Kevin Duerr, the chief executive of Durham, N.C.-based Riverturn Inc., took Apple out to the woodshed over its refusal to explain why his VoiceCentral application was pulled from the App Store earlier this week. “I’m a self-admitted Apple ‘fanboi’, but this knocked me to the core,” said Duerr in an interview Thursday.
In a blog entry posted Tuesday, Duerr outlined his conversation with an Apple representative, identified only as “Richard,” who had called to inform Riverturn that VoiceCentral, an application that let iPhone users log in to the Google Voice service, had been removed from the App Store.
During that conversation, Richard told Duerr that VoiceCentral was being dropped because it “duplicates features of the iPhone,” but repeatedly refused to answer Duerr’s questions, including what his developers could change to meet Apple’s requirements.
“Can you tell me what portions of the app were duplicate features?” Duerr asked.
“I can’t go into granular detail,” Richard replied.
Duerr persisted. “Is there something we can change or alter in order to regain compliance and get back in the Store?” he asked.
“I can’t say,” responded Richard.
VoiceCentral was approved by Apple for the App Store in late April, and although it had not sold in large numbers, sales had been on an upswing in the last few weeks, Duerr said, after Google announced it was offering its own application for the BlackBerry and Android platforms.
On Thursday, Duerr was still obviously upset at the treatment Riverturn received. “My sincere belief [Tuesday] was that I got through to them, and that someone from Apple would actually talk to me about this,” he said, referring to a repeated requests to Richard that he ask his manager to contact Riverturn. “But no, we haven’t heard a thing from them.”
Apple has a checkered history in its dealings with iPhone developers. Other applications, such as the NetShare tethering application, have been yanked with similar cryptic explanations.
Duerr said that he has received no replies to the many e-mails he has sent this week to Apple and its iPhone development team.
“I know that they’re Apple, and they love their shroud of secrecy, but I don’t understand it in this line of business,” said Duerr. “What’s the harm in telling developers why an app has been rejected or pulled from the App Store? Other than the volume of apps that are submitted, I don’t see the problem with taking action. Why wouldn’t you say: ‘Here’s why.’”
The lack of information has frustrated Duerr to the point where he’s questioning whether the iPhone platform is worth supporting. “The way they handled it, how can I possibly authorize spending money on iPhone development?” he asked. “There’s a new mobile marketplace opening up every week it seems.”
To add insult to injury, Apple is giving refunds to VoiceCentral users who, understandably, are concerned about their purchase now that the application has been dropped from the App Store.
“Users are freaked out,” said Duerr. “VoiceCentral will continue to work, we just can’t provide updates or new features. But they’re saying ‘I don’t want this thing,’ and Apple gives them a refund. Now they’re taking that money out of our pocket, and not just the 70% that we received [from the original purchase] but also the 30% that Apple received. That’s the way Apple’s agreement is written.”
His objection was that the refunds were sparked, not by a flaw in the program, but by Apple’s unilateral decision to yank the application. “I lived up to my end, we’re still supporting users, but what they’re doing, this is unbelievable,” said Duerr. “We’ve lost the expense it took to develop the applications, we’ve lost the opportunity to have VoiceCentral on the App Store, and now we’ve lost the refund.
“And we didn’t any say in the matter” Duerr complained.
Apple declined to comment on Duerr’s claims.
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