Pundits Defend Apple Against iPhone Critics

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Pundits Defend Apple Against iPhone Critics
Illustration: Michelle K. Maher

Lately Apple has been the piñata at a kids' party, getting battered around by a mob of overexcited pundits critical of the company's iPhone and its App Store policies. Bloggers have denounced Apple's authoritarian style, which they view as arrogant, anti-competitive, anti-consumer, heavy-handed, hypocritical, monopolistic, and, well, just plain rude.

Apple is getting too big for its britches, they say. Its legendary leader Steve Jobs, despite his brilliance, is a paranoid control freak, comment others. Indeed, Cupertino's rap sheet includes these recent anti-consumer offenses:

* Banning Google Voice from the iPhone App Store, an unpopular move that has caught the attention of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

* Preventing the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes, a decision that's led to a cat-and-mouse game with Palm, which has reenabled iTunes syncing-for now.

* A controversial and confusing approval process for the App Store.

* Apple's hard-line stance on jailbroken iPhones and subsequent claim unlocked phones could knock out transmission towers.

* Its exclusive deal with AT&T, the iPhone's sole carrier in the U.S.

Has the company gone over the edge? For an alternative take on the topic, we asked three respected tech analysts and an iPhone software developer for their thoughts on the Apple brouhaha. Their consensus: Chill out-Apple isn't the monster it's made out to be.

App Store Nazis?

We get it that Apple wants to keep its App Store family-friendly, but lately the company seems a bit overzealous and inconsistent in its efforts to rid the iPhone ecosystem of naughty apps. Does Apple need to lighten up?

App Store Nazis?

IDC consumer senior analyst Danielle Levitas, who calls herself a "technology pragmatist," says there's a method to Apple's app-banning madness. "They're trying to keep their image from getting too wild and out there, because that just opens the door to what comes next," she says, adding that Apple wants a product that appeals to families.

"You want to know that your child's mobile experience is-at least from the standpoint of applications-not going to get them into too much trouble. It ultimately comes down to wanting as broad an audience as possible. And now that (Apple) has a $99 iPhone, I think they have to tread that line carefully" because the inexpensive handsets should reach a wider audience, Levitas says.

Creative Strategies president Tim Bajarin, a tech industry consultant and analyst who's followed Apple for nearly three decades, agrees that a porn-free App Store is simply smart business. "I have two grandchildren who use iPods and iPod Touches when they're around us. And the idea of them having full access to any content on an iPhone, including X-rated stuff, isn't something that I as a grandfather cherish," he says.

"Apple has already made some concessions in that we've now got 17+ ratings on stuff," Bajarin adds.

"But beyond that, I'm not too sure I want a lot of other content on there that would be highly questionable."

Messy Approval Process?

What about the gripe that Apple's inconsistent App Store guidelines are causing big headaches for software developers?

Overblown, says Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analyst at Interpret, a market research firm. "You have to look at the overall track record: 55,000-plus applications have been approved in the App Store, and perhaps two dozen applications had problems getting through the system. An even small number have either been outright rejected or been removed.

"At the end of the day, you can't really say there's a huge issue here, because there isn't. The vast majority of application developers seem to have no problem getting their stuff through the process," Gartenberg says.

That majority includes Pete Tenereillo, founder and CEO of Trapster, a software firm that writes speed trap-detection apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices. Tenereillo says that Apple's approval process for App Store apps often varies, taking as little as 3 days to as long as 3-and-a-half weeks. "I don't have any qualms with Apple about how fast they're doing it. I imagine if they could (approve apps) more quickly, they would. But they probably just have too much to do," he says.

Levitas concurs that the App Store controversies are overblown: "What developers have claimed that they're running away from the platform because of what's happened? And what consumers are now saying they're not going to buy Apple products because of this?"

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