A letter to Apple

I wrote (and actually sent) this letter to Phil Schiller.  We'll see if I get any response.

Dear Mr. Schiller,

I am a long time Apple customer.  My first computer (which lead me to a college degree in Computer Science and a 10+ year career in Information Technology) was an Apple ][e.  At home right now I have no less than 4 Macs - 5 if you count the MacBook Pro that I use for work.  My company (a small web startup) is over 90% Mac.  Have no doubt: I am a loyal and enthusiastic Apple consumer.  Apple continues to release products that are a joy to use.  However recent actions by Apple make me worry about the future of Apple as an innovative leader.

My concerns revolve around around the removal of any and all Google Voice applications from the App Store.  The first part involves the fact that an application I purchased in good faith, GV Mobile, is no longer working.  This is not directly Apple's fault - Google changed their website and Sean Kovacs (the author of the application) simply had to update his application (which he has done).  However due to the fact that Apple has removed the application from the App Store for reasons I view to be specious Sean is unable to get the updated application to his users.  I could request a refund but given your Apple's hostile refund policy (wherein the author has to not only refund the money he received for the application but the cut that Apple gets as well) I refuse to do so.  Sean is not at fault here - Apple is.  Having spoken with him I know that Sean would love to be able to get an updated application to his customers but Apple won't let him.

The second part of my complaint is the fact that Apple's response to the FCC's inquiry about why GV Mobile was pulled is full of so many inaccuracies that I am rather confused.  I am willing to apply Hanlon's Razor in this case but either possibility (malice or stupidity) is somewhat disconcerting.  GV Mobile, at least, did not replace Apple's Visual Voicemail.  Nor did it replace the SMS app.  And at no time was my contacts database transferred to Google.  I am at a loss to explain how a company so full of smart people - the people who could design and create a device like the iPhone in the first place - could so grossly misunderstand the situation.  I find the ignorance option hard to believe, but I do like it better than the alternative. 

What makes this all so amazingly weak is that not only was GV Mobile personally approved by you and in the App Store for quite a while, but the Line2 app has been approved after all this happened.  The Line2 app is remarkably similar to GV Mobile as they were written by the same author.  All of Apple's "complaints" about GV Mobile apply to Line2 and also seem to apply to the recently released Vonage app as well.  An obvious conclusion I could draw is that the reasons for withdrawing these applications from the App Store are not truly the ones that you submitted to the FCC.  I would love to see a detailed explanation of why Line2 and Vonage are allowed in the App Store while GV Mobile is not.  Looking at the reasons Apple gave the FCC I am truly baffled.

In closing, let me say that I eagerly hope to see Apple change course on these actions.  As much as I am enjoying my iPhone 3GS I am keeping a close eye on Android.  Verizon's recent "iDon't" commercial is very telling - your core users, the strong evangelists, are getting frustrated with the things the iPhone can't (or won't) do. Some of these things are not directly in Apple's control (like AT&T's poor network performance, their refusal to unlock iPhones when other carriers will and in fact when AT&T will unlock their other handsets) but many things, like this Google Voice debacle, are under Apple's control.  These things are making it harder for me to recommend the iPhone to people.  Those of us who truly enjoy mobile technology are going to be keeping a close eye on developments in the Mameo and Android camps.  I'm afraid I disagree with Mr. Cook - the Verizon Droid, for example, could truly be a challenger to my 3GS.  I hope Apple doesn't overestimate how captive their audience is.

Sincerely,
John A. Kilpatrick