many developers are just going to say to heck with it or churn out simple junk. Or go over to Android, where no such rejections are occurring and where the device has the ability to install applications outside its own Android Market if the end-user desires.

Apple, you need to throw me a frickin' bone here. Can't there be some give and take? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Apple

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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