OK, so sometimes Apple can be cool

So, today, just a few minutes ago, the phone rang. On the caller ID was "Apple Computer".

I pick on Apple so much, it's only fair that I point out when the company's done something right.

A little bit of background: right after the iPhone App Store opened up, I wanted to see what app development was all about, so I bought an iMac, wrote 40 iPhone applications, and published them on the App Store.

Now, to be clear, my little apps are silly. They're essentially variations on a theme, and they're never going to win any awards (although they do average 4-stars in their reviews).

Anyway, to sell on the App Store, you have to have a current developer program registration, which costs $99/year. Without that in place, you can't sell apps.

Unbeknownst to me, my program registration was due to expire on Monday. Apparently, the reminder notices Apple sent got clogged in my Junk Mail folder and I never saw them. Oops.

I don't make a lot of money off my Apps, but all of them together do amount to about a car payment, and that's still kind of nice. I would have missed that income.

So, today, just a few minutes ago, the phone rang. On the caller ID was "Apple Computer". I looked at the phone and had a small internal debate about picking up the phone. After all, given what I've been writing, I fully expected it to be someone on the other end getting ready to excoriate me for my writing.

I answered anyway. I figured it's always better to have a dialog than not, and given I used to work for the company way back when, I know there are a lot of pleasant and talented people working there.

Instead of someone getting ready to yell at me, it was Cindy, a very nice woman who was calling to let me know my developer program was expiring. She told me that if I didn't renew the program by Monday, my apps would fall off the App Store.

You coulda knocked me over with a feather.

It's been the first actual human contact I've had about anything regarding my apps in three years. My program actually provides support incidents and even those, which, ostensibly, I've paid for, have never been responded to.

Yet, here was Cindy, calling to tell me how I could protect my car payment.

Now, a cynic might say Apple was calling because they'd make a hundred bucks if I renewed. That's true, but we know from a lot of telemarketing studies that American-based telemarketing calls, fully burdened, often cost as much as a hundred bucks a dial (Cindy was clearly American).

Given the probability of reaching someone, mixed with the probability of renewal, the best Apple could probably hope for from the call would be a break-even. And since my apps don't make a bucket load for them either, it wasn't even so they could protect their revenue stream from their share of my app sales.

It was simply a courtesy call. From Apple. To me.

Here's the one thing that bums me out. I used to be an independent Apple developer and then a project leader for Apple back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Apple's relationships with developers were legendarily excellent. Part of why I get so cranky now about the poor interaction Apple has with developers is because I know how excellent they've been in the past.

Today's call felt like the old Apple I knew and loved (yes, there was a time). That was an Apple that truly knew its future was tightly intertwined with developers and knew that happy, successful developers would drive a happy, successful Apple.

I miss those days. Today, I got a slight flavor of what the company could be, once again. Yes, I know the company is wildly profitable. But that's not all there is in life -- or in business. The aftermarket does matter and since Apple's strength has always been partially the result of its incredibly talented independent developers, treating developers right is important for the company. When it comes to iOS development, Apple doesn't communicate with developers. They have a Web app for that.

To those of you at Apple reading this, thanks for the call. This is a good start. Now, please make yourself more accessible to developers overall, and critics like me would have to find something else to whine about.

Sigh. If only.

Update: Typos fixed (I hope).

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