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Eric Bruno

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Application Approval. A Scary Trend?

March 29, 2010

When Apple launched the iPhone with AT&T as its partner, it later introduced the iPhone SDK and the application store. However, as you probably know, applications must be submitted to Apple for approval before being allowed in the application store. This means you, as a developer, need to risk non-approval based on Apple's nebulous approval process. It also means that you, as an iPhone user, may not have access to certain useful applications because Apple didn't approve it. Some applications that were not approved include those that had questionable content, and others that were deemed competitive to existing iPhone applications. The first reason makes some sense, but the second reason is quite scary.

Apple's justification for the approval process was to protect AT&T's network from errant applications. That seemed reasonable enough, and although there were those who complained about being disapproved, most have been tolerant of this requirement. However, the application store and its approval process seems to still exist even for the iPad. Why would it be needed, especially for the WIFI model? For instance, the WIFI model really is just a computer, like a MacBook without a keyboard. For that matter, so is an iPod Touch -- there's no cell carrier's network to protect in either case.

This is a concerning trend, where application approval by Apple on its products has grown beyond the reasoning to protect the iPhone carrier's cell network. What's next, application approval for all Apple products, including its Macs? Although it's intriguing to think that all applications must meet some sort of minimal set of requirements and testing before you're ever exposed to them (i.e. eliminating potential malware), it's concerning that a single company could control this. Personally, even if it were a consortium of independent parties running the application approval process, I'd still be somewhat concerned. However, such a process could be used to stamp an application as "Tested and Approved", knowing that it passed a set of tests that check for things such as the presence of malware. But I still prefer a free market for third-party applications on the computers (of all shapes and sizes) that I buy.

I'm curious to see how the approval process plays out for Apple products like the iPad. It can either turn into a concerning trend, or a process to test and label applications as meeting a level of quality. As owners and users of these products, it's my opinion that we need to fight for a free and open application marketplace.

Happy coding! EJB

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